People Say The Darndest (and Anti-Gay) Things, They’re Not Funny

According to the world, most of the formspring answers on Autostraddle’s tumblr, and that book that’s coming out, it gets better. After all, people grow up! People learn! PEOPLE BECOME BETTER! GIVE THEM TIME! But it turns out adults are also sometimes shitty people, and so I’d like to present three tales of terror from the crypt of “Dude, you’re like, a grown man. Are you serious?”

This edition of adults saying dumb things about gay people starts with Blake Shelton and Jake Gyllenhaal. Shelton is the person who said the dumb thing. Do you even know who that is? He was the co-host of the Academy of Country Music Awards this Sunday with Reba McEntire, and can you believe he made a gay joke about Gyllenhaal in order to talk about Taylor Swift? God, this is low.

Hey Blake, looks like YOU coulda been in Brokeback! Hardy-har, see, it's awkward.

Here’s an outtake of his conversation with McEntire:

“Don’t make jokes about Taylor Swift,” McEntire warned. “If you make her mad, she’ll write a song about you. She writes songs about guys who break up with her.”

“Which I don’t understand in the first place. She’s beautiful, she’s talented, she’s sweet. What in the world was Jake Gyllenhaal thinking anyway?

Shelton’s retort: “Wait a minute, he was in ‘Brokeback Mountain.'” The country-music crowd laughed and cheered wildly at the joke, a reference to Gyllenhaal’s Oscar-nominated performance as a gay cowboy opposite Heath Ledger.

Um, awkward. First of all, because Gyllenhaal is an actor. Second of all, because calling out someone who isn’t in the room and is more famous than you for being “kind of a homo” is awkward and only makes me feel bad for the Country Music Awards. How long ago was Brokeback Mountain, anyway?

Moving on, the next and last two dumb things adults said about gay people came from our favorite people, the members of the Republican Party. One came from an actual member, and then another came from a young up-and-coming dude who ran the Texas College Republicans and stuff. But let’s start with the actual member.

Dan Gordon, a Republican State Representative in Rhode Island, spoke out against Gay-Straight Alliances, or at least the one at Tiverton High School, on his blog:

“I don’t think we should be promoting anything whatsoever that has to do with sexuality….Especially in a school that receives public funding. I don’t think there would be much of a problem with bullying if students weren’t flaunting their sexuality in school.”

Check out this busload of GAY SEX. (photo via Jon Gilbert Leavitt on flickr)

But more importantly, he threatened them about it. Tiverton’s funding, according to Representative Gordon, will be pulled from Charter School Funding if they actually think of ALLOWING SUCH A THING TO GO ON THERE. After all, Gay-Straight Alliance sounds a lot like “Flaunt Being Gay Club,” or “Gay Sex.” (Gordon apparently also cited the GSA’s purpose as being for getting “sexed up.” Where was this in my high school?!)

In response, a concerned mother launched a petition. Gotta love mom. The petition says:

“Comments like those made by Mr. Gordon are the reason our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens suffer bullying and mis-treatment in schools. Comments like these show a complete lack of understanding regarding romantic orientation. Comments like these slander and wholly mis-characterize the important social justice role that Gay/Straight Alliances fill in high schools and middle schools across our nation. Finally, comments like these demonstrate an alarming ignorance of constitutional law from an individual who swore to uphold the rights of all his constituents.”

Like I said, gotta love mom. The petition demanded Gordon apologize not only to Tiverton’s GSA, but to GSAs across the country that are now filled with people with feelings about him. But Gordon hasn’t; he is too busy insisting he is not homophobic.

Meanwhile Charlie McCaslin, a junior Southern Methodist University, recently resigned from his post as Chairman of the Texas College Republicans after using an anti-gay slur to describe another candidate for the same position. (The consolation is that I think McCaslin might have been drunk and/or from a different world when it happened.) You tell me if you agree:

McCaslin, a Southern Methodist University junior, defamed Jonathan Snyder, a student at Ohio State University, during an endorsement toast for his rival, Auburn University student Alex Schriver.

“Let me just tell you, character counts. That’s why I have a gut instinct this is the right man for the job,” McCaslin says pointing to Schriver.

“You know, the other team are nerds, are fags,” he says to thunderous applause and whistles during an after hours at the Texas College Republicans convention held last weekend in Austin.

McCaslin’s toast was capture with a telephone video camera and uploaded to YouTube by InnovateCRNC, the committee supporting Snyder’s candidacy.

This doesn’t feel real, right? Well, no matter what the cause, McCaslin resigned after the video went viral. Turns out it does get better – with the help of the internet, of course. Here’s a dramatized YouTube video of it:

So look, yes – it does get better. Because even though people say the darndest things and these weren’t funny, I would venture to say that the majority of adults also felt awkward about these stories, too. This is the end of this edition of adults saying dumb things about gay people. I hope you didn’t know any of them, and I hope there is never another edition, really.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. Blake Shelton did NOT say anything anti-gay. I think that it is very important to correct people who have actually made anti-gay slurs but this wasn’t the case. Saying someone would have to be gay for breaking up w/ Taylor since in so many eyes she is a beautiful, talented, sweet girl would have to be gay (gay men obviously don’t like girls). Also Jake isn’t gay so still confused. Anyway, I think making all of this fuss over Blake’s joke (that was written for him) is hurting our cause. We need to focus on the real gay bashers and slurs going on. Thank you.

    • He implied Jake Gyllenhaal was gay and people erupted into laughter. So he def chose to make fun of gay people. But I agree that it was much less offensive than some of these other assholes.

    • Yeah, it’s not hateful toward gay people like the other quotes are. Still, I think it’s harmful in its own way to imply that a straight person who plays a gay character in a movie must be secretly gay because of that.

      • I mean, I’ve known straight people who are afraid to be open in their support of gay rights around certain homophobes, because they are worried that they will be perceived as gay if they are strong allies.

        In middle school, when I was in massive denial about my bisexuality, I was afraid to be open about support for gay rights in my mostly non-supportive school, because I thought people would think I was a lesbian and make fun of me and boys wouldn’t like me. (They didn’t like me anyway, though, I’m not sure why that was stopping me…)

        • “In middle school, when I was in massive denial about my bisexuality, I was afraid to be open about support for gay rights in my mostly non-supportive school, because I thought people would think I was a lesbian and make fun of me and boys wouldn’t like me. (They didn’t like me anyway, though, I’m not sure why that was stopping me…)”

          Amen. I regret my high school avoidance of the GSA for that sole reason.

          Anyways – I don’t think the fault should lie solely on Blake’s shoulders, but yeah, the audience’s reaction is enough to make my Spider Senses prickle.

    • Of all the movies Jake Gyllenhaal has made, Blake chose ‘Brokeback Mountain’. So I think the “he must be gay if he left Taylor Swift” is implied.

    • If he wanted to make a general “he makes poor life choices” comment, then why not mention that this is the guy that starred in Bubble Boy? Bringing up a film that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, where Gyllenhaal’s performance also earned an Oscar nomination — there’s nothing regrettable there, so why say it? Because it was a gay joke. Why did people laugh? Because it was a gay joke.

      Honestly, I think this type of homophobia is super-harmful. When homophobia is blatant and offensive and loud and in-your-face, it causes a reaction. But this shit is vague enough that people don’t notice, or let it slide, and when this shit goes unquestioned, it makes it seem okay. And it’s really, really not.

      • i think an important distinction here is that it was a gay joke meant to be hurtful. The gay jokes at the oscars (anne hathaway’s thing with “the kids are allright” “lesbians!” “black swan” “dancing lesbians!” and so on) made people laugh because they were funny and true and that’s fine. Not all gay jokes are funny, and this one wasn’t.

    • Yeah, the thing is the comment just gives me a creepy feeling. It’s a not-terribly funny joke that strikes me as implying a discomfort with “that whole gay thing,” and it seems to imply a straight audience; coming from a rural town and a version of the 90s where the CMJs were more prevalent than the VMAs, I think that sucks. My spidey senses say he’s joking out of fear, which is to say, being thoughtless and kind of a douche.

    • I think the offensive thing about Blake Shelton’s joke is that he was using gay as an insult. Being gay has always been used as a way to undermine manhood, as if being gay automatically makes you less of a man. That was the undercurrent that Blake Shelton was basing his joke on and the whole reason why the audience laughed. But I agree that I didn’t find the gay joke that offensive. What I was offended by was how lame the gay joke was… It sounded like it was written by Chuck Lorre and cast off from Two and a Half Men. I mean, if you’re gonna write a gay joke, at least make it clever. I totally groaned when I first read it… like, seriously? That’s the best you got?

  2. haha an old white guy saying “sexed up” sounds like something that would be in some britney lyrics. DAN GORDON WANNA GET SEXED UP.

  3. God. There’s one like Gordon in every batch, isn’t there? We had this one girl come to GSA and use almost that exact same line. If anybody tries to argue with her, she fires back with “Well IM a homosexual,” which rings kind of empty when she complains about gaymos every chance she gets, and calls us the ‘f*ggot club’ and accuses all of us of wanting attention. I can tell you, we won’t miss her now that she’s quit.

  4. I guess I don’t see it that way. He wasn’t saying it would be wrong to be gay, he was simply making a joke that any man who wouldn’t want to be with Taylor Swift must be gay because she is so perfect. It’s a compliment to her, not a knock toward gay men.

    • I see your thinking Leah, and you’re right in that the set up of the joke doesn’t really say anything insulting about gay men.

      But the bigger issue here is using “you must be gay” as a sort of taunt. Don’t like sports? Don’t want to date the cute blonde girl? Don’t dress like the other guys? and then they call you a homo.

      When it’s used as a way that is meant to single out something about you that is different, that isn’t approved of or understood, it’s meant as an insult. And that’s not a good message to send.

      Remember, the crowd laughed. Whether it was a particularly cruel jab or not, a little gay kid sitting in that audience understood this: being gay would make people laugh at him. They weren’t laughing at the idea of Taylor Swift being perfect, they were laughing at Gyllenhall being called gay.

  5. This post made me sad, but you know what would be awesome? A busload of gay sex. My local public transportation is sadly lacking in sexy gayness. Let’s not even talk about Greyhound.

    Today, a super-cute girl on my usual bus route told me I had “really, really, really pretty” hair. Three reallys. I said thank you, blushed, and got tongue-tied because I don’t know how to talk to cute girls when I’m sober/ever. Her stop came up before I could compliment her headphones. I feel like a gay sex bus might have fixed this problem.

  6. “I don’t think there would be much of a problem with bullying if students weren’t flaunting their sexuality in school.”

    Oh yes of course. I forgot! The closet is the obvious solution to all our problems! Thank you so much for reminding me. …NOT.

    • You know what, actually I totally agree with this guy. Gay students and GSAs are asking for it with their talks about civil rights and rainbow wristbands, I’m not homophobe but that’s indecent. Students shouldn’t flaunt their sexuality in schools like that. I mean look at their straight peers, they constantly babble loudly about who is hooking up with/may hook up with/isn’t hooking up with anymore and grope each other in front of everyone and stick their tongue down each other’s throat in the hallways and – oh wait.

  7. Hi Carmen – I’m “the mom” who wrote the petition. Just wanted to let you know that although we have backwards politicians in RI, the rest of the population seems to get it. We had five pages of signatures in only two days. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I don’t expect him to respond, but I’ll start calling his office if I don’t hear from him by the end of the week. Thanks for your blog – you have a strong style.
    Karen Izzo

  8. In good news, in my town there’s this festival thing this weekend (I’ve only been a year, apparently it’s a big deal but I’ve never experienced it) with a parade. The local pride group wanted to march in it and were turned down, and then the lady in charge of the festival/parade made some offensive comments on camera when asked why the pride group was turned down. And now they’re completely backtracking and the pride group will be included in the parade this weekend.

  9. I’m just gonna say, it’s not important how offensive a gay joke is when the punchline is meant to underscore how being gay equals “not normal like the rest of us”.

    There is inclusive humor, that finds a way to poke fun at all human beings for their eccentricities (“isn’t it weird how we are all so weird?”), and then their is exclusive humor (“watch how we laugh at you, because you are not like us”).

    Shelton’s joke was exclusive. The crowd cheered because they could pretend to all be on the #winning side (not the weirdo gay side that doesn’t want to bone Taylor Swift because of that weirdo gay sex thing).

    So, I am Team I Have a Right To Be Offended At Gay Jokes. Gay jokes like Shelton’s aren’t about celebrating me as a queer person or even recognizing me as any kind of person. They are about excluding me from the Wants to Bone Taylor Swift party. I mean, I don’t really wanna bone T Swift, but I recognize the presence of anyone else who does. If you want to join my team or even the I Want to Bone Taylor Swift Team, I’m down. Who’s gonna make the tee shirts for our first Team meeting?

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