“I don’t care.”
It’s the words most LGBTQ people want to hear when they come out to their friends and family. Sure, it’s amazing when it’s followed by “I love you no matter what,” or “We’ll be friends forever.” But generally the sentiment people want to hear from those around them when they come out is that being LGBTQ isn’t going to change a thing.
So how has “I don’t care” and “Who cares” become codeword on social media for “I hate gay people”?
When a loved one tells you they don’t care that you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or any of the other many descriptors of people in our community, they are trying to, with words, wrap their arms around you and give you a big hug.
They’re letting you know that it’s going to be OK. Life is going to be OK. Even if other people throw you shade, they have your back.
They may even follow it up with words like “I don’t completely understand it, but I love you anyway.” In those coming-out moments with friends, family and teammates, so often they don’t know exactly what to say, but they know they want you to be OK, they want you to be happy.
Homophobic and transphobic strangers online have a completely different motive for using these same exact words.
The mantra behind it hasn’t changed since the days when people were emboldened to simply use gay slurs online.
They don’t want to “know what you do in your bedroom,” they don’t want to “hear about your sexual choices,” and they want LGBTQ people to “stay in the closet.” They don’t understand why there isn’t a “straight pride” parade, and they don’t want you trying to “recruit” their kids into your “lifestyle.”
You still see some of these messages in comment sections on Facebook posts or responses on Twitter. But generally anti-LGBTQ people have gotten a bit more savvy, knowing they could be blocked and reported for things like this.
Certainly the people making decisions about banning users from social media will jump on anyone calling someone a “fa**ot.” Misgendering a trans person can get a warning or even a ban from Twitter.
Now these people have found something to bludgeon LGBTQ people online that they know will never get even a slap on the wrist.
We at Outsports have noticed a flood of “who cares” and “no one cares” responses to our stories, particularly on Facebook. And when I say “flood” I mean literally hundreds of these same exact messages from hundreds of Facebook users in just the last couple months. It’s been going on for at least most of the. year.
These responses always come from non-LGBTQ people, and often from people who declare their Christian religion or conservative politics on their social-media presence.
The latest mostly came on our Facebook post about skeleton racer Andrew Blaser, who is aiming to represent the United States at the Beijing Winter Olympics this February:
It’s as though the Family Research Council put out an APB with copied-and-pasted “who cares” messages for gay athletes.
Some people on Facebook went even further, with tropes about sexual choice and self-titillating descriptions of sex between two men:
The message from this small minority of homophobes is clear: If you are an LGBTQ athlete, stay in the closet. Keep your “secret.” We don’t want your kind here.
That’s what these people are saying. And make no mistake: If you need LGBTQ athletes to stay in the closet, you hate gay people. And trans people. And all the other letters of our rainbow-colored alphabet.
To be sure, they are the purveyors of keyboard courage, sharing their nonsense from the confines of their homes. Of course they chose to do it on a public-facing Facebook page, so they’re not so anonymous.
For the homophobes, it’s brilliant. How can Facebook or Twitter take action against someone who says that an athlete’s sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t matter to them?
In reality, their message is completely different from your mom or your roommate saying, “who cares.”
The fact of the matter is that these people care very much. They care enough to take the time to respond to a Facebook post they don’t like. It drives them batty that gay, bi, lesbian and trans athletes are coming out in droves. And there’s nothing they can do to stop it.
All they can do is share their hatred for these athletes in code. Thankfully the sports community ready to embrace these athletes is exponentially larger.