There are few words that really make me cringe, as I’ve pretty much heard it all, but there’s one that still makes my skin crawl, and that’s the F word.
No, no, not the four-letter word we hear every day. I’m talking about the six-letter expression that has been used to denigrate gay people for decades (and the three-letter shortened version, also used to describe a cigarette across the pond).
Know which one I’m talking about?
Personally, I’ve had it hurled my way on the flag football field in middle school, when the bullies or jocks would pick up on my lack of athleticism and inability to really be aggressive in the game. It’s also been used countless times in films over the years, usually during scenes of brutal and even violent homophobia. And you’ve probably heard your gay friends say it in “jest,” referring to one of their other friends, an out celebrity, or even themselves.
You might ask yourself: Why on earth would a gay person perpetuate a word that has been used to degrade people like themselves? One more hopeful answer might be as a way to reclaim the word and reframe it in a different light. The word queer, for example, used to be a negative slang word for LGBTQ people, but our community reclaimed it as our own, spinning it from a dated insult into an affirmative umbrella term for the wide range of diversity in our community. (Queerty was actually one of the first to reclaim this word in our name, well before it was “cool” again!)
But there’s another explanation that’s a little bit more complex.
Even though we’ve been negatively affected by homophobia in our culture, many gay people still perpetuate homophobic microaggressions on a subconscious level. Rationally, we know we would never want to hurt another person or make them feel “less than” for being gay; however, simply by being in society, we absorb the language, messages, and sentiments of the wider culture. These beliefs become unconsciously ingrained, even in microscopic ways.
If you grow up in a culture of homophobia, there’s no escape but to take on some of those feelings ourselves, without even realize we’re doing it. This is called “internalized homophobia,” and it’s sadly impossible to escape on some level. Even if you grew up with mostly positive messages about being gay, most likely at some point in your life you knew it wasn’t totally acceptable to show that part of yourself and that it was something to be ashamed of or feared.
Usually internalized homophobia is very subtle. It may even go unnoticed until you examine it deeply. For example, your gaggle of gay friends might throw around the F word as a “joke,” but maybe there’s an unconscious need to denigrate someone that’s buried so deep they don’t even realize they’re parroting those sentiments they heard growing up.
Another example might be taking on the idea that acting femme is somehow inferior. I’ve heard friends of mine call someone a “total queen” because they had traditionally feminine qualities. It’s usually said in a flippant way, but where does that actually come from? Could it be from a deeply ingrained belief that being feminine (read: less masculine) is actually a bad thing? Maybe they don’t like that part of themselves either?
Have you ever found yourself disliking a characters in TV or film who is outwardly gay? Maybe you cringed seeing Kurt on Glee or Jack on Will & Grace. Now ask yourself: Did you have the same reaction when you watched Brokeback Mountain? Where does that feeling of dislike, or even hatred, for certainly types of gay men come from? Is it because they acting “too gay” and it stirs up feelings about your own sexuality? This is often internalized homophobia at work.
This same aversion to gayness by our own community can also be seen in dating apps. On Grindr, for instance, we often see phrases “no fats no femmes” or “masc only.” Simply the idea that being traditionally feminine is unacceptable has to come from somewhere. The person who says that may think that they just aren’t attracted to someone with those mannerisms (We’ve all heard the nauseating line “It’s just a preference!”), but if they dig a little deeper, they may actually find that the reason they aren’t attracted to that is because it triggers their own personal homophobia that they’ve absorbed growing up.
This type of pervasive homophobia in the LGBTQ community can also manifest through relationships. Someone who has internalized homophobia may find that they don’t like when their partner acts “too gay” and makes it obvious that they are a gay couple. Or, even worse, they might avoid long-term relationship all together because the thought of being part of a publicly gay couple is too threatening or unacceptable based on what they were taught growing up.
Believe it or not, domestic violence in gay relationships is actually extremely high, and some theories suggest it’s because gay men are unconsciously angry at the “gayness” they see in their partner (none of this is in their awareness, of course), and are lashing out against that.
While some of these examples are extreme, the important thing to note is that internalized homophobia is a real thing, and it can be useful to see when and where it rears its ugly head in your life. You can’t help the messages you absorbed growing up, so it doesn’t make you a bad person to have it. We just want to do our best to be aware when it’s manifesting and not act in accordance with it. Although it can seem “funny” to reclaim harmful homophobic words, and you may think it’s okay if you say them since you’re gay, ask yourself if it’s really necessary, and why it’s important to say them at all.
Keep an eye out for other ways your own internalized homophobia might surface, and remember that it comes from messages of the past that are outdated and incorrect. The first step in changing is increasing your awareness, so even by reading this article, you’re already ahead of the game!
Jake Myers is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder of Gay Therapy Space, the first online therapy platform for and by the LGBTQ community. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy.
or you could grow a set and take whatever power you have given to the word fag and make it a power word. I used to let it diminish me, now I take great strength immersed in the revelry of my FAGDOM.
they murdered thousands upon thousands in the 80´s durnig the AIDS epidemic ¿¿¿ Why do you think that was ¿¿¿ Creative, empathetic people with a brain and resources are dangerous !!! What has happened before will happen again if the gays don´t get their act together will be sacrificed once more !!!
Wake Up Gays You are being used !!!
fake is.rael & love is not pretending.
I agree with general spirit of this article, giving yourself credit for pioneering the reclaiming of the use of the Queer when the website started in 2005 is complete fiction. That was done in the late 80s early 90s.
PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS
“and that it was something to be ashamed of or feared”
What a bunch of obnoxious clap trap! Nothing the haters can spew has or will EVER cause me to be “ashamed” of the person I was born. Its this kind of mumbo jumbo that reinforces homophibic attacks on our community. If you “fear or ashamed of being Gay you should seek ways to change”
What I really hate is a faag that spews idiotic nonsense that we hate being faags….
I don’t agree with the not being into fem guys = internalized homophobia. That would akin to saying me not being into women makes me a mysogonist.
Queer, F*g, F*ggot. Whatever. Hey Larry Kramer wrote a book titled F*ggots back in the 80’s or how about Act up and Queer Nation. Look at black people and reclaiming Ni*ger. Doesn’t mean they hate being black or have internalized racism.
People just need to get over it. These insults can only hurt because deep down you hate that part of yourself.
I agree about the fem guys statement you made. The writer is off on that one. That brings up femaphobia which I don’t believe in, that’s just silly. We all have preferences for who we date. He may be fem himself.
I have never heard that black people have so called reclaimed the word nig+ger, no Nig+ger Nation or flying banners etc like gays with Queer Nation etc.
The article doesn’t say that not being into fem guys is internalized homophobia. It says that seeing them as inferior for the femininity is internalized homophobia. Those are two different things. And to use your example, not being sexually attracted to women isn’t misogyny thinking women are inferior would be.
He does talk about how the negative view of feminine behavior plays out in dating apps but It’s clearly in the context of the paragraph above it.
Yes he does. Go back and read his thing about Grindr.
“The person who says that may think that they just aren’t attracted to someone with those mannerisms (We’ve all heard the nauseating line “It’s just a preference!”), but if they dig a little deeper, they may actually find that the reason they aren’t attracted to that is because it triggers their own personal homophobia that they’ve absorbed growing up.”
Josh447, you come at my neck over a lot of sh*t, and there’s a handful of things we don’t see eye to eye about. But I still consider you an overall intelligent person. Claiming effemiphobia doesn’t exist is just way off. I see and hear so much of “he would be cute if he didn’t act like a girl”, “good to see a man who doesn’t act like a girl come out”, “I only hang out with non-girly dudes”, “being gay doesn’t mean you have to act like a [email protected]” and so on. And some toxic masculine instincts do seem driven by effemiphobia and self-resentment. Someone’s preferences may or may not be connected to effemiphobia and self-resentment. Sometimes they are. Often times they’re not. And internalized homophobia is far more complicated than effemiphobia. Those are the things that the writer is severely mistaken about. But effemiphobia is alive and well.
I had a longer response but Queerty seems to think it was an issue. Anyway the short version is that I did read it. To get to your conclusion you have take the part you are quoting and ignore the paragraph before, Ignore the rest of the paragraph that you pulled the quote from and remove both occurrences of the word “may” from the quote you used. The context is important the fact that he didn’t speak in absolutes is important.
I don’t think using the word [email protected] or [email protected] automatically equates to internalized homophobia. It’s a word that’s thrown around between me and my husband and between me and my friends, and it’s almost never in a derogatory or demeaning fashion. Furthermore, not wanting to be with a more effeminate guy does not automatically equate to internalized homophobia either, though I admit that those types of dudes are often tactless a-holes.
Internalized homophobia is pretty widespread, though it’s often a lot more nuanced than “fag” or “no femmes”. Effemiphobia is a big thing. Guys can become so resentful of homosexuality, homo preferences, homo love and “gay” all being feminizing. Some even view “gay” as a dehumanizing word. So, they become obsessed with breaking away from any form of stereotype and obsessed with constantly proving what “real men” they are. And then toxic masculinity creeps in.
Internalized homophobia and self-misandry can also go hand-and-hand in some cases. A guy might resent his “queerness” mostly because he resents men. Some may have been bullied and harassed by guys and ostracized by guys when they were younger. Some simply resent masculinity because they don’t live up to “conventional” masculine standards. A guy might still be dealing with the trauma of being abused by a male when younger or sexually assaulted by a male. All those things can trigger self-misandry, which ends up coming off more like internalized homophobia. Being obsessed with hooking up with and trying to legitimately date “straight”, heterosexual, overall hetero-leaning dudes can be connected to internalized homophobia. Someone may feel that non-closeted guys who are overtly into guys and have same-sex ambitions are just not worthy of their love. “Gays” are not going to boost their egos. So, someone may keep trying to attach themselves to some form of “straightness” and keep trying to attach themselves to guys who don’t truly want them. Yet, they still persist. That is often about homo inferiority complexes and insecurity, which can as well appear as internalized homophobia. Confusion and denial can also lead to greater internalized homophobia. When you don’t understand and accept your own fluidity or where you are within the the gender, sexual, romantic affections, emotional fulfillment, relationship contentment spectrum it can lead to a lot of frustration and a lot of manipulating yourself and others. That can also appear as internalized homophobia.
There’s a lot of people with a lot of issues, people are complicated. This issue goes way beyond “fag” and “no femmes”.
I think you make great points. With respect to the f word, I mostly see it used in context of being reclaimed. I have seen a small subset that use it with all the vitriol of a straight homophone and those people are so profoundly broken their word choice is the least of their issues.
The article totally oversimplifies the issue but it also isn’t meant to be an exhaustive or academic treatment. I think the author is just going over common manifestations.
One of the issues with so many Queerty articles is that they frequently bring up issues but don’t commit to any nuance, which sometimes adds on to misunderstanding. Or they’re hyper concerned with being PC and adhering to Twitter politics. This simplistic view of internalized homophobia and effemiphobia is a constant for this site.
We view this site differently. For me it’s a step above a tabloid and that is by design. It’s a site that carries Madonna’s tour woe as if they are news worthy and treats people’s posting on Reddit as if they were well sourced accounts of actual events. It’s trash media and a fun distraction but I don’t expect much past that. So, when they cover an issue like this I totally expect the bubblegum version.
I absolutely agree that it’s mostly trashy and tabloid-y by design. But they keep wanting to broach “serious” topics and post “opinion“ articles. Doing so means it has a greater responsibility. But generally, all of “queer media” is playing it too safe, too shallow and is scared to dive into uncomfortable, nuanced, confrontational areas.
Nice to be on the same page with you again donston. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a generational thing cuz me and you are around the same age (I’m 34) and me and my friends have used fag in our little group for years when referring to each other or ourselves. For me personally I started doing it years ago because the word fag DID bother me deeply and I figured the best way to take away its power over me and the shame it made me feel was to claim it as my own and just own it and on that I have to say mission accomplished cuz I have no issue referring to myself as one now. And between me and my friends since we are all gay, there’s just an understanding that it doesn’t come from a place of hate or degradation since we are all fags at the end of the day and we are all fine with it.
As for the effemiphobia part yeah I have feelings on that cuz I’ve always told people I’m a man who’s attracted to masculinity and other men. The fact that I prefer not to date someone who has majority feminine qualities doesn’t mean am phobic over it it just means I’m not attracted to femininity but I fully accept it as a personality type, some of my friends are quite far on the effeminate side and even I definitely have my more effeminate moments. But I’m tired of this narrative that if there’s a certain type of person you just aren’t romantically or emotionally or physically attracted to, that you must have some kind of internalized phobia or prejudice in you cuz that is often just not true.
My husband is semi effeminate. I’m not, but I have had some gender/sexual fluidity throughout the years. I sometimes refer to my guy as a sexy/pretty “fag”. There is no abuse or internalized homophobia. However, for many others, including people younger than me, they only see “fag” as a pure negative. The article isn’t entirely off though. Internalized homophobia and effemiphobia are fairly widespread. People still frequently use “fag” as derogatory and specifically as a way to dismiss effeminate males. And I’ve known a few abusive same-sex relationships where internalized homophobia, insecurity, confusion, past trauma, daddy issues seemed to lead to some f-ed behaviors from both parties. But as I, things are just far more complicated than what the writers here present. Continuing to harp on people’s Grinder profiles doesn’t target the real and nuanced issues out here.
I agree with about 90% of this article. I just disagree about Kurt form the show “Glee”. Kurt was just to creepy to me. At times he reminded me of the child snatcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.
Wow I think I dozed off reading that article, talk about boring.
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