Monday, April 11, 2011

"No Homo"- Blog by Peer Leader Marcos Garcilazo

I recently watched an organization's public service announcement that promoted condom use to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS. I remember the gist of it, but as a matter of fact, the makers of the video lost me within four seconds.

The video had very little dialogue, but they used Lil' Wayne's "Lollipop" as the background music for their video. If you are not familiar with the song, click on the following link and pay very close attention to the lyrics.


Did you catch it? It's four seconds into the video/song. If you're not used to having gay slurs thrown in your direction you might have missed it. Heck, even if you are you might have missed it. If you did miss it, click the link again and really try and hear it.

Four seconds in, he says "no homo." The expression, if you are unaware, is used to clarify that under no conditions is any of the following to be interpreted as gay. The expression is very common on most social websites like Twitter and Facebook. The expression bases itself in the fear that anything - describing a shirt or even the weather - may be interpreted as the speaker being gay, and implying that there is something inherently wrong or offensive about being gay. Once again our culture has found a away to put down gay individuals everywhere constantly - first it was "that's gay" and now it's "no homo."

When I heard that in a video, they lost me. I wasn't listening because I was wondering "How could an organization perpetuate a negative phrase against such a vast part of the community when they're supposed to be educating them about condom usage?" Gay men tend to be at a higher risk for HIV/AIDS, so I struggle to understand why they would use a song that marginalizes gay people within the first four seconds.

There are more rap songs out there than I care to count, and some just as popular (if not more popular) than Lil' Wayne's song. Now, it is hard to miss it but if someone is used to being harassed for their sexual orientation, they won't miss it. If one is constantly demonized, when that demonization makes it into a video that's supposed to encourage safe sex, they're not going to hear the message. They'll hear the homophobic remark at the very beginning.

As I said earlier, gay men are at a higher risk of HIV/AIDS if protection isn't used, so it troubles me that one of the more at-risk target populations is being ignored. Stigma is a cause of risky sexual behavior, so it's important to remember what our language is doing to a community. I should hope that organizations will think very carefully when deciding what content to include, and in so doing they will ensure that their message is actually heard by those who would benefit from hearing it. With so many gay youth completing suicide in recent months, it should be obvious that we need to be more sensitive about language and the words we use.


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