When It Isn’t Just A Joke: Homophobia in comedy

About two months ago, a friend and respected LGBTQIA activist sent a screenshot of this tweet, in jest, to a LGBTQIA group we’re both a part of: “Bathi Gay Police be like: “chommie you are under arrest bathong. Yho o sa bua thata, chomza coz re di berekisa against u”. I would’ve liked to call it the tweet that launched a thousand retweets rejecting and shaming this inherently homophobic and lazy sort of thinking, instead it got eight retweets and a favourite.

One of those retweets was from a gay man and although it is not clear if he was retweeting it for his timeline to see or if he approved of it, it is still disappointing because to me, it looked like he was endorsing the offensive tweet.

Then a few weeks later, a colleague and up-and-coming comedian regurgitated the same joke. He said that gay men can’t be police officers because instead of shooting suspects, they would just let them go because they’re, and I quote, “cute”.

These jokes are very problematic because they normalise police brutality (officers can’t go around just shooting alleged suspects), reinforce  stereotypical ideas about queer individuals regarding the kind of jobs queer people cannot do because of their sexuality.

These jokes are troubling because they reduce those of us who find them offensive to being individuals with “no sense of humour” because we don’t get that it’s “just a joke”.

It isn’t just a joke. In a country where corrective rape and other forms of hate crimes against LGBTQIA people are prevalent, we should not let mildly-disguised homophobia slide.

This is not a duty that should only be left up to activists, we should all be actively trying to get rid of stereotypical and troubling tropes about gay people,. I- I’m not comfortable with just laughing problematic jokes away.

What worries me, are the people who tell you to “get over it” or that “it’s just a joke” because they never want to understand where my concern and anger is coming from. I cannot just remove myself from certain situations when it suits me.

Local comedian Thapelo Tips “Shampoo” Seemise is notoriously homophobic in his skits. In one show, he told straight men to stop saying “fuck you” to gay men as gay men “expect you to.” He went on to ask where gay people come from, as he had never seen a gay comrade during the Struggle. He also seemed to think that gay men aren’t real men stating that we hate the movie “Think Like a Man” (of course we do. It was a really bad movie which reinforces patriarchy. Bye Felicia!)

These notions, these tropes that are perpetuated by famous people, contribute to society’s hatred of queer individuals. It is ignorant to assume that just because you did not see them and they’re not in our history books, there weren’t any gay freedom fighters. Read up on Simon Nkoli and Bev Ditsie.

I’m all for a good joke. I am even willing to laugh at myself once in a while. But when the joke is inherently sexist, homophobic, ableist and racist, I cannot just stand back and laugh it off as “just a joke.” It isn’t funny.

Follow me on Twitter: @Tsheggy_ZA

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