Shaquille O'Neal is clearly the hugest dork ever to play professional sports. He's also been outspoken in his support for LGBT youth and anti-bullying campaigns. So I'm willing to believe he didn't overtly intend any anti-gay sentiments in this Facebook post on Wednesday—a three-panel cartoon in which a dude bypasses a long line of empty urinals to pee in the one right next to the restroom's only other occupant. Shaq's caption: "This is an automatic fight in my book.......LMFAO."
I'm willing to give Shaq the benefit of the doubt and assume that he just meant it in a standard personal-space kind of way—I'd be just as uncomfortable if I was on an empty bus and some lady sat down right next to me. And also we both had our vaginas out. Fair enough.
But if he'd thought a little harder about it (and been better versed in certain aspects of gay culture, perhaps), he might have realized that there is a bit of sexual subtext to the drawing—for instance, the fact that public restrooms have long been stereotypical pick-up spots for gay men whose sex lives are suppressed and stigmatized in the public sphere. And that straight dudes are notoriously, sometimes violently, paranoid about gay dudes checking out their dicks (as though gay guys, by default, just loooooove being ogled by sweaty randos at the train station pee-trough).
Anyway, whatever Shaq meant by the post (and even the most earnest LGBT allies are capable of squicked-out cluelessness once in a while), there was no ambiguity in the reaction from his followers. The thread quickly amassed over 1000 comments, from straight-up hate speech to pained outrage:
"He shouldnt [sic] have wandered into a gay bar," wrote one Facebook user. "That definitely makes him gay!!!" wrote another. "Thats because he wants something gay," responded another.
Some respondents, however, voiced their disapproval of the thread. "Glad to know you like to start hate dialogue against gay people shaq just lost a fan here," one wrote.
The idea that men have the right to punch someone if they are ogled or have their space invaded is steeped in gay panic. (Also, if we're enacting that law, every woman on earth is going to have her fists reduced to floppy bone-sacks within a week.) A gay man does not give up his right to police protection and physical sanctity just because he mistakenly hits on you. Also, punching gay people isn't funny, and saying that you would attack a stranger for standing too close to your penis, and then L-ing your FAO about it, is a coded anti-gay sentiment regardless of your intent. So. Let's all be more careful.
Photo via Towleroad.