That’s How Homophobia Works

Hiring a contractor revealed the invisible workings of anti-gay discrimination

M. J. Murphy

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In 2007, the husband and I bought a charming townhouse in a 100-year old building in south St. Louis, a part of the City with something of a reputation as a “gayborhood.”

The coffee-shop on the corner? Owned by two gay guys. The one four blocks away? A well-known queer hangout. The guy across the street? Sponsor of a float in the annual pride parade.

More than a little full of ourselves at having “arrived,” we moved in, unpacked, and hung a rainbow flag —along with many of our neighbors.

Sited on a corner, with a west-facing wall, our new place got lots of afternoon light that created a feeling of openness you don’t usually get with zero-lot-line townhouses.

But that nearly-three story west wall was also fully exposed to the weather. Violent thunderstorms in spring; blistering heat in summer; freeze/thaw cycles in winter — all took their toll on century-old brick and mortar.

Pretty soon we found ourselves in need of a tuck-pointer.

For those lucky enough to not have to know, tuck-pointing is the fine art of grinding out the mortar between the bricks and replacing with new — hopefully tinted so it matches the brick and remaining mortar when it dries.

This maintains the structural integrity of a brick wall and helps keep out water and wind. It’s a dirty, messy business usually practiced by rough-handed, working-class guys whose work wardrobe belies the artistry involved in their craft.

In other words, probably not a weekend job for theater-going, middle-class aspiring, professional homos who can afford to buy the kinds of houses that require the services of a tuck-pointer.

(L) A poorly tuck-pointed brick wall. Photo: Gabriele Diwald on Unsplash; (R) A nicely tuck-pointed brick wall. Photo: Hayden Mills on Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong: I can pull off butch when I have to — usually for some children’s hospital fundraiser at the local leather bar (we’re givers!)

But I draw the line at working atop forty-foot ladders. Especially without a safety harness. Or a net. Or a leather daddy (to catch me)!

Cue the tuck-pointers.

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M. J. Murphy

Professor of Gender & Sexuality Studies, Univ. Illinois Springfield