Social Question

poofandmook's avatar

Why does the use of the word "fag" by gay people seem to not bother other gay people?

Asked by poofandmook (17272points) May 3rd, 2010

My roommates are a “married” gay couple. One of them uses the word “fag” more than I’m comfortable with. The first time he said it, it startled me, and every time he says it, I get a little bit rattled on the inside. I’ve lived there 2½ years so I’m as used to it as I’m going to get.

But I’ve seen him do it in the middle of a party or a crowded room, and from my observations, only the straight people were surprised or showed any kind of “blip” in their facial expressions or whatever you want to call it.

I don’t understand why that word doesn’t seem to offend gay people if a gay person uses it; why I’ve only seen the straight people react to it.

I don’t mean to generalize; I am just commenting on what I’ve experienced in my own house for nearly 3 years

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46 Answers

rangerr's avatar

Same thing goes for the N word used by black people.
Apparently it’s cool if you’re that stereotype.

ragingloli's avatar

It is probably the same reason why black people are not offended when another black person uses the word “nigger”.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I still cringe if I hear it. I don’t use it regardless and I’m queer. Neither is the word ‘nigger’ okay by all black people even if black people are using it.

Silhouette's avatar

They took possession of the word. It used to be used as a slur and still is in some cases. Now, it’s theirs and they have sucked the power to hurt from the word.

poofandmook's avatar

I know that the same applies for the “N” word, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to tap the racial powder keg… especially since my personal experiences have been more with the gay aspect and not the color aspect.

poofandmook's avatar

@Silhouette: Not entirely. I was walking with them and a bunch of idiot teenagers walked by and called them fags and they both shouted back at them and were spitting mad. Including the one who uses the word himself.

loser's avatar

Some gay folks consider the word an endearment. There’s almost an unofficial movement to embrace and take back words like fag, dyke, and queer.

Jude's avatar

I haven’t heard anyone say that word since, oh, the 1980’s. Seriously.

poofandmook's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I’ve noticed you refer to yourself as queer quite a bit; is that word not considered offensive anymore? Or is it a situation like the one I’m asking about?

robmandu's avatar

You sure they’re not asking their buddy for a smoke?

Silhouette's avatar

@poofandmook It’s very hard to get the stench of hatred off of anything completely but they did pretty good considering. I would imagine they were mad at the hatred and not the word it’s self. It all about context.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Maybe it’s a way of taking something that was meant to offend and making it acceptable. Almost like a two fingers up to the people who intended for it to be offensive. Like @Silhouette said, it sucks all the badness out of it and shows anyone that does use it offensively that they’re wasting their time because these are only words. Just a guess.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@poofandmook Yes and no, I guess. I have come of age in NYC at NYU where this was a reclaimed identity and a positive word for us to use. Some of the older generation don’t like it and find it offensive and I understand why. I don’t ever throw it around as an insult (maybe jokingly when I say: Queers, we recruit!). If someone was to say to me ‘my sexuality is that of a fag. I identify as a faggot’, I’d accept that but it’d be difficult for me to say it – if the person wanted me to say it, I’d try. I don’t think your situation is like that though, I think they’re just throwing it around randomly.

poofandmook's avatar

@robmandu: Unless he was calling himself a smoke, lots and lots of times, I doubt it ;)

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Interesting that “fag” should make straight people feel uncomfortable.
I just don’t have any time to spend worrying about something so minor.

Facade's avatar

Some people feel that if they use a word others would use to hurt them in a “positive” way, then it’s ok. It’s not ok. Black people and confused people of other races who call each other “niggas” sound stupid.

poofandmook's avatar

@Captain_Fantasy: Actually if you want the truth, after I lived in the house for a while, I tried to say it while talking to both of them. Neither of them batted an eye, but I felt dirty. I tried not to care, but I guess I was taught for too long that it’s a really bad word (I feel like I’m 3 lol)

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I guess it’s because, as others have commented, it doesn’t hurt so much if it’s done by another member of your “group”. You honky biotch, you.

poofandmook's avatar

did I say I was white anywhere that I’m forgetting? Or was it a guess? lol

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@rangerr @ragingloli @Simone_De_Beauvoir

Believe it or not, black people don’t use the word “nigger” when speaking with each other. In the context you describe, the word is actually “niggah”, and it is designed to be synonymous with “my fellow suffering brother”.

So when they say, “Wassup mah Niggah”, it means, “What’s up my brother”.

It is a reformatting of the originally insulting term of “nigger”. A reclaiming so to speak, and one that does not deny their suffering heritage under white mastery. And that’s the specific reason that white people cannot effectively use the word, as we do not share the cultural heritage. The only white people that can effectively use the word are the white rappers who have given up their own cultural heritage in favor of the black cultural heritage. They share a common cultural struggle of trying to make something out of themselves.

This was the explanation given to me during my decades of dating and marrying black women, and getting to know their families and heritage.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies ok, you really don’t need to address me as if I have no black friends or an understanding of how it’s used..i happen to have heard nigger and niggah used and for various of reasons, it’s not always positive to mean ‘brother’...but thanks

rangerr's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Maybe the people YOU know.. but my friends definitely use the word “nigger” when speaking to each other and everyone else.. Sure, nigga = brother in some cases, but around here, they call everyone “nigger”... but cool. Glad you know me and my relationship with people.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

My apology. I’ve never heard a black person use the word “nigger” to address another black person. Thanks for clarifying and setting me straight on this.

netgrrl's avatar

I’ve heard many black friends say nigger, niggah and any other variation. As in, “Nigger, please!”

I asked once years ago – they just said, well, it’s OUR word.

Gay friends call themselves all sorts of things – queer, fag, etc. I just laugh & shake my head.

Don’t even get me started on black friends who happen to be gay…

ValerieTeacup's avatar

I guess ‘cause so many have used it that it’s just probably whatever to them now. Sorta… I think?

bobloblaw's avatar

Who uses the word is just as relevant as the multiple meanings of the word. The closest analogy I can think of is that there is a difference between a lawyer saying “assault” and a layman saying “assault.”

gemiwing's avatar

I think this is a good question. I have some friends who identify as ‘fag’ and they embrace it. They, and many, feel that it’s a distinction within the community itself. The difference between a daddy, gay man, mary and fag may not look all that different from outside the community, yet within they are important distinctions. I sometimes wish we could make up our own words instead of repurposing slurs, yet I’m not sure what the slurs would be replaced with. Gay man archetype B? The line further blurs when even within the community, fag can indeed be a slur if the person it’s referring to objects (or doesn’t represent) to the term.

I don’t have the same qualms about using dyke or queer. It’s odd, yet I feel that those words have had more time to be positive. Even if that positivity is only in the community. I chose dyke for many years because I wasn’t a lesbian, as it was marked within the group.

I see these words as having two meanings- yet I am frustrated by the lack of positive only words to have at our disposal. Yet, I wonder if there ever could be positive-only words because it is still describing a marginalized group of people- so no matter what word is chosen, someone somewhere will use it as a slur.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Words are only offensive if we allow them to be. As humans we have the choice of what we find offensive and what we dont.

Sophief's avatar

When I lived in my hometown, my 2 bestfriends were a gay couple. They were the best friends I could ever have hoped for. One of them though always said about other gay people. We would be in a straight bar or something and he would be like “spot the fag”. The first time he did it I was shocked.

Nullo's avatar

I’m always tempted to reserve “fag” for cigarettes and torches.

DominicX's avatar

As a gay person, I don’t like the word “fag/faggot” and I don’t “embrace” it or identify with it and I would hope people would respect that and not feel like they can call me that willy-nilly. My friend Alicia can joke about it and use it, but she’s the only person that I feel comfortable hearing it from.

However, if gay people are comfortable with it, then fine by me. It’s individual. Some gay people are trying to not let words offend them and have become comfortable with the word. I can’t say that’s a bad thing unless they think they can call me a “fag”. I can’t really help the fact that the word makes me cringe; I’m not even sure why it does. It’s not like I’ve been bullied and called it in the past, I really haven’t. I just don’t like it, mostly because it is so often used with negative intent.

If straight people are offended by it, it shows that they wouldn’t use it to insult a gay person and that’s a good thing.

alive's avatar

why don’t you ask him (your roommate) that question.

everyone has their own motivations for the things that they do. he will know the answer better than anybody. (plus if you have lived with him and his hubby for 3 years, i can’t imagine that there too many things that are still ‘off limits)

poofandmook's avatar

@alive: Because there are a lot more opinions here than just one person, who, frankly, gets on my nerves after about 1 minute of conversation.

casheroo's avatar

I don’t know why he does it, I know of gay people who use it jokingly. I use the word queer but only with my close gay friends..they know I’m not saying it in a bad way, but it has been used as a derogatory remark by others so I’m cautious when I use words that may offend people.

Berserker's avatar

I think a lot of what is said in a word or sentence has its meaning conveyed through tone of voice and the intent behind the spoken words, rather than whatever fangled meanings we stick to them.
But really, I denno.

clioi's avatar

It’s just a common thing to use “fag”, “gay”, “queer”, and the like as synonyms for “stupid” or to express dislike or displeasure, even if it’s not used to defame or insult gay people. But I have to imagine that in general gay people use them in a more joking manner. I really only know one gay person who’s said them in the first sense. I occasionally hear my straight friends use them in passing and yeah, it does bother me sometimes. But I just remember that these are the same people that I live and work with and I know that they’re not doing it purposely to upset me or to be insulting.

WolfFang's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies and @rangerr for some actual input from an african american, People that say “nigga“or “niggah” or “nigger”, however you want to put it, its just plain ignorance. That definition you described RealEyes, is does not justify the use of it. I don’t tolerate it from anyone, not even my own race

alive's avatar

queer has a historical history. it was “taken back” in the 80’s when the queer movement emerged (queer movement is post gay lib in the 70’s)

the word “fag” can mean many things to many people. sometimes gays will use it for shock value. sometimes gays will call themselves that to tke the power away from other people that would call them that.

gay people know they are not accepted in the mainstream culture, and being aware of that makes an impact on your own self identity. when a gay boy is teased all his life, he is painfully aware that he is more feminine acting than what is considered the norm for males. he probably says “fag” because he is painfully aware that he is different, and it is a way to be playful with that fact.

WolfFang's avatar

I know that around where I am from, the culture I am around, people generally use “fag” to describe someone who is effeminate, whether you happen to be homosexual or not, and it is used as a derrogatory term

alive's avatar

@WolfFang yes. i know it is derogatory when a person uses it to degrade a man (because oh, god what could possibly be worse than being a fucking fag!)

but the question is why is the word used within the gay community. when used amongst queers and allies, it holds a different meaning than around [ignorant] homophobics

MacBean's avatar

I think of “fag” as the stereotypical limp-wristed swishy-hipped gay guy that the ignorant and uneducated think every gay man must be. When I (or one of my friends) step into that stereotype, I use the term as an endearment. And I’m actually more likely to turn it into a word like “fagulous” or “fagtastic.” That’s just in a friendly atmosphere with people I know and am comfortable with, though. I wouldn’t call a random stranger or casual acquaintance a fag. That’s just rude.

As for “queer,” I think we’ve mostly reclaimed that one. It’s become an umbrella term for anyone who identifies as anything other than straight. It’s easier to say “the queer community” than “the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, pansexual, polyamorous, two-spirit, omnisexual, asexual, allies, transvestite, [insert the probably dozens that I’m forgetting] community.”

alive's avatar

@MacBean[insert the probably dozens that I’m forgetting]” hehe! well said

Nullo's avatar

@MacBean I use “queer” to mean “odd,” (ya know, like it used to?) The looks that I get are priceless.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Nullo and I’ll bet you have a gay time doing that, too.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Nullo And you’re proud of this why?

Nullo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Not sure what you’d call it, but it’s the same sentiment expressed here. It is one of my few thoroughly unchecked vices, along with a penchant for some types of schadenfreude.

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