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Can We Call Homophobes Gay?

British Poster So Gay

London Pride is apologizing for a poster campaign that proclaimed "Being homophobic is sooo gay." Still, it might have hit a larger point.

This week sunset-colored posters were plastered across London streets to promote the city's annual Pride festival, which is going on now. The sassy designs were part of a campaign titled #LoveHappensHere and included slogans like "My gay friends make me more attractive by association" and "My sister is gay. I'm straight. Together we're g-raight."But social media has erupted in backlash to one poster in particular -- the one that declares in an elaborate font, "Being homophobic is sooo gay."

In response to the complaints, London Pride has apologized for the poster campaign, calling it "misjudged," the BBC reports. It also has removed four of its designs. Those who spoke against the posters said they disregard a long history of demeaning lingo.

Calling someone "gay" is not new, but it is nuanced. In 2012, an appellate court in New York declared that it is no longer slanderous in the state to call someone gay, while the use of the term as a synonym for "lame" or "stupid" had spiked in youth slang. Emily Kerins, who was 14 at the time, told The New York Times, "I hear it all the time, every single day in class. The other day I raised my hand and answered a question wrong, and someone said, 'You're so gay.' What does answering a question wrong have to do with my sexuality? ... I'd much rather call someone a loser." The Guardianargued that using the term as an insult contributed to suicide and self-harm among LGBT youth. Several media campaigns came out to discourage youth from doing so, including a popular commerical with Hilary Duff.

In that context, it's easy to be offended by the #LoveHappensHere campaign. But that erases a truth -- some homophobes are gay. A study published by Scientific American in 2012 provided evidence that the source of homophobia may sometimes be repressed homosexuality. Researchers asked college students from Germany and the U.S. how they identify sexually, then explored their sexuality using reaction-time tests. Using word-completion tasks, test subjects indicated their level of homophobia as well. The study found that those who claimed to be straight but had hidden same-sex desires were most likely to be hostile to LGBT people.

The study suggested that hatred might be a symptom of a toxic case of self-repression, although researchers emphasized that it was just one factor among many. Some public figures who've preached that homosexuality is a sin, including evangelical leaders and politicians, have been implicated in same-sex scandals.

So given that, perhaps the London Pride poster could also be read as a subversive approach to the issue -- using a demeaning remark to shame homophobes with the truth that eats at them the most.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Ariel Sobel