Reclaimation and “faggot”

When I was coming out “transfag” and “trannyfag” were fairly common terms to throw around.  “Trannyfag” has slowed down a bit (largely due to trans women correctly pointing out that you can’t reclaim a word that isn’t generally used to describe you), but “transfag” still exists — though it’s shifted meaning a few times.  I don’t particularly like either term, but I understand the desire to find something, anything, that correctly describes who you are so I go with them.

However, I am sickened beyond explanation by the sudden rise of trans guys calling themselves “faggots”.  With all due respect to the guys who are just coming out, you’re a bunch of morons if you think that sort of crap is going to get you anywhere.

Notice that passing guys and cis guys rarely even use “fag” as an identifier — and when we do it’s in very limited contexts.  “Faggot” is not the gay man version of “dyke”, there’s no real debate over whether or not it should be reclaimed.  It’s more synonymous with “paki” than “JAP” (Jewish, not Asian).

What’s even more irritating is that most of the guys deciding to “reclaim” the word have never been called it.  Just like with “tranny”, you don’t get to reclaim this one.  Until you’ve felt the intense fear that grips you when some stranger yells “faggot” at you in the street you don’t have anything to reclaim.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get it at first.  I knew better than to use it because I grew up with gay guys, but I didn’t really see how it was that different from “fag” or “queer”.  Then I got bashed.  Yeah, the guys who beat me up yelled “fag” and “queer” a few times, but what really got them going was “faggot”.

There is a difference.  It’s only three letters, but it’s huge.  Learn that now, from me, a random guy on the internet.  Otherwise you’ll end up having to learn from a bunch of thugs pounding it into your face.

13 thoughts on “Reclaimation and “faggot”

  1. As always, I agree, NA.
    English is not my native language, so I wasn’t sure about using “fag” or transfag. But we have a similar phenomenon with drag kings doing “gay” acts that are full of stereotypes, and “reclaiming”, and have always felt very strange to me. A bit like drag queens doing “lesbian acts” or Brian Kinney calling lesbians munchers and so on. It’s a mix of exotism and “identification”, very specific, but I can’t put my finger on it. Like people who feel they should identify with homosexuals of the opposite gender, but they somehow have similar prejudices like straight people.

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    • I don’t know about kings where you are, but I’ve always found them to be far more political than drag queens. It’s one of the reasons I can’t stand their shows. Everything is about gender performance and “fighting the binary” instead of glitter and putting on a good show. It makes their portrayals of gay men so much more insulting than drag queens doing lesbian acts. I’m not a huge fan of lesbian queen acts either, but at least then I know the stereotypes are just to make people laugh rather than some statement on how people actually are.

      Brian Kinney is similar. Yes, he calls Melanie and Lindsey ‘munchers’…more than a few times. He also makes more than a few jokes about Debbie being a giant hag/drag queen inspiration and Emmett being a prissy queen. He’s an ass to *everyone*, that’s part of what makes him fun to watch. If he was only insulting to the lesbians it’d be different, but he’s just as insulting to straight people and other gay men.

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  2. “Everything is about gender performance and “fighting the binary” instead of glitter and putting on a good show. It makes their portrayals of gay men so much more insulting”

    That’s an interesting thought- why do you think that a political show is more insulting?
    I was more weirded out than insulted by the shows over here because their portrait of gay men was often so unrealistic and strange.
    __

    I have known some gay guys who were specifically insulting with regards to lesbians (and sometimes women in general), in a strange identification/abhorrence way. I think there’s more to that, just like with so many lesbians really not linking gay men- have you seen the Scum Manifesto by Valerie Solanas? She said that gay men were worse that straight men.

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    • Humour is offensive by its very nature. Try making a joke that is both funny and unoffensive, it’s nearly impossible. (Which may be why comedians in the US have taken to mocking the PC). I expect drag queens with lesbian personae to be offensive, the same way I expect George Lopez to make fun of white people. It’s not personal, no one is trying to say that Chris Rock hates white people or Eddie Izzard hates the French. It’s just to get a laugh.

      With kings you’re never sure if they actually do just hate all men. It’s not funny, it’s a criticism of who people are. The entire point is to call out things they don’t like and make them seem ridiculous. For a group of people who insist on not saying words like “bitch” in case someone gets uncomfortable, they are incredibly good at making sure they run all over the feelings of men everywhere. Queens make fun of you because it’s a good show, kings make fun of you because they honestly don’t like who you are.

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    • Oh damn, I forgot the second half of your comment. Whoops!

      I’ve known a few gay men to be rather misogynistic. There are a few cultural and political issues within the older gay male community that don’t exist outside the US though. More than a few of the activists from the 80s are still just really angry at lesbians. Same way they’re still angry at bisexual men. I’ve been told everything from how they stole the gay rights movement after they got bored of women’s rights to how they were happy an entire generation of gay men died off so they could swoop in, take over, and still complain that the GLBT community is sexist. That sense of betrayal doesn’t exist with younger guys, guys my age love their lesbian friends. I end up somewhere in the middle just because I’m still getting over my lesbian-related trauma.

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  3. “With kings you’re never sure if they actually do just hate all men. ”

    ok, now I get it. I have seen some king acts that weren’t hateful, but they weren’t funny either (like kings doing boy groups and being sexy).
    But you are right- drag kings are often more like straight men dressing up as women and making fun of women than like drag queens who identify with women and make fun of the world. This is a really interesting observation–

    As most drag kings are lesbian, I think that the only way to make drag kinging seem pc is by prentending you do it to criticise patriarchy. But I suspect that many are doing it because they are cross dressers or trans.
    All the drag kings who identify with men transition sooner or later 😉

    I have read some texts about the techniques of drag kinging and many performers have said that it’s more difficult than drag queening because men are not inherently artificial like women are. Men don’t act out, they don’t express. I have been wondering if that’s the reason why drag kings often do redneck or working class types of men. Drag queens tend to do the more glamurous types of women.

    I’m traumatized by lesbians too, as you know, so I get you. But I still think that several gay men just don’t like women. They get annoyed that they have to interact with women because of the LGBT movement. I keenly remember the time when the movements were separate, and many guys liked it that way. Just as there are separatist lesbians, there are separatist gay men, only they can’t say it out loud. As I have a misogynistic strain (which collides with my feminist strain) I sometimes feel the same way.

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    • Of course some gay men just don’t like women, they’re men after all. Same way some lesbians just don’t like men. It just seems so much more acceptable to be a man hating lesbian than a woman hating gay man. Lesbians talk about how men are pigs and get away with it. Gay men have the “I don’t eat fish” jokes, but generally if you say something seriously out of line there’ll be at least one guy to call you on it. There’s a camaraderie between gay men and straight women that doesn’t really exist between lesbians and straight men. It means most of us can’t really be as misogynistic as some would like because there’s always at least one woman everyone adores. Just look at the way we treat our divas.

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  4. I generally agree, though I think that gay men and lesbians not liking the opposite sex has also to do with a reaction against heterosexuality and the expectation to like the opposite sex.
    “There’s a camaraderie between gay men and straight women that doesn’t really exist between lesbians and straight men. ”
    On the surface this is true, but all my life I have befriended butch lesbians who were not part of the lesbian community but rather interacting strongly with straight people and dating straight women. They all had straight men as best friends. I’d say, since the lesbian separatist movement, lesbian communities were split, and especially butches avoided them during the last 30 years.

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  5. Aiden, with all due respect to your experiences and opinions, which I am glad to hear and understand more about, because I haven’t thought about some of these aspects of it before at all, and was unaware of some of what you bring up… I do think though you also have to consider where others might be coming from when they use the words ‘faggot’ or ‘fag’ as self-identifiers.
    I personally started using the terms to describe myself, a mostly non-passing gay trans man, after spending time with the radical faeries, a culture in which I saw male and female-bodied folks who identified as fag/gots, in an environment of joy, freedom, and defiance.
    I do think that what you are saying in your article here is really valid and applicable to the larger world… but there is a really important point where we can create our *own* culture and allow that to grow and fluorish; after all reclaiming words is about giving things our own meanings rather than the ones imposed on us…. I know you are saying you can’t reclaim something that wasn’t yours in the first place….
    but I also don’t see why one culture of people cannot create a meaning around a word and transmit that to others, when the energy around it is born of such positivity. In my experience that helps fight the negative use of the word.
    Perhaps there are examples otherwise but I am speaking from this experience here.
    Let me know what you think.

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    • I tend to think there are limits to creating your own culture. (And I say this as someone who *loves* the RadFaes, they were like my family when I was a teen.)

      To give an example I tend to avoid using because race and sexuality aren’t quite the same: I, as a Latino, cannot try to reclaim the n-word. I am a racial minority, I know what it’s like to deal with being a person of colour in the US (though that’s still a new feeling), but I do not — and cannot — understand what it’s like to be black. I will never have the same emotional reaction to that word that an African-American would have. I’ve been called it before because people are stupid, but it’s different for me. My reaction was closer to confusion than fear.

      Does that mean I’m going to stop the segment of the African-American community that wants to reclaim the n-word? Of course not. Just as it’s not my place to reclaim the word, it’s also not my place to say it shouldn’t be reclaimed. However, I won’t use it. I don’t have that right, no matter how many times I have to face racism.

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      • Point taken for sure, but I think for trans people it is different because it is an identity issue…. with race you are not identifying as ‘another’ race. While I may not have had the experiences of being called a faggot growing up as a girl, the more I transition the more I will come into contact with those experiences as a man (because trust me I am fucking femmy). As in your example what could be confusion would become fear, because as a trans person you actually become the thing.
        I think respecting cis gay men’s experience is for *sure* important, and primary, but I still don’t think that precludes the possbility of identifying as a fag or a faggot, particularly when (RadFae) that is born of contact with a culture that *is* formed of cis queer men who are using the word, and including female-bodied fag-people in that.

        This being said, what you are saying is really making me think, and I’m sure will lead to real-life dialogue with cis queer/gay men and gay trans men in my world.

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  6. I know this post is hella old, but I’m going to comment anyway because it’s more enticing than getting off the internet and doing homework, and because no one else has said it.

    Just because someone’s trans doesn’t mean they haven’t been called a fag/got, which you seem to assume happens rarely, if ever. It’s not super common for me hook up with or display interest in men, and I’m not feminine/flamboyant in any stereotypically gay ways, but I’ve been threatened and tormented with the word faggot a LOT. It happened more before I was on T than after, but it still happens more often than I like to think about. I don’t personally feel comfortable reclaiming the word because I’m not exclusively, or even predominantly, interested in men, but it is a word that has been used against me, and it has definitely hurt me and scared me.

    Not all trans men using the word are clueless idiots who aren’t aware that it hurts. Some of them, too be sure, are just looking to be edgy and radikewl and whatever else, but if I were gayer than I am, it’s probably a word I’d use, and not out of ignorance.

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    • You don’t get to reclaim a word because it’s been used against you a few times. If that was true I’d be able to reclaim ‘n*gger’, ‘d*ke’, ‘p*ki’, ‘c*nt’, ‘b*tch’, ‘wh*re’, ‘tr*nny’, and a whole host of other words various groups have used against them regularly.

      In order to truly be capable of reclaiming a word you have to be part of the group it was designed to oppress. African-Americans get to reclaim n*gger because it was a word designed to dehumanise them. Trans women get to reclaim tr*nny because when people yell it they’re picturing the stereotypical ‘man in a dress’. F*ggot is used to dehumanise and humiliate gay men. Not genderqueers, not queer guys who are interested only in lesbians, not even gay trans guys who are regularly read as women. There is a reason people who fall into those groups are more comfortable using it than cis gay men.

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