Stop Laughing at Homophobic Jokes

Growing up, the only way of hiding my “gayness” was to not only to pretend I wasn’t, but to prove it as well. My family isn’t the type to let you go down without a fight, so the only option was to convince them I was homophobic–the oldest trick in the book.

As I grew up and came to accept myself, it was hard to loose a sense of internalized homophobia. Perspectives I had growing up trying to “fit in” became less about the world and more about me. Soon I started making fun of my gay half, even if it didn’t resonate in truth.

In the gay community, there are a vast number of men who hold on to homophobic ideas stemming from childhood. We’ve become used to making fun of ourselves that we reinforce others to join. As a result, we subliminally encourage straight people to keep homophobia alive–because it’s comedy.

How is it that we complain about homophobia, yet we consistently volunteer to be the butt of jokes?

I’m not a particularly sensitive person when it comes to humor—I’m a funny guy, too, I get it. But at the end of the day the jokester gives his audience what he knows will make them laugh. If we make fun of LGBTQ people the same way our bullies do, are we really doing anything for progress (like we say we are)?

Last week, I was at a party with a bunch of frat guys. Usually I wouldn’t think anything of it, but this particular party was different. A few of them started making fun of a gay man: “He’s such a p*ssy!” one of them said while another started prancing around. “He’s literally the gayest thing I’ve ever seen,” his buddy chimed in. “Sorry, no offense!” He said to me.

I laughed because they are funny people, and how they said it was funny, and the manner in which they changed their voice, body language, was funny–but then it dawned on me: they weren’t making fun of this dude because he was annoying or because he wronged them. It was because he was gay. That was the only reason. Then it stopped being funny.

If being gay is the only reason we can make fun of someone, how in the hell are we to expect anyone to make a genuine first impression? It’s a cycling message that refuels our perspectives of gay culture, and eventually ourselves.

The funniest people make jokes through commentary and observations–not out of meanness or to show power (those types of comedians never last long), but because it’s easy access. It’s material that will always get a laugh–like a fart joke, a “your mama” joke, a Trump joke. Gay people are a part of the comedy canon.

Comedy should have a comedian and their audience laughing. It’s supposed to make light of situations, to make it better for all of us–not sequester us in a corner and scream, “Laugh!” A joke shouldn’t make someone feel bullied, but rather uplifted.

We never want to be “that guy” straight people make fun of, so we try to be anything but a prototype. We want to fit in, but instead of proving the world wrong, we prove them right by affirming their impressions are correct–because we laugh without correcting them.

A laugh isn’t just a laugh. It’s a green light.

A laugh says, “Wow that’s dead on.” “You are so right.” “Keep going.” If gay people can’t defend gay people, we’re doing ourselves an injustice. Do we really think they don’t mean us when they’re joking about someone else? Let’s not kid ourselves. We’re a part of the perception, which means we might be a small part of the problem.

We make fun of ourselves all the time, but the difference between a gay person and a straight person doing it is, for the most part, gay people aren’t making fun of themselves—they’re mocking the straight people who make fun of them. In other words, we make fun of the people who make fun of us, whereas straight people tend to be making fun of something literal—an idea they feel is true about LGBTQ people whether they admit it or not. Has this transitioned into how we perceive our own culture?

Homophobia is a rotten apple. One asshole can effect the whole barrel, but if we choose not to take part in it, if we choose to be a little sensitive every once in a while and not laugh when the joke is in fact not a joke, perhaps we might have a chance to alter one’s perspective.

I’m not playing the comedy police. At the end of the day, if it’s funny it’s funny. But if you can’t tell the difference between a joke and a taunt, you’re part of the problem. Think about it.

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