I am a middle-aged, married, straight white male (photographed above). Long ago, at the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I was ostracized by my all male group of friends for being “gay” even though (as far as I know) I was not gay. This was the beginning of my awareness that homosexuality was a “thing” (Sure, I was aware of the AIDS crisis, and remember that being connected in the media to homosexuals, but sexuality, in general, wasn’t something I thought about much pre-puberty).
I made new friends (I know, hard to believe). As the years went by, a couple of them “came out” to me…my reaction, I was glad they could live their truth.
I remember, as an adolescent and into my young adulthood, seeing news stories about homosexuality, framing it as a social issue/problem and discussing how clinical studies were trying to determine if people were born homosexual or if it was a choice. Social conservatives (from both parties) stated it was a choice (the wrong choice) and warned that accepting homosexuals and homosexual partnerships/marriage into open society would influence impressionable children to choose homosexuality as a lifestyle. As a straight man, I always saw a core absurdity in that “make someone gay” argument…because I know you can’t make me gay (For the record, Hugh Jackman’s existence was a good shot…but it didn’t take). I, of course, took my thought pattern one further and quickly got to the conclusion, “If you can’t make me gay, then you certainly can’t make a gay person straight.” Next came, “and why would you want to? Why would you care to? Do you need a hobby?”
But that’s me, I’m just not that hung up on gay stuff. I don’t understand the societal/religious obsession with it….but I have a theory…because I’ve been forced to have one in the face of all this mishegaas. I’ll try to make it quick. Most people are conformists. Most people are heterosexual. Homosexuals represent a minority group that can not conform to the majority’s norms (as I said, it’s not a choice). The trouble starts when conformist homosexuals are forced, or force themselves, to repress their sexuality. Repression becomes perversion and self-hatred. Self-hatred becomes misanthropy. This leads to repressed homosexuals hating their own kind, which heterosexual conformists are happy to go along with because conformist majorities don’t have to be pushed hard to accept minority scapegoats. It’s a vicious circle. So in my mind, whenever I see a fervently homophobic person I immediately assume I’m also looking at a “deeply conflicted” person. That’s my theory anyway.
Applying that to my high school ostracizing, I imagine that someone within that peer group was painfully closeted and acting out…the others just “went along”…Why? Because I’m just sooo super hot…I could be wrong.
Honestly, I didn’t appreciate what those a-holes did, but it wasn’t so bad. I think about the countless stories of men physically attacking homosexuals, beating them to death, in some parts of the world arresting and executing them. When confronted with such events I fall back on my theory that the perpetrators are deeply repressed people acting out.
Funny, I guess you can turn this on me and say I’m homophobic for saying homophobia is caused by homosexuals…You might call it “victim blaming”. That’s fair. Like I said, it is just a theory.
By the by, you can also say I’m homophobic because if I had a choice (I know I don’t, but “if I did”) I would choose that my child be heterosexual. Why? Because I’m heterosexual (I think I am anyway). It’s really that simple. That said, if my child was homosexual I would gladly accept it. It just shows how silly it all can get, even in the mind of someone as innocuous as I am. I’m not going to beat myself up for having a whim. It’s silly. What we think. What we want. Our prejudices. Our theories. Our future visions.
I think it’s all harmless so long as I can be humble enough to accept when I’m wrong, or accept that some of the things I think I want aren’t relevant in the bigger picture.
I really just want my child to be happy. To be educated. To be able to do something they enjoy with their life. To be loved. To love themself. To know I love them unconditionally. Does their sexual preference really come into this? I don’t see why it would.
Hey, speaking of future visions and things I want, here goes…
- I want homosexuality to be total accepted in open society, with no stigma.
- I want homosexuals protected from discrimination under federal law as a minority group.
- I want homosexuals to have equal rights in marriage, adoption, you name it.
- I want the Federal government to actively stamp out all state level homosexual discrimination.
- I want this bullshit about protecting anti-gay-bigotry as a religious conviction called out as the discrimination it is and made illegal.
- I want America to be a world leader in homosexual civil rights and I want our state department to sanction and censure countries that persecute homosexuals.
I believe we are really getting somewhere as a society in the journey toward just letting gays be gay. I know it because I’ve seen it come so far in my lifetime and it is great. And if we keep on this path, we just might be surprised how everything changes for the better.
But it is a real world out there, and there’s still a lot of pain. And a lot of homophobic sentiment baked onto the collective conscience and subconscious. We have to be sensitive. By “we” I mean we the people who are “all in” on the acceptance of homosexuality as a societal norm, as a reality to be accepted and integrated.
And so we now sail into the choppy waters of insensitive and homophobic gay slurs made in jest.
So I’m trying to evolve here on this gay slur issue. I laid out the background above to give you some insight into my feelings on homosexuals. In short, I want them to be happy, accepted and protected. But now I’m on the highway to the danger zone. I’m going down the “butt boy” hole. A hole I will endeavor to penetrate deeply into in an attempt to find an odorous truth. BTW, this post was inspired by something that happened on TV.
You see, as part of my coping mechanism in these troubled times, I set Morning Joe to record on my DVR (which airs from 3am-6am PST) so I can watch the first hour while I eat my breakfast, drink my coffee and check my internet. They get through some national and international news highlights in that time, summarizing, in some broad strokes, among other things the latest happenings in our federal government’s current leadership crisis. I don’t necessarily agree with their editorial stances, but they share my sense of deep concern that our current president is an immoral liar who constantly degrades his office and corruptly abuses his position of power. It’s a national tragedy that compounds day by day.
Obviously, I could go on and on here litigating against Trump and his cult or tribe, but that is not why I’m writing today. I’m just saying that Trump is what brought me to Morning Joe. When Obama was president I was listing to Howard Stern in the morning, having a laugh. I could give a shit about Joe. But things have changed. Now my weekdays have common bookends; I watch Joe in the morning and the previous night’s Colbert monologue after dinner. And that’s what it is and I’m okay with that for now. It’s a pacifier. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s my meds.
On Wednesday December 12, 2018 (a day that will live in infamy), Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski used the derogatory gay slur “butt boy” in chastising Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on national television. Specifically, it was in regards to Pompeo’s sickening attempt, through disinformation, to minimize the damage caused by the Saudi orchestrated Khashoggi assassination on our nation’s relationship with the Saudi monarchy. Mika’s point was that Pompeo was serving Trump’s interest over our nation’s and, in so, he is making himself Trump’s “butt boy” (I suppose he should be America’s butt boy). I didn’t see it live but I caught it on YouTube. It was very out of character for Mika’s television persona (I’m assuming she picked up the phrase from a friend). She has fully apologized since. Here’s the full story at the Advocate in case you want to read more about it.
Bottom line, it was unfortunate. It gave Trump an opportunity to twitter slam Mika. I believe she’s sincerely sorry and regretful she went there. I’m pretty sure it’s all forgiven and forgotten by the LGBTQXYZ. But it did get me thinking.
If you look at this very webpage you find a political cartoon I created where I refer to Paul Ryan as “Buttboy” (apparently, I prefer the contraction). So this news story blipped my radar, because if she’s guilty, I’m WAY guilty.
So, let me ask you, is my political cartoon homophobic? Well, if you think it is, I guess it is. Even worse my “Buttboy” slur was the joke’s “topper”. When you write comedy you’re supposed to end on what you think is the strongest joke, the “topper”. So Mika’s charge would be butt boy manslaughter (a crude off the cuff gaffe). But I crafted that cartoon in Photoshop for hours…I’ve committed premeditated first-degree buttboy murder. I’m guilty!
And I’d do it again!
But I am sensitive to the position that buttboy should be retired. I’m not there yet (as you can see, the cartoon is still up) but I’m getting there and I’m willing to listen and keep thinking.
To my insensitive mind, when I heard Mika’s gaffe my first thought was that Pompeo, who looks to me like an ambulatory baked potato – well past his prime, is not a good candidate for the buttboy moniker. When I think of buttboys I want them young and fit, preferably shaved clean/clean.
“I’ve known buttboys. Buttboys were friends of mine.
Mr. Secretary, you’re no buttboy.”
Technically, Pompeo would fall into the category of “bottom bear”, but that’s a whole other can of worms (In case you were wondering, National Security Advisor John Bolton would be classified as a “Bottle Brush”).
When I’m thinking buttboy, in the context of today’s political players, it has got to be Paul Ryan and Jared Kushner (maybe Marco Rubio…oh baby, the way he hits that stubby water bottle really sets the imagination reeling). Buttboys have to be men who still have the kiss of youth about them…Slim-ish builds…Watching their carbs…Oiling up to hit the gym.
I did it again, didn’t I? I used the homophobic trope stereotype of the “buttboy” to insult and emasculate men I disdain. But I can do it, right? Because I’m “edgy”? Because I’m “funny”? Because my targets are straight? Because I’m “punching up”?
I’m not so sure it’s okay anymore. It’s hard to say…to judge definitively. It’s a grey area in my mind for now. I think about how I would hear it, if someone else said it to me, in any context. They would have to be really fucking funny to sell it to me…and I’m not so sure I’m that funny.
So yeah, I’m on the fence and on the ropes, but Paul Ryan is still Buttboy…for now.
But I do evolve. Ten years ago, I used to be pretty glib and indiscriminate in my use of the word “fag” as a “good-natured ball buster” between friends, but I wouldn’t touch that word with a ten-foot pole today in any context. I’m serious.
For example, this Tuesday, the day before Mika’s slur, I uploaded an old humor video I found that I made back in 2005. In that video, in character, I referred to the rhythm section of U2 as “fags”. Seeing it in 2018, that joke made me uneasy, but I liked the rest of the bit. So I made the decision to edit the audio and comically overdub the word “gentlemen” over the slur. You see, I just couldn’t stand behind a joke with that word anymore. I didn’t want to stand behind it. I guess that’s evolution.
So, if I’m being honest with myself, is buttboy my methadone for fag? It’s tough to say.
I’m prone to say, at least for now, we agree to the general rule of staying away from the big, agreed-upon dehumanizers (n, c, and f), but we must allow some wiggle room for lesser epithets so long as they are artfully played and not used to “punch down”.
Just understand playing on that field means you have to be ready to take the criticism that may come back at you in good humor. You gotta thread a needle to sell that shit, and if you can’t take the heat stay out of the bathhouse sauna.
Look, sometimes I will be crass in the pursuit of my humor. In my form of humor, crass language, imagery and scenarios are essential ingredients. They are a tool. They are not the only tool. But sometimes they are the right tool for the job. It’s the spike and hammer. It’s shock humor. Shock humor has a place. It breaks down people’s perceptions and gets right to the core.
When done right, I think it’s healing, epiphanic in its destruction. I believe that sometimes you have to cut in order to heal.
Look, I’m sorry if this post isn’t much fun. A meditation on the deconstruction of humor seldom is.
It’s just tough now, man, because everyone is so…so…