IT'S JUNE, AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!
HAPPY LGBTQ+ PRIDE MONTH!
Since this beautiful month full of pride and being amazing for who we are, I've decided that every article this month will be LGBTQ+ themed! Why? Because why not! So for my first beautiful LGBTQ+ article, I want to talk about a certain issue facing a lot of my fellow queers...
Yeah, that one. It's a big and scary word to most people, but I'm going to shed some light on this word and how I, a "fag" myself, feel about it. When it comes to this one word, there are so many topics to address about it; Who can say it? What does it mean? Where did it come from? Well let's break this down, piece by piece.
1: Where did it come from?
Anyone who has ever been on the internet, an elementary school, a high school, a school bus, sports team, a locker room, a small town, or a large city has heard the word faggot/fag used, most likely in a derogatory manner. But where did it come from? Most people know that the literal definition of faggot means "a bundle of sticks," or a cigarette if you're in the UK, but how did it turn into a slur? Well here's a fun fact, faggot was used as a slur for women first. Since a bundle of sticks was typically a not-fun burden to carry, men used it to describe women, because misogyny. Over time, since gay men were typically seen as woman-like, and therefore the term gradually shifted to just being used against gay men. Faggot was (and still is) used interchangeably with terms like fairy or queen, which were also seen as very feminine qualities. However, there exists a more subtle and very much darker meaning behind faggot. Since the term means a bundle of sticks, faggot is a subtle reference to medieval times when gay men were burned at the stake using– you guessed it!– a bundle of sticks. So not only is faggot used as just a hurtful word to make fun of "feminine" qualities, but it's also a very subtle death threat. Fun, huh?
2: Who says it nowadays?
Like I stated in the first section, this is a word you hear everywhere. I remember hearing it for the first time in the second grade at my Catholic elementary school. Whether it's children making fun of each other, a sports team belittling a teammate for not being "tough," or just a random insult hurled at someone on the street, the word faggot is almost always used to hurt others. Gay people don't even come close to saying faggot as much as straight people do. It's a common insult heard in all environments because to many, being gay or implying someone is gay is something to shame others for. Faggot is used as an insult so frequently that there's an endless debate in the gay-person world whether or not it's even ok for us to say it.
3: What's my experience with the word?
I am part of the incredibly vast number of non-straight people who was bullied as a kid because I was "different" from other kids. Personally, I had no idea in elementary school that I was something other than straight; it never crossed my mind. But my personality and mannerisms were considered quite "feminine" by my classmates, leading them to use words like "gay" and "faggot" to make me feel bad, giving me reason to transfer to a new district when I started high school. This occurrence did not just happen to me; it happens to thousands of LGBTQ+ kids/teens all across the world who get made fun of with the word "fag" because mean-spirited people compare kids who are different to being gay, which is sadly still the popular thought in most youth.
Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that kids and teens are coming a long way and have grown to be more accepting of all sexualities, genders, and everything else, but the problem is still present and still needs to be taken care of. Personally, I don't hold a huge grudge against the kids who called me a fag in elementary school, mostly because we were kids when it happened. We've all grown since them, and there has to be at least one of them that's seen the error of their ways and has become more accepting. If anything, the bullying made me stronger; I didn't want to get bullied (duh), but in an odd way, it helped me really examine who I was and who I wanted to be, giving me security and well-being with the person I am.
4: How do I feel about the word?
I probably should've stated this at the beginning of the article, but now is as good a time as any to stress my main point:
STRAIGHT PEOPLE DO NOT GET TO SAY "FAG."
Pretty simple rule, right? Well, this apparently isn't clear to some people because in some cases, people feel the need to ask clarifying questions about this one simple rule. For example:
"Can I say it to my gay friends?" NO.
"My gay friend said I could say it." DOUBTFUL, BUT EVEN SO, NO.
"I know gay people, though. I only say it in a positive way." STOP.
"But you call yourself a fag, why can't I say it too?" BECAUSE I SAID NO. GOD.
"I'm straight but I got called a fag in the past by bullies, can't I reclaim it?" NO, BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT ACTUALLY GAY.
If there is anything for straight people to learn from this article, it should be this: "fag" was and continues to be a word used constantly to belittle LGBTQ+ people and even straight people who don't always fit a certain norm, whether it's a guy who doesn't "have enough masculinity" or a girl who "doesn't date enough guys." This is a word used by straight people to hurt LGBTQ+ people and even other straight people. So, just to recap, if you are straight, YOU CANNOT SAY FAG. EVER. KEEP IT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.
So what about LGBTQ+ people? Like I said, there is a debate about "fag" in the queer community. There are a handful of people that say that "fag" doesn't need to be reclaimed because it's always been a word to inflict harm upon gay people and should just be left behind. Other gay people say that "fag" should be reclaimed to take away its power. When we take the word away from the people who used it to hurt us, we take away the word's potential to harm anyone. In the past I have heard gay people describe "fag" as "the N-word for gay people." I don't feel this is an apt comparison, mostly because "fag" and the N-word apply to two different groups of people, have different histories, and let's face it, the N-word holds a lot more weight to it. So the word "fag" is not "the N-word for gay people," but it is a word that has the option of being reclaimed to take away its power and instead be used for empowerment. So how do I feel about the future of the word "fag?"
In my opinion, I prefer to reclaim the word "fag" to take away its power over gay people. Don't misunderstand, this doesn't mean I'm going to be prancing around throwing the word "fag" everywhere I go. There is a good amount of gay people who simply aren't ready or don't want to reclaim "fag," and it's up to me and everyone else to respect those opinions. Whenever I would/do use the word "fag," I use it in an ironic/humorous sense. That doesn't sound like it makes much sense, so allow me to explain. Let's say, for example, I get a new job and I have a coworker who is very homophobic. When I talk about this coworker to my friends or family, I might say, "I guess they just don't like having to work with a fag!" By referring to myself as a "fag," instead of potentially hearing it from the homophobic coworker, I've taken away the word's power to hurt me in the future. Other than in situations of humour amongst other gay people or for irony, I wouldn't use "fag" to describe another gay person because, like I said, I have no way of knowing if another gay person is OK with being called a fag without asking them outright, which would probably just be uncomfortable. Overall, I mostly use "fag" for my own benefit; I really don't mind being called it by other gay people. Even now as I write this article I keep saying aloud to myself, "I'm a fag, I'm a fag..." And every time I do I giggle because the word has miraculously transformed; it has lost the harm that it once inflicted upon me. When I think back to how being called a "fag" in school made me feel, I'm reminded of the heaviness I would feel in my heart; I would feel broken, ashamed, and confused. But that was all back then, and the word was always coming from other people that were also straight people. So now, when the word is coming from myself, I know the word has no cruel intention; I have effectively taken away its power, and I even feel a little happy inside knowing that the word used most to hurt me no longer has the power to do so.
5: What about other LGBTQ+ people? Can they say it even if they're not gay?
Again, this is another area that doesn't have one concrete answer. Once again, it really depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I'd say any non-straight person who has ever been called a faggot in a harmful way has the right to reclaim it they choose. There are probably tons of people who might not agree with that, but again, that's just my opinion. But knowing painfully-heteronormative-America, chances are, if you're not straight, you've been called a faggot (even straight people get called a faggot). Overall, the big thing to remember about using the word "fag" is respect. If a gay person does not like to hear or be called a fag, just don't say it to them. If they do, then go ahead! Don't go crazy though; even I would get tired of being called a fag every five seconds from another gay guy. Always remember to know your audience, be respectful of others, and for the love of god,
DON'T SAY "FAG" IF YOU'RE STRAIGHT. HONESTLY.
Happy Pride Month, everyone!