"Yo, man, pass me my jacket ... no homo."
As ridiculous as that statement reads, you would not be hard-pressed to hear something like that on campus. Before I go further, I must lay out the disclaimer that no, this is not the long-anticipated undercover article about black people in Frist Campus Center, nor have I been placed on assignment to write an expose of any type.
Considering, however, that the phrase "no homo" has found its way into my vocabulary, hard as I tried not to allow it, its origins and popularity deserve some exploration.
We can all thank our good friends in the hip-hop group known as the Diplomats, particularly rappers Juelz Santana and Cam'Ron for popularizing the term. In the song "Dipset (Santana's Town)," Santana says in reference to weaponry, "No homo but they cockin' 'em." From there, Cam'Ron took the phrase and ran with it, perhaps in defense against people who criticized him for his wardrobe full of pink clothing, among other things.
Wildly amusing and popular when it was first used on Santana's album, "From Me to U" in 2003, many fans (particularly in our general area) co-opted "no homo," perhaps because it was the "in" thing to say. At least in my personal dealings, young men overwhelmingly used the phrase after statements that could be misconstrued by other guys as indicating homosexuality. For example, someone could state, "Oh, I'm going out with Jimmy tonight," which for them necessitated the ending "no homo" to quash any ideas before they began.
Yet, at some point after its onset, the frequency of its use and the terms under which it was used became outlandish, carefully treading the line between being humorous and annoying. Any and every statement seemed to require the term "no homo," whether one were to say, "I just finished that hot dog" or "Pass me the mayonnaise." The sad thing is that, yes, I have heard both of these statements, and going through high school with this monkey on my back, I hoped that upon arrival at college, I would have kicked the habit ... that is, of hearing it all the time.
Much to my chagrin, it seems like the problem here is much more acute and prevalent, particularly among my peers. As I began to court this new group of friends (I am going to fight the urge to insert the phrase here), it became clear to me that I would not go one day without hearing it at least once. Even worse, I have found myself using the term more often than I would like.
This led me to question the context in which I would say "no homo," and more times than not, it followed a statement that blurred the lines of typical male, macho discourse. If I pay one of my male friends a compliment, "no homo." If I ask them to accompany me somewhere, "no homo." As annoying as it may be for others, it is that much more distressing for me.
While many others here at Princeton have no qualms with the repeated use of the phrase, I find myself going through a self-inquiry each time it slips from my tongue. One question is, "Would I have even said that if there wasn't a phrase like 'no homo' to fall back on?" Or, "Am I really concerned that much with what people think about me that I have to say that all of the time?"
The sad answers to both of those questions are "no" and "yes," respectively. Even after the saying has run its course in the realm of popular culture, with many in the hip-hop community coming out against homophobic expressions in music, "no homo" has not gone anywhere here at Princeton. Given the high amount of tolerance here regarding the LGBT community (especially in comparison to other schools), the fear, or "phobia," still runs rampant. In this instance, it is usually directed against the self. People here say "no homo" more for themselves than for others, to reassure themselves of their masculinity and heterosexuality when saying things that, under other circumstances, they would not dare consider.
All of this leads me to question the insecurity from which this issue stems: Is "no homo" really just a way to reassure yourself that you are "fine," or is it to let others know that you toy with seemingly "homosexual" statements without playing that role? If it is the former, Juelz Santana and Cam 'Ron deserve more credit than is given to them. "No homo" as a means of self-inquiry and exploration of the other has the potential of opening the communication lines between the straight and the gay communities here. Unfortunately, the phobia that too many have relegates the phrase to the pop culture abyss occupied by "as if," "fresh" and other outdated and uncool sayings that came and went in our generation. Walter Griffin is a sophomore from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.