Having a Gay Friend Does Not Allow You to Use the Word “Faggot”

Just over four weeks ago, a sea of celebrants cheered in front of the Supreme Court as it announced its landmark decision to overturn DOMA. Rainbow flags billowed in the wind, long-time partners were embraced, and ecstatic onlookers broke out in patriotic song.

 And while the crowd was overwhelming gay, it was hard to miss the faithful allies of our community who were standing by our side, celebrating with us. They, too, had risen early that morning, ready to praise the Court for its progressive decision, or jeer at its close-mindedness.

In the weeks leading up to the Court’s decision, the support among straight people was unmistakable and palpable. Indeed, it became quite en vogue for straight people to voice support for their gay friends, particularly online. Support for marriage equality was visceral in digital spaces; who doesn’t remember their Facebook newsfeed being flooded by tiny red equality icons?

But since the decision, support for gay people has crescendoed into a problematic cultural phenomenon in which gay people are used as a sort of social currency; gay people are used as visual exhibitions of straight people’s ‘cool’ and popular progressive ideology. Supporting gay equality is tres en trende among the millennial generation, and exhibiting this support is a way to purchase street cred and “cool capital” among twenty-somethings.

 Before and after the decision, straight people were and have been racing to invite their gay friends (the more flamboyant and obvious the better) to a wide variety of social events. And we dutifully oblige, sashaying next to our straight counterparts to dinner parties, housewarming parties, and birthday celebrations.

 In short, the gay man has become the must-have accessory of summer 2013. There is no better way for a straight twenty-something to aggressively demonstrate his or her approval of and approval by the gay community, which is trendy and fashionable. The gay man has become the ultimate plus-one.

 Though that is not the real problem here. While gay men are used as a means of social currency, the friendships forged are often honest and sincere – my friends genuinely support marriage equality and gay rights. Exhibiting this support publicly to gain points among our peers is just an added bonus of a sincere friendship.

 The real problem is much deeper. Amidst these friendships, I, for one, have noticed a disturbing pattern: straight friends feel free to casually throw around the word “faggot.”

 Straight people have seemingly adopted this word into their everyday parlance, throwing it around nonchalantly in an ostensible gesture of fellowship and affection.

 Their intent is completely harmless and even well-intentioned; many are just trying to fit in with the gay community by appropriating its language. But straight people must realize that using the word in a playful or innocuous way does not detract from its inherently derogatory and belittling meaning. Changing the tone or context in which the word is said does not negate its ugly connotation, despite our friends’ harmless intent.

Indeed, the word can serve as a trigger, forcing gay people to harken back to painful adolescent memories of bullying and abuse.

 This problem seems to be endemic among gay millenials and their straight friends– it is often discussed at the perennial Sunday Brunch, that sacrosanct tradition held holy by gay people. Some of my gay friends report that when confronted about it, their straight friends act hurt, as if they are the ones who have been wrongfully offended in this scenario. Or, worse yet, some straight friends ignore our grievances and continue to use the word anyway.

 While we are grateful and appreciative of your support – and we do not doubt its authenticity – many of us feel obligated to inform you that using this word to refer to your gay friends is demeaning and belittling, despite your harmless intent.

Now let the mimosas flow and let The Real Housewives play. 

3 thoughts on “Having a Gay Friend Does Not Allow You to Use the Word “Faggot”

  1. Patrick says:

    I agree completely, and though I’m pretty sure you weren’t trying to say this, we also shouldn’t forget that even gay people without a problem with the word shouldn’t throw it around. Most people are driven crazy by the fact that some black people throw the term “nigger” around with each other several times per sentence while anyone of any other race isn’t allowed to even mention the word. I think the word should either be a universal no-no or allowed by everyone, and in this case I certainly think the former is the better option.

  2. boywithaxe says:

    I could not agree less. Humans are built to crave doing what is forbidden to them. The word ‘faggot’ used to mean something completely different two centuries ago and the new meaning might stick or it might not, but words are nothing without the meaning behind it. If we, as the gay community keep acknowledging it as a bad word, a word never to be spoken, we are giving it the power to hurt. I use the term to describe myself and my gay friends and encourage them to do the same. I realise this is my opinion and you have the right to your own, but if we take the word as our own and use it, with time it will lose the negative connotation, or at least the power to hurt.

  3. xxjprimxx says:

    I honestly don’t think it’s that big of a deal. At least not as big a deal as throwing around gay stereotypes. I think the biggest harm to the gay community comes from people thinking we all love Sunday Brunch, mimosa’s and Real Housewives or any other generalization. That’s where the real damage comes from. Our community, like any community, is made up of people from many different backgrounds, people with many different interests and many different preferences. Lumping us all together into to one cookie cutter stereotype just fosters an environment where people define us based on our sexual preference.

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