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What's "Emo" About Being Gay?

How a Style of Music is Used as Code for a Sexual Orientation

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Image of Gerard Way, the Lead Singer of the Emo Band, My Chemical Romance

Kevin Winter

Once upon a time, the term emo referred to a genre of hardcore punk music with an emotional side. Over the years, the punk aspect of emo softened and the term shifted to include more mainstream bands. However, the emotional aspect remained and a style aesthetic developed along with the music.

But more and more often, the term emo is used as a code for gay, and not in a positive way. In fact, there are even websites selling t-shirts that say things like, "Parental Advisory: Emo is Gay."

There are plenty of gay emo fans out there, (just like there are plenty of straight emo fans), but using the term in this way is not a celebration of the gay fan base.

All it is, is just another example of homophobia.

Why is this homophobic? Here are a few reasons:

  • The underlying assumption is that only gay guys would be into emotional music and the fashion that goes with it.
  • Referring to emo as "gay" is done to put down people who like emo by implying that it is somehow bad to like music that a gay person was into.
  • This link also works to maintain the status quo by implying that a heterosexual guy's sexual orientation might be under suspicion if he deviates from mainstream ideas about how straight guys are supposed to act.

    Look, if you are into emo, great. If you don't like it, no problem. But if you hear someone say "emo's so gay" you might want to school them a little on what they are actually saying.

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