Oh, Behave!

8 More Queer Terms That Need to Go Right Now

In my last post, I took a stand against some terms that offend or bore me (or that I just don’t like): among them, “fag hag,” “twink,” and “breeder.” It was a list of vocabulary pet peeves. And each of us is entitled to his or her own list, so I asked you to share the queer phrases that make your eyes roll or  skin crawl.

There were plenty of great responses—here’s just a sampling of what you had to say, as well as what I have to say about what you had to say. (It is, after all, my column.)

> Troll: Queerty member QJ201 says, “If ‘twink’ is on the list, then ‘troll’ (lecherous older gay man) needs to go, too (of course, unless you apply it to yourself).”

As for me, I heartily agree. I’ll add that if you apply it to yourself, you might benefit from counseling.

> Mangina: We can thank QJ201 for this submission, too.  Let’s just move on quickly.

> Rice queen: Member UWSguy rightly points out that this term (and similar ones) needs to go—it’s a slur so dismissive and racist that it insults two people at once.

> Partner: “Meowzer” writes, “My pet peeve is having to refer to my partner as my partner—I can’t say ‘husband,’ ‘spouse,’ etc., because none seem appropriate. ‘Partner’ sounds like we’re in business together or running a law firm.”

This is a tough one: We just haven’t come up with a great alternative to “husband” and “wife” (though I don’t think we’ll need one much longer). But even after marriage equality becomes the law of the land, the available terms won’t suit everyone (each relationship is unique, after all).

Using myself as an example, I generally feel that calling someone I’m romantically involved with “my boyfriend” is inapt—it sounds too high school to me. I like “lover,” because it has a dramatic, artistic flair. Frida Kahlo had lovers, not “boyfriends” or “girlfriends.” The word isn’t for everyone, though, and even I find myself saying the word with self-conscious drama.

> Female pronouns for men: We heard from many commenters who dislike hearing men called “she” or “her” (unless the men being referred to are in full drag). I disagree with them on this point (as I explain in a previous post I wrote about pronouns)— but even though I think that playing with pronouns is a gay birthright, I understand the points being made about calling a man “she” potentially being self-hating or misogynistic (or both). So I’ll just say it’s a loaded issue and we should use variable pronouns with care.

> Gayborhood (as well as “gayby boom” and similar words that put “gay” in place of a rhyming word):  Member “Queer Supremacist” is right —this has gotten out of hand.

> Fag: This word and words like it inspire strong feelings. As it happens, I agree with member Nick Thiwerspoon, who writes, “How about us gays stop using the word ‘fag’? Queerty seems to do it a ton. How about for a gay pride resolution, you guys stop using the homophobes’ insult?”

My take: I don’t like the term “fag” and, having had it hurled violently at me throughout my youth, have no desire to “reclaim” it.  I do, however, understand why many gay men feel a right to use it—and believe that using it can take away its negative power. I think the jury is still out on this one, but we’re going to see wider acceptance as time goes on. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you have to use it.

> Queer: Many commenters felt this word should be categorized with “fag” — and I get the similarities. This word doesn’t bother me (in part because it wasn’t a slur of choice where I suffered through anti-gay slurs as a youngster). And I like it because it encompasses everyone—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and others—without requiring a cacophonous jumble of letters.

My advice is to call people what they want to be called (if you can). Member “Jeffree” had the right idea: “In my experience, social relations go more smoothly when I’m respectful of others’ identities and they respect mine.”

Do you have strong feelings about “fag,” “queer,” or female pronouns for men? Share your comments!

Charles Purdy is the author of the book Urban Etiquette: Modern Manners for the Modern Metropolis and a longtime manners/advice columnist. In his Queerty column, he addresses issues related to social behavior. Find him on Twitter: @charlesqueerty