I don’t usually watch TV because I get less than 15 channels and half of them are in Spanish. But lately my girlfriend and I have been watching “Thintervention” on demand at her apartment. In case you don’t know, “Thintervention” is about a group of overweight people being whipped into shape by Jackie Warner, a badass, super-fit trainer who made her debut into pop culture with “Work Out,” another show which I watched religiously.
Yes, I have a crush on Jackie. She is a lesbian and a fairly butch one at that. Her arms are extremely muscular and she has a stomach that I would do practically anything for. She gets in people’s faces, barks orders and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. I admire that in a woman and, what’s more, I think it’s pretty sexy. But some of the people on the show make degrading comments about her. There is a loudmouthed, perpetually drunk Australian client named Nikki (the similarities between us end there) who has said things like, “I don’t allow lesbians in my house,” when talking about Jackie’s visits. Another man on the show made an unfunny joke when he said he walked up to a group of “men” working out only to realize that one was Jackie.
I don’t think any of the people on the show are truly homophobic and I doubt their comments are actually meant to be malicious. But watching has made me realize there’s a double standard on television. Producers don’t seem to think twice about airing a clip where Nikki calls a gay man on the show “a queer” and repeatedly show others making obnoxious comparisons of Jackie’s bod to that of a man.
Imagine if someone on TV used degrading words and insults when referring to another minority or marginalized population. I’m not even talking about busting out the n-word. But calling someone “a queer” is on par with nasty words some use to refer to those who are Hispanic or Chinese. What if someone said, “Ew! I don’t allow women in my house?”
I think the double standard comes, in part, from real life and I think we gay folks are partially to blame. We let nasty little digs and turns of speech slide and sometimes we even make fun of ourselves. I, too, am guilty of this. I work with someone who often says “that’s gay” when something happens that he doesn’t like. I’ve never said anything. My girlfriend’s friends use the anti-gay f-word and she doesn’t react.
To make matters worse, we gay people have started to take part in the insult-hurling. I have known many homosexuals who refer to themselves as “homos” and gay men have a tendency to mock themselves and others with similar mannerisms.
These things seem harmless, but they aren’t, because the more these phrases and insults are used by us, the more often they are used by people who mean them in a malicious way. Then so many people start thinking it’s OK to call their gay friend “a queer” and say “that’s gay” that this crap ends up on TV. I think all of us—gay and straight—need to stop poking fun, even if it’s not meant to be insulting. If we make these things as much of a faux pas as the n-word is, they will become less common.
It might seem like I’m being over-sensitive but maybe that’s what it’s going to take to prove to people that saying homophobic things is not cool. Now, when anti-gay bullying is occurring in schools and men are getting attacked in Manhattan’s West Village, it’s more important than ever to take things seriously. Maybe the more we let the little things slide, the worse it will get. Let’s stop it now before more words turn into action and someone else gets hurt.