BY Claudio E. Cabrera (@cecabrera21)
A few weeks ago, Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined $100K by the NBA after he was caught on camera calling a referee a “faggot” over a foul call he disagreed with.
On Twitter recently, two local residents, @rosefox and @ddenegro, went back and forth when the latter called Donald Trump (you guessed it) a “Fag” for his baseless birther claims against President Obama.
When @rosefox, who happens to be bisexual, saw his tweet, she said there is no reason for anyone to ever use that word, while @ddenegro countered that he didn’t mean it in a derogatory manner.
When we think of the word “faggot,” we have to think about a few things. First, it’s a word that’s universally used by most straight men of all races. When it’s said, it’s generally not meant in an offensive manner. It’s an insult to a man of sorts by saying that you are acting like a girl, essentially a guy with female traits and tendencies.
Now before you think I’m justifying @ddenegro’s comment, I’m not. Do I understand where it’s coming from? Absolutely. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called a guy a faggot for being soft, crying, or doing something that is not considered manly. But, I’ve never called a gay man one – though at the same time – never calling a gay man one doesn’t really matter.
Somewhere along the line the word became a substitute for a bitch or a ho.
I used to say:
“Stop acting like a bitch.”
“Stop acting like a ho.”
Sometime in High School, I graduated to “stop acting like a faggot.”
The problem with that word is that it isn’t like the N-Word, but many treat it as such.
In historical terms, the N-Word is the most offensive word in the English language and will always hold that title. But in recent years, many have seen the power of that word decrease.
There’s a segment of the African-American population that has taken the N-Word and claimed to strip it of its power. It has become a part of everyday speech for some people. While many middle-aged to older Blacks still hate the use of the word. It is common knowledge that the word has been on a see-saw ever since Hip-Hop came into existence.
The word “faggot?” – not so much.
I’ve never heard any LGBT individual say that they use faggot in an endearing way; I’ve never heard anyone say they’ve stripped the word of its power.
In the end, we can’t determine what is what, only that community can.
In final, this isn’t about calling out @ddenegro. I know he’s not a homophobe. This is more about what that brief discussion on Twitter has taught me, in the same way the comments in my Le Boy article did last year.
It showed me how wrong my friends and I are when we use certain words that are offensive to a particular community; even if we think we don’t mean them in an offensive manner.
While I know, in my heart of hearts, that I’m not homophobic and that I’m just using (now used) the word in a different way as @ddenegro said, I can’t blame one Gay, Lesbian or Transgender person for saying I am because I’ve consistently used a word that can only label me as one.
If any LGBT person saw me walking down the street and heard me saying that word, they only have one choice but to think that I’m a bigot.
That’s what it really all comes down to…
Read the Le Boy article: https://www.uptowncollective.com//2010/10/22/the-night-i-went-to-le-boy/
SaritaONERMay 10, 2011 at 10:22 am
The word “faggot” isn’t only offensive to the LGBT community, it’s offensive to all women as well. Insulting a “man” by giving him (what you consider) feminine traits is demeaning to me. Contrary to popular belief women don’t cry at everything or are sensitive. Ask any mother how strong she is.
The f-word and the n-word are both derogatory, carry a lot hatred behind it and should be stricken from the language. I’ve always believed that the more ignorant you are the more likely those words are to appear in your vocabulary.
Melique WilliamsMay 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm
First I want to say, I admire the spirit, recognition and fortitude of your approach to the LGBT community within our community Uptown. I realize it is new for many to see LGBT pride, commerce and numbers in a community known for its bravado, traditional gender roles and approach to sexuality.
The F-word has been a scar on the LGBT community for a long time. The Gay Rights movement is still very new and considered inconsequential to some and has not evolved to meet the level of discussion or progress that has been made in the Civil Rights movement. I have heard and understood the use of the N-word as a term of endearment for comrades in the neighborhood, or to refer to another individual. I can’t say I like it, but I get it. I don’t believe hate is behind the word in the modern generation.
But when it comes to the F-word, I think many have to be more sensitive to the LGBT community. There is an evident struggle happening before our eyes today for equality, and the use of the F-word is demeaning, it is hurtful,and its denotation has not changed, it is still a slur. It is meant to equate homosexuality with weakness or femininity. Someone in Harlem threw it at me as I walked by late one evening and he wasn’t referring to my politics, values, or beliefs. I think we have a way to go before the F-word will meet the unfortunate casual usage in our vernacular as the N-word. It is hurtful and it carries the hurt for not only the individual it was intended for, but the weight of the label of homophobe for the person using it. People are still dying because of the F-word, people are still being attacked in the streets all over our city and country with this word hurled at them. Our community, Latino, African Americans, etc, need to have a more open discussion about sexuality or else this attitude will never cease.
be heardMay 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm
can i just say that @DDeNegro is an ignorant ass for defending his behavior by clarifying that he is, in fact, and ignorant ass.
AyishaGiselMay 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm
There are many of us that walk a fine line with our use of language. In the context of the way the N-Word is used and even the way SaritaONER has spelled out how this language not only undermines LGBT’s but also women I can understand the offense being taken.
I do however understand and respect the fact that language evolves. The original meanings of “fag” have nothing to do with sexuality. Rather it would refer to a bundle of wood or a cigarette. There are many other terms which our urban culture have “reduced in power” which at one point had no “power” at all. So I ask this question: If we in fact take issue with how these words evolved into being very negative and hurtful words, why then do we own them and try to restrict their evolution into words which no longer define us in a derogatory manner? Why can’t Trump be a fag (no longer being used as a reference to sexuality), why can’t the closest friend you have be your N-word, or my closest female friend be my B-word? These words have less chance of disappearing from the english language than they do from evolving into different words with less negative power. Why do we want to own them in their negative form and want them to be etched in the proverbial stone of our language, instead of allowing the natuaral ebb and flow of the english lexicon. Are we exercising a form of self hate by doing so? Seems so.
Rose FoxMay 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm
When someone says “He’s my nigga!” it tends to be meant in an affectionate way. I have never, ever heard someone straight say “He’s my fag!” that way. And when white people say “He’s my nigga!” it frankly sounds ridiculous. (I say this as a white person.) Leave it to people within the QUILTBAG community to reclaim words like “fag” and “dyke” and “queer”. And see my other comment for how “faggot” went from meaning “bundle of sticks” to meaning “someone gay”.
AyishaGiselMay 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm
Also want to add a correction. I’ve heard plenty of gay men use the word fag in reference to their own behavior, style or actions. But you’d have to be a “fag-hag” to know that.
Overall, good piece though. I love Uptown Collective for this! 🙂
Rose FoxMay 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm
I appreciate your conclusions. I hope to see a future post from you on why calling anyone, male or female, a “bitch” or a “ho” is demeaning to women, sex workers, and survivors of prison rape, and why you were raised to think it perfectly reasonable to be derogatory to men when they displayed “feminine” traits.
Incidentally, you’re not alone in using “fag” as a replacement for insulting slang words about women. From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
faggot (2): “male homosexual,” 1914, Amer.Eng. slang (shortened form fag is from 1921), probably from earlier contemptuous term for “woman” (1590s), especially an old and unpleasant one, in reference to faggot (1) “bundle of sticks,” as something awkward that has to be carried (cf. baggage).
So if you wouldn’t call a woman “baggage”, don’t call a man “faggot”.
One thing I want to emphasize here is that anyone who equates “fag” or “faggot” with “bad person” or “person worthy of ridicule” is perpetuating homophobia. It doesn’t matter whether they know and love queer people. If I say A = B and A = C, it is perfectly logical to conclude that B = C. So if lots of people say “fag” means “gay”–as it has for a hundred years–and lots of other people say “fag” means “sissy” or “worthless” or “stupid”, the obvious conclusion is that gay people are sissies, worthless, and stupid. No matter what’s going through your head, what other people hear is what you say. Same goes for “no homo” and “I don’t mean that in a gay way”; if you have to disclaim that you’re not gay, you’re saying that being gay is something to be ashamed of. You are sending the message that you are comfortable with homophobia, even if you profess to not be anti-queer yourself.
Also keep in mind that when queer people do hear words like “fag” or “dyke” from someone straight, it’s often in the context of a physical threat: a gaybasher, or someone throwing a bottle from a car, or an abusive parent or spouse. Is that what you want us to think of when you’re talking to us? Because once you reveal yourself as someone who doesn’t mind saying “That guy’s such a fag” I can’t help but wonder whether you’re also someone who doesn’t mind hating on queer people in other ways.
Some queer men do affectionately or proudly or matter-of-factly call themselves fags, same way I call myself a dyke. (Incidentally, I’m a dyke but I’m not a lesbian. I prefer the term “queer” but there are some reclamation issues there too, so probably the best way to phrase it in your article is “@rosefox, who is bisexual”.) But there’s a big difference between applying that label to yourself and having others apply it to you. And applying it to someone who isn’t queer as a way of insulting them is something I hope to never see again.
Mary MactavishMay 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm
I’ve actually known lots of G people to use “faggot” as an endearment but *only within the community* and knowing one’s audience well, it’s a very different thing out and about. (Not so much with LBT people — LGBT is a poor catchall in this context.)
I think of it as at least as sexist as it is homophobic.
BrianMay 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm
Lots of faggots like myself use the word affectionately, actually.
JMSMay 11, 2011 at 6:40 am
Yes. It wasn’t used affectionately in this case, it was used insultingly. The meaning wasn’t “Trump’s an awesome fellow gay man.”