FAG again, also DYKE & NIGGER

Indigo Som indigo at WELL.COM
Fri Mar 9 21:55:23 UTC 2001

I haven't kept track of exactly who said what about FAG, but here's my 2
cents on the general subject, again from my 30something SF/Berkeley dyke

There are a few different factors that contribute to someone's use of the
word FAG:

1. Their age: all other factors being the same, older gay men are much more
likely to be offended by FAG than younger gay men. Getting younger this
trend stops sharply at high school age (except for the most extremely cool
& supported young queers) because as far as I can tell in the K-12 context
"fag" is as offensive & homophobic as it ever was.

2. Their political outlook: the more radical the fag, the more likely he is
to call himself that. Otherwise, "gay" or even "homosexual". (With dykes,
"lesbian" parallels "gay" & is pretty much accepted across the board , &
"gay woman" which is used by really conservative types & /or older girls.)

3. Their familiarity with queer politics & queer culture: this applies
mostly to straight people. Many of my straight friends say fag as
comfortably as I do (that is to say, very), but I also know a lot of
straight people who don't have much exposure to queers, & for them "fag" is
really a stretch. But the way "fag" feels in conversation w/ those people
is not really about offensiveness, but more about hipness -- it feels like
hip slang spoken with squares. More hip & with-it to be able to roll "fag"
off the tongue easily. Although: straight people aren't really "allowed" to
say "fag" right off the bat -- a straight person has to converse for a
while w/ a queer person, or be pretty sure about where all involved are
coming from before using it. But this is also about formality/casualness
(see below).

4. Geography: not that I would really know from firsthand experience, but
I'm guessing there's a lot less of FAG outside my little bicoastal urban

>If there were really amelioration of FAG, one would begin to find examples of
>gay people saying things like, "I don't like it that some of us are seriously
>beginning to refer to ourselves as FAGS. I hate that word. I am not a FAG, I
>am GAY." Others would be saying, "Let's start calling ourselves Fags. Lets
>reclaim the word!"

There *have* been those discussions. Also w/ "dyke". Also w/ "queer".

>there's "gay male fiction" and "gay political groups" and "queer
>studies" programs and all that, but no "fag fiction" etc.

Ah, but there are "Fag Fridays" at clubs. I think this is just as much
about formal vs. casual as it is about amelioration. "Gay" is more formal
than "fag". "Queer" has acquired an academic formality. Outside the
academy, "queer" seems to vary a lot.

My girlfriend thinks that "fag" started out much more offensive than "dyke"
& that "fag" has ameliorated to where it is similar to "dyke", which has
also ameliorated a little bit. In other words "fag" has changed a lot more
than "dyke". I disagree; I think "dyke" started out almost as bad as "fag"
& both have come a long way. Anyway, in daily conversation I prefer "dyke"
to "lesbian" at least 90% of the time.

"Nigger" is not used lightly -- or at all, to my knowledge -- by anybody I
know. (Although, I can think of one or two black acquaintances who I could
imagine using it on occasion, but only the friendliest  or "safest"
contexts, probably all-black contexts.) I would absolutely never use it.

OK, enough for today!

Indigo Som
indigo at well.com

Poets don't have hobbies; they have obsessions --Leonard Nathan

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