Pride. Image: Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

Owning The “F” Word

It’s just a word…

Faggot! There… I said it! But is it really that shocking anymore? For me, it’s just another term of endearment. “Hey fag,” I say to my friends, grinning because we both know that it doesn’t really hurt anymore.

Once upon a time, the word did affect me. At school, in the playground, the bullies would mutter it under their breath, giggling. And while it didn’t bring the tears, it at least had enough strength to make me think. Like a silent cut, it brought a steaming pile of shame and resentment. I never doubted my sexuality growing up, but I did fear where I’d belong because of it.

And that was harsh.

But as I discovered myself through the people who were like me, I realised that the word is only negative if I accept it as a negative word. From then on, the word was just another way to call me gay.

When someone calls me a faggot again, I will simply nod my head and say “well, you’re very observant!”

A Brief History…

Nearly every homosexual in this world knows that faggot originally used to mean a pile of sticks. It was the ultimate comeback whenever we got called one. “I’m not a pile of sticks,” we’d say. “Do I look like a bundle of twigs for a fire?”

Gosh! How innocent we were…

But, as well as referring to a bundle of sticks, it was also used as a pejorative term towards old women since the 16th century. And it is believed that the eventual derogatory slur came from this.

And then “faggot” was abbreviated to “fag” around the late 1800s to reference cigarettes in Britain. In fact, the term “fag hag” originally meant a woman who smoked a lot. A bit different from the women hogging fabulous gay men.

Another rumour of the origins of faggot as a gay slur can be read in James Finn’s piece titled A History of Fags and Faggots, where he writes that English boarding schools in the 20th century would call women’s chores “fagging”. This derived from the broomstick, which was once also called a fag.

“Eventually, the word for the tool was applied to the person using the tool,” James writes, “by way of a fairly common linguistic phenomenon.”

From the mid-20th century to the early 21st century, fag and faggot were both derogatory. They harnessed the same energy as the N-word. But, just like black people have done with the N-word since the 1990s, queers are slowly reclaiming faggot as a term of endearment.

But don’t use it negatively…

“That’s so gay.” Remember that public conversation we had a decade ago? Here, let me remind you:

Yeah. This is why it’s not a good idea to use “fag” or “faggot” in a negative way.

Another reason why is because it is so linguistically boring! If you really want to insult someone, throw something punchier. Call them a two-faced twatwaffle or a mindless wanker! Perhaps a highfalutin hack who needs a whack upside the head!

Come on, get creative!

But please don’t waste your time calling them a fag. Maybe they are. And wouldn’t that make you look stupid…

Power To The Proper People

A word of advice: Don’t let faggot become a negative word. Claim it as your own and introduce it to your queer collectives. Use it as a term of endearment with your own friends, even if they are straight!

Because when you own it, nobody can hurt you with it anymore. In fact, the next time someone calls you a faggot, say “thanks for noticing!” And gleefully watch them get all confused by your response.

Ah, such bliss!

Feature image: Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

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