“No homo” has become an ubiquitous term used in Cornell’s classrooms, dining halls and locker rooms. In an attempt to distance their comments from any homosexual interpretations, many of Cornell’s males use this derogatory expression without fully understanding its implications.
Amit Taneja, associate director of LGBT Reourse Center at Syracuse University and national consultant on LGBT issues, spoke with a group of about 30 students Friday evening in Balch Hall at the event titled “Pause — No Homo?!”
The commonly used expression has become second nature for some, according to Nicholas Diaz ’10, president of La Unidad Latina, who co-sponsored the event alongside MOSAIC. Although the significance of the expression is seldom thought about, Diaz and others saw the need to host this event.
“I was tired of hearing people use these words and not understand what they mean and the kind of derogatory things they are associated with,” Diaz said.
According to Taneja, “no homo” finds its roots in hip-hop, where artists coined the phrase to protect lyrics from being interpreted in a way that goes against the tough image they try to portray.
“The worst thing that can happen to a guy is that he is accused of being gay,” he said, “by saying ‘no homo’ after everything you present a defense from that ever happening.”
Taneja believes the phrase has become so popular because of deep-seeded homophobia that is most prominent among minority communities. “In Latino and Black communities, men are supposed to be manly and machismo, and so being gay is looked down upon,” Taneja said.
Such homophobia highlights the larger issue of sexism, according to Taneja.
“Homophobia is a small room in the hotel of sexism,” he said. He also added that the driving force behind homophobia is a man’s fear of “acting” effeminate, thereby making him seem gay. “In our society, it’s not O.K. for a guy to express emotion because then they would be equated with a women,” he said.
This statement was received with nods from the audience, and compelled some male students to share stories of family interactions in which it was implied that they were required to be “manly” and that the notion of acting differently would be inappropriate.
As a result, Taneja said “no homo” exists as a device for men in order to distance themselves from anything they say that might imply a homosexual nature, for the sake of retaining their masculinity.
What users of “no homo” do not consider, however, is the phrase’s effect on society. According to Taneja, the phrase creates an even further divide between the straight and LGBT communities and — as one audience member pointed out — makes it hard for someone to admit to being gay. “All it does is fuel oppression, and as long as one of us is oppressed, all of us are oppressed.”
Olivia Tai ’10, president of the LGBTQ Student Union, agrees with this sentiment, saying that the Cornell community must promote open dialogue on this issue.
“It can be hard to talk about LGBT issues when the notion of it is not really welcomed by everyone else,” she stated.
The answer to this lack of communication, according to Taneja, lies in confronting matters directly. “There is so much silence around gay issues,” he said, “it’s always resisted and unquestioned.”
This is why Taneja found Friday’s discussion to be so important. “It’s great to know that there are people out there who are willing to tackle this stuff head on and not be afraid,” he said.