Three young, gay DePaul University students talk about the word "[email protected]"

Strong trigger warning for anti-gay and anti trans slurs.

I have very strong feelings about slurs, but I recognize that if you are not a part of the community in question, you have no right to express an opinion on how a slur is used within the community itself, or what the word means to them. Randall Jenson wrote a piece on Huffpo entitled, Call Me a ‘Faggot’

The terms “faggot,” “dyke,” and “tranny” are just as important to identifying our queer communities as “gay,” “lesbian,” and “transgender.” It’s convenient to just dismiss these words as hate terms. We’ve been preconditioned to anticipate abusive blows and expect hateful shouts from homophobic people, but we also have a choice in the words that we use to understand ourselves. And mostly, we think, we don’t want to hear these words, even from someone we know. But, we are these people.

We are faggots. We are dykes. We are trannies. One of the most important things we can do is stop thinking of these as disgraceful and start thinking about how these words can encompass queer identities that orientation labels like “gay,” “lesbian,” and “transgender” can’t cover.

Yes, we must extend empathy and compassion to those still hurt by these words, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also embrace these terms as a process of healing for others. Don’t shake your head and tell me I’m just rehearsing “the N-word argument,” where reclaiming a hurtful word leads to empowerment and resistance. I embrace words like “faggot,” “dyke,” or “tranny” because they are not just slurs; they are descriptors. They illustrate ways of moving through the world. They portray real people, beautiful people.

LGBT people are really good at shaping vocabularies and visual representations of our communities. For instance, certain trans folks embrace their self-representation as a “tranny” while cringing at the label “cross-dresser.” A lot of lesbians think the term “lesbian” is embarrassing; they just want to be dykes. A “gay man” is a pretty broad term, reflecting everything from leather daddies to bears to twinks. Whatever words we use to describe ourselves, our individual self-representation should be respected as integral to our identity.[source]

At the end of the piece he included a video which I am also going to share with you.

50Faggots: A Gay in the Life “The Power of Faggots” from 50Faggots on Vimeo.

Partial Transcript

starting at :58

Zach: I’m originally from Nashville and so when I came to DePaul, a few years ago, it kind of just explode and it was like oh I can act like this, I can act like that and there were a lot of repercussions unfortunately. I feel like I’m the one amongst my friends who has the most hate incidents and has the most harassment a lot of the time. A lot of that I guess is how I personify myself with like my activism work.

starting at 2:02

John: I think that one thing that I see from DePaul and just in the larger LGBTQ community, is that there is a hesitancy to use the word faggot because it’s seen as the language of the oppressor. It’s seen as demonizing and stigmatized. When you go out to boystown, specifically and that’s in Chicago, what you see is that the word is used a lot and there’s a lot boy on boy or boy on everyone hate going and so I think until that hatred is gone and until we can learn to love one another and learn not to be so catty, which believe me, we all need to work on – until we get to that point then I think we need to be using that word.  Until we can just eradicate it entirely.

Kylon: I appreciate your candor with that Johnathon but I do have to say that I own my faggotry. I’m a big ol’ faggot. I will take that word coming at me from one of my sisters, I will take it coming at me from a straight boy. Since I own my faggotry, if my sisters call me that I can kiki with my sisters and yuck it up, but if a straight boy calls me that, I am coming for that ass. There is nothing sexier or more enticing than a man, a gay man who knows that he loves other gay men.  And owning that part of our femininity, that makes us gay men, so for me I own my faggothood, my faggotry, my faggotness and if somebody wants to use that word in a derogatory way, for me, or towards me that’s fine but they also need to realize that, that type of actions has repercussions and it has happened to me in the past.  The thing that happens when I get verbally bashed, I bask back.

Zach: The only time that I feel that I switch, um what is that called?

Johnathon: Oh I thought you meant swishing from your hips.

Kylon: cause that happens all of the time

Zach: No but it’s like when I go to the gym and I’m like a really into going and working out and being healthy and active. When I go there, like last night, I’m in the weight room and I’m always very scared that someone’s going to talk to me when I walk around. I have to make sure that my music is not too loud, so they don’t hear like the Brittany Spears or the Kylie Monogue. I see when people ask me to spot them, I see my body in the mirror changing completely. It went from me lifting weights from up here (he’s doing high curls) to down there (lower curls) and also my voice is this new bass and I’m like oh yeah, you gotta make sure that your muscles are flexing the right way and you’re not swishing when you walk away. So sometimes I see myself switching it up, but even then if I run into one of my sisters in the gym, you see me like rip off my earphones and I’m like, “girl what’s going on” (spoken in a high tone of voice) All the boys like errr, and then you see like the whole climate of the weight room just change. I have to start fearing for myself.  It’s a lot like with 50 faggots, how gay do you want to be today, I realized that I have been asking myself that my entire life and a lot of that had to do with safety. Like how do I want to dress today or how I’m going to act today in comparison to how safe – do I want to be safe cause I lived in an environment where I knew people that got bashed, and I heard stories of people being killed. Here I am really cognizant of ooh, should I wear that deep V when I walk down Sheridan and (unintelligible) because someone may really want to hurt me. So, my gayness is about my safety.

Why did you choose women and gender studies?

Zach: Because it gave language to my anger to put it pretty bluntly. I remember I was a first year student at this woman in Chicago theater class and I remember my teacher professor was like “race, gender, sex and sexuality, how are these different?” And I remember I was like gender is what do you and sex is who you do blah blah blah, and it really struck this chord with me. Yeah, I may identify as being a male and this whole idea of what being a man was never really resonated with me. Hearing this – gender is fluid and we can perform. If I want to identify as a woman, well I can, whether there’s validity to that is different and I think that’s where faggotry comes from or being a faggot is that I’m really effeminate. So gender let me know that it’s okay that you are effeminate and a man. You can be normal, which I hate that word. You are healthy person in society, even though you do prance about, will wear heels in the appropriate settings.

John: One thing I would like to see out of specifically gay male communities because that’s what I’m a part of, is that I would like to see an ownership over our privileges as well as our oppressions because I want to see everyone going, “oh I’m gay and I’m oppressed in my homosexuality so I’m like you.” We have similarities and we have differences among all of us, but I personally am getting fed with people like “oh I’m gay, I know all about oppression,” because I may have the same identities as someone sitting right next to me but our experiences in that are very different. And it is the experiences that really are going to shape and define how that oppression looks, or how that privilege looks.

Zach: It’s interesting because I also identify myself with the word faggot. You know when we were talking about the word faggot – with faggot like not being a victim. I someone who says, I’m a faggot, is someone who is like, “I own every piece of myself that can make me a target or not and I am not a victim and I am proud and I’m out. You can’t like fuck with me, you know what I mean. It is sort of like – it challenges.

John: And I understand your definition of faggot, only for me because I am, I hate to sound like Destiny’s Child but I’m a survivor and I mean that in the sense that I am strong.

Zach: I say the word faggot a lot and sometimes in inappropriate settings and moments. As Angela Davis said, “Living the contradictions” But when I use this word, I always want people to really step back and assess why is this giving them this nasty feeling. Why are you reacting so against me using that? I think that’s why it’s such a powerful word. It makes people aware of something they weren’t probably aware of and makes them kind of battle with that. Why am I reacting so bad[ly] to this word faggot.

Group: Shout out to 50 faggots, we love you.

Editors Note: There will be absolutely zero tolerance for homophobia,or transphobia on this thread, and this means dear fellow straight cis people, please refrain from showing the world your ass.  This really is a post for the GLBT community to engage, and I would prefer if they were allowed to do so in peace and in safety.

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