Here’s why Michael B. Jordan and other celebrities look goofy addressing gay rumors.
I’ve been playing the ‘pause game’ since I was in middle school.
The Dipset and Roc-A-Fella crews first introduced the homophobic wordplay exercise to me and my adolescent friends and we couldn’t get enough. By high school, the ‘pause game’ was so popular, mom dukes was playing with us. Pause.
Whenever someone said something that could even be vaguely misconstrued as sexual, they were expected to clarify immediately by saying, “Pause, no homo,” or some abbreviated version of the phrase.
The social agreement was based on the idea that some statements just sound funny when stated among a group of heterosexual men.
“How’s that sandwich, bro?”
“It’s good, but it’s too big. I just wish I could fit it all in my mouth.”
“No homo, though.”
But the more you play the ‘pause game,’ the more you realize that pretty much anything can be misconstrued as sexual.
“That’s a nice haircut my guy, pause.”
“Happy birthday dude, no homo.”
And then one day, you think more deeply about why being mistaken as gay is so scary that you’re constantly annotating your speech.
The rap crews who popularized the terms were mostly governed by the patriarchal rules of street culture.
Testosterone defined the power structure – as it does in most societies – and the general lack of access to power for Black Americans created a flood in the rap industry at the turn of the millennium.
Young Black men looking for an honest shot at the American Dream dragged their friends, cousins and entire communities on the road with them. And their escapades were projected out to the world as an authentic representation of the Black experience. But the lack of healthy feminine influence created dysfunctional ticks, including the ‘pause game.’
These rappers were surrounded by groupies and shady characters and thus clung to gang mentalities as a means of survival. But as the OG Taxstone once said, the only thing you’ll find in gangs are kids, cowards and homosexuals.
While conservatives, Christian and Hotep alike, preach endlessly about how unnatural homosexuality is, few acknowledge how unnatural orders like White supremacy, patriarchy and sexual repression affect all our natures. While I still struggle to use terms like ‘cishet’ and ‘problematic’ in complete sentences, I have zero tolerance for those who fear anything, let alone their fellow-man.
By the time I entered college and interacted with open and secure gay men, I saw for certain that homophobia is rooted in the same vein of fear that pumps racism, sexism and all other breeds of hatred into America’s heartland. I still slip up and say ‘pause’ sometimes as a matter of habit. But never without shaking my head at my own lack of maturity and security. I’ve never been more embarrassed than when I told an ex’s gay BFF “no homo” within five minutes of meeting him.
Watching Michael B. Jordan take the time out of his holidays to respond to gay rumors in his Instagram comments made me feel the same wave of shame for my favorite young actors that I feel for my younger self. No matter how he rationalizes his “no homo” announcement, it’s a bad look for one of the brightest young stars in Hollywood.
Besides the gay fans he surely offended, what if the tables were turned? What if one of MBJ’s White female co-stars took the time to specifically and categorically deny a rumor she was dating him to reassure her Snapchat followers that she wasn’t swirling?
MBJ has a bright future ahead, but I hope he pauses to think about how goofy he looks wasting energy on any rumor – let alone one about his sexuality.
The way I see it, the new Apollo Creed should be swimming so deep in P, he doesn’t have time to read his Instagram comments. And even if he was fishing for the D on the low, he should have faith that we would still play his movies. I stopped wasting my life with the ‘pause game’ a long time ago.