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Scott D. Pierce: Which ‘Real Housewife of SLC’ is acting homophobic without seeming to be aware of it?

Calling someone ‘gay’ — even if you think it’s just fightin’ words — doesn’t land like it used to.

(Bravo) Meredith Marks and Brooks Marks on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

There’s yet another ongoing battle on “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” Meredith Marks has accused Jen Shah of launching homophobic attacks against her adult son, Brooks. Who, she insisted, hasn’t told her if he’s gay.

There is definitely some homophobia going on. And some of it is coming from Jen. But it’s also coming from Meredith, who appears to be so blinded by her hatred of Jen that she can’t see it.

Meredith is wildly angry at Jen for “attacking” her “child” — 21-year-old Brooks. She’s in full Mama Bear mode, rushing to his defense.

I completely understand her inclination. I have three kids. But my daughters and son made me stop trying to defend them and, thus, embarrassing them when they were in junior high.

(Bravo) Brooks Marks on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

Long story short — in Season 1, Brooks said he saw Jen’s private parts when she did high kicks while not wearing underwear. And it made him uncomfortable.

No argument. Would’ve made me uncomfortable, too. (By the way, Jen denies this happened.)

Meredith believes that, because Jen was embarrassed, she went after Brooks, liking and retweeting “homophobic” tweets about him. Except that, with one exception that we know of — a tweet that referred to Brooks as a “s!ssy b!tch” — nothing Jen has liked or retweeted has been homophobic.

Meredith shared a screenshot of a dozen posts Jen either tweeted or retweeted, and asserted, “You asked … here are the receipts. Trust me, there are a lot more. I was not lying.”

Some of the tweets called Brooks out for his behavior on the show. I’m not saying they’re nice or that I agree with all of them, but Brooks is an adult; he chose to go on the show; he’s fair game.

(Photo courtesy of Bravo) Jen Shah appears remotely on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen."

Meredith was particularly angry that Jen liked or retweeted posts that referred to Brooks as a “twink,” a term common within the gay community to describe a particular type of young (or young looking) usually-somewhat-effeminate man. (Timothée Chalamet or Tom Holland are oft-cited examples.)

Meredith took to Twitter to defend herself. “To clarify — I do not think twink in and of itself is homophobic. My problem [is] that Brooks has not decided where he stands on his sexuality and Jen knew that. This comment pigeonholes him.”

And it pigeonholes him as — gasp! — gay. Or at the very least gay-by-linguistic-association, which very much seems to be Meredith’s interpretation. And it’s telling that Meredith thinks that simply referring to her son as gay is a slur. Would she have objected if Jen had “pigeonholed” Brooks as straight? (And would Jen have bothered retweeting those posts in the first place?)

“I would say being called gay is actually a compliment,” said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. “Of course, it’s always the intent of the speaker. If someone says, ‘That’s so gay,’ it’s usually diminishing.

“But if someone calls me gay, I thank them!”

In 2016, Italy’s highest court ruled that calling a straight person gay is no longer an insult because it does not have the same “intrinsically offensive meaning” that it had “in the not-so-distant past. That it’s a “neutral” term. An Italian court has no sway in Utah, of course, but that court got it right.

Do a quick search online, and you’ll find umpteen stories and social media posts that refer to Brooks as “openly gay.” To be honest, I assumed he was gay. He hasn’t come out, and no one — including me — should have made assumptions about him.

But I cannot find any evidence that Meredith pushed back against anyone other than Jen. If Meredith doesn’t want to be friends with Jen, fine. But calling her homophobic for believing Brooks is gay is ludicrous.

Retweeting a post that called Brooks a “s!ssy b!tch” is a different matter. (In the Sept. 19 episode, Meredith falsely said it encouraged Jen to “turn around and slap Brooks and call him a sissy b----.” Fact check: There was no reference to slapping in the actual tweet. Whether she’s explicitly trying to out Brooks or just (repeatedly) using gendered language to take swipes at his masculinity, Jen’s subtext isn’t particularly subtle here.

Brooks himself said in the Sept. 26 episode that he was “terrified to even talk about” how Jen is “liking horribly negative things about me on social media.” And, we’re led to believe those horribly negative things assume he’s gay.

Meredith and Brooks also allege that Jen’s likes and retweets are somehow pressuring Brooks to come out. Nobody should have to talk about their sexual orientation if they don’t want to. But pretending that social media chatter about a popular reality TV show is the same thing as being forced to make a declaration about your sexual orientation? That also feels like a stretch.

By the way, Jen said she hired someone to run her social media accounts, and she wasn’t aware of the likes and retweets. That’s common for celebrities — Meredith admitted she’s done so herself — but the sheer pettiness at play is harder to pin on an anonymous underling.

It’s beyond oblivious for Jen to wave off responsibility for what happens in her own name on Twitter. Meredith is right to call her out for it.

Meredith clearly considers herself a LGBTQ+ ally. Defending her son from online harassment is one thing. But defending him from the “horribly negative” insinuation that he might be gay — while at the same time demanding that Jen avow that she’s “against homophobic hate”? That’s hypocritical. And it’s painful to watch.

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