I’ll say up front that the focus of this article is not really on the phrase ‘No Homo’, but the defensiveness and separation I associate it with. It has its roots in East Harlem back in the 90s, finding its footing in hip hop lexicon through Cam’ron before being popularised by Lil Wayne. I think of it as something that has come into popular vernacular in the last few years, at least within men I know in England, but it caught on in internet slang fairly recently, with the urban dictionary first posting it in 2004, and it reaching “meme status” by 2011.
From my experience it is used in a light-hearted, jokey way, by a variety of people with different attitudes to masculinity and homosexuality – but it always comes like a defensive gesture, an easy out. I’m not writing this to talk at length about the term, or how it relates to homophobia – but rather to ask why men feel the immediate urge to qualify expressive statements with it. The Lonely Island expertly parodied it in their 2012 song “No Homo“, where the parenthetical phrase is paired-up with increasingly explicitly gay activities. “Yeah no homo but I wish I lived in Ancient Greece / to gave young socrates the illful release” might be my favourite lyric of theirs.
“I love you”, regardless of the truth of the declaration, is one that is very rarely said between men. I’m curious how universal this is, or whether my experience is more isolated. I’ve heard men say it to each other, and I’ve said it myself – but even then, it’s tends to be softened by saying “I love you, man“, or given reason beyond the emotion by drunkenness. This kind of refusal to talk about how you really feel or approach any remotely “feminine” ideal creates divides, but is also ripe for comedy. Mockery of male relationships and modern masculinity is the focus of pretty much every Adam McKay film, from Anchorman to The Other Guys. What is funny and cathartic about those movies is that it exaggerates the inherent stupidity in the male posturing we have seen in others or committed ourselves. The pain behind these jokes is something that at best places limitations on friendships, and at worst creates a toxic, isolating experience.
The same extends to phone calls. I’ve had very few male friends who have conversations over the phone that extend beyond the general efficiency of “I’m outside, where are you” / “I’ll be five minutes” / “Okay. Bye”. And for those that call simply to see how things are going, what you’ve been up to and where your mental state is at, they are usually met with derision. I’ve been part of that too, awkward during the call and eager for it to end, then responding with incredulity to others that I was met with anything over than the necessary, blunt text message.
Men who are close friends are able to connect in meeting, but often refuse the chance to go the extra distance. I’m sure many have grown apart or had long fruitful relationships, without ever letting one other know how much the relationship is appreciated. Even in platonic relationships we are making ourselves vulnerable, and it easier to build up defences than to share an emotional space. But by doing this, we are missing out on a deeper connection with those that we love, and risk what we have slipping away as we move away, get different jobs, and begin new relationships. It’s as simple as those three magic words, but it’s also in the tone of our dialogue, and the sincerity of our communication.
 For a more detailed look at its use in hip-hop, read Jonah Weiner’s defence of the term
 Touched on by Carmen Cruz in relation to American Football player Michael Sam coming out in 2014