Queerty Query

Should We Be Policing The Use Of Language Within The LGBT Community?

25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards

The most hotly-debated stories in the LGBT communities right now involve language. Specifically, it involves who has the right to say what.

Just a few weeks back, gay icon Harvey Fierstein caused a bit of controversy when he referred to fellow gay man Johnny Weir as a “faggot,” and of course who can escape from the RuPaul/Carmen Carrera/Bianca Del Rio/Lady Bunny/Everyone With An Opinion “tranny” debate that has been raging on recently.

Although we can probably all agree that we wouldn’t want anyone who isn’t in the LGBT community using those words, the intent definitely becomes less black and white when dealing with intra-group usage.

So, we pose the question to you, Queerty members: Should We Be Policing The Use Of Language Within The LGBT Community?

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  • bnard620

    I think if we expect everyone to watch what they say and how they say it, why not expect the same thing within?

  • Cam

    I think having the conversation is totally fine and can be healthy.

    However the way that this was brought up by, I think Parker Molloy, was incredibly nasty. They basically just tweeted that they F-ing hated RuPaul, and then, even after Logo pulled all references to the T-word, they continued the attack which made it seem more like their actual goal wasn’t stopping the usage of the word, but to be able to attack RuPaul.

    Carmen Carerra who I really respected, then tweeted out some things attacking RuPaul on the same issue, but Ru had been using that word for years on the show BEFORE Carmen auditioned and was cast, AND the word was still being used while Carmen was on the show. So years later to attack Ru Paul as if this was something new that Carmen just discovered came off a bit disingenuous to me. Additionally, Carmen herself wasn’t the nicest person to some of the other Queens on the show. Anybody not pretty she called a booger. Not the same, but in the ballpark, i.e. “She thinks you suck so she’s going to mock and harass and exclude you.”

    I get why people think the word is offensive, and if it was approached in a normal way I don’t think there would have been the backlash that there was. But it came off as an all out attack on somebody who is not an enemy of the Trans community which is why I think so many are jumping to the defense of RuPaul. RuPaul has given Transgender folks a spotlight on the show, whether they be Sonique, Monica Beverley Hills, etc… and not excluded them saying they couldn’t be Drag Queens, and I think the way the attack came off it seemed like a massive overkill and an excuse to attack a prominent gay celeb.

    So it isn’t just about having the conversation within the community, it’s also about how you approach the conversation.

    Just my 2cents on that one. (Not that anybody asked ;) )

  • DB75

    To answer the question simply – no. Mind your own business. If I am an asshole and am rude to you – tell me off. But no one has a right to tell anyone what they can or cannot say.
    If you want a free society, this is one of the prices you pay.

  • robirob

    Let’s start with ‘cis’.

  • ingyaom

    H01y $h!+ – What is up with the wall-to-wall trans stuff on QUEERTY? This is supposed to be a [email protected] website. If there are trans people who are also [email protected], I welcome them… otherwise, I think they should be catered to on another site.

  • Perfida Limpin

    Amen to Cam, DB75 and robirob. Parker Molloy hates people to get famous and thinks she’s better than the rest of humanity. Carmen Carrera, I adored until her Heather nature came out again. Her ingratitude is really a manifestation of her vanity and perhaps, her lack of smarts. She thinks she’ll get a free pass because she’s pretty.

  • DickieJohnson

    Not just NO, but HELL NO. All this bitchy over-sensitive b*llsh*t by the “T-fringe” is ridiculous. If they want to tag along with the LGB bunch, fine, but STFU, or fight your own battles. I can’t stand whiney, bitchy people at all, no matter who they are. @ingyaom: Ain’t that the truth!

  • bobinboulder

    As Ru said in the interview that caused so much controversy: “If YOUR happiness depends on the words *I* use to describe you or what I call you – you’re in for a TOUGH FUCKING ROAD in life”.

    You don’t have to like or agree with what other people may call you, but at some point you gotta grow the fuck up, take responsibility for who you are, and own it. What other people think of me is none of my business!

  • jacobmcNLR

    Not too long ago, I agreed to go to a friend of a friend’s house for drinks, a stranger to me. Stranger girl and her boyfriend were voice texting back and forth so we could all hear their conversation – weird, right? Anyway, one of the voice text that came back to her phone from her boyfriend was, “is the faggot still there?” That word, faggot, nearly knocked me down, if you will. I had convinced myself before that this would never happen to me – faggot was just a word and words had no power over me, but I learned that night that they do.

    I don’t wish those hurt feelings that I experienced on anyone. I am not transgendered so I don’t know if my experience would be different if someone threw trans slurs at me, but I imagine it would hurt all the same. If the transgender community is telling us that certain words inflict harm on their community, then we should listen. The LGBQT community has to set an example that we take care of our own, or there is no excuse for others outside of our community to take advantage of us.

    Bottom line: If you’re not transgendered, you will never have transgendered experiences, including the negative experiences.

  • Spike

    No we shouldn’t, and just maybe we are seeing the unintended consequences of all the anti-bullying exercises. . . gays coming into adulthood with a very thin skin and overtly sensitive to anything that might offend them.

    As Ru says, ‘Whatever your opinion of me is none of my business.’

  • Lefty

    Thanks for asking.

  • no1

    People should be able to express themselves as the like. Even if it make them look like an idiot. I believe in freedom of speech, even if I am personally offended by what it is you have to say.

  • redcarpet

    Depends on whether you are part of the group that the word targets. I have every right to, and no shame about, use of faggot.

    The T word (or N word for that matter) I don’t feel comfortable using because I haven’t had it lobbed at me as an insult. That, and I’m really not interested in rehashing The Great Language Debate from a late 90’s queer studies class.

  • AlexM


  • Nowuvedoneit

    Where’s the poll, let’s make it official looking? My answer no.

  • Desert Boy

    1984 is here.

  • Paco

    This infighting in our community must be giving our enemies a nice chuckle.

    Policing language in our own community doesn’t stop the real enemies of the GLBT community from using them as weapons against us. The only defense we have against it is to make peace with the offending slur and own it so it loses its power.

    But with that said, if a person tells me my language is making them uncomfortable, I will try to be more empathetic and alter my language when I speak to them because It is common courtesy to do so in a civilized society.

  • Miss Understood

    Funny you are asking this. You (Queerty) never seem to address the fact that you are doing this in your comments section. The word tra#nny and sh#male are will cause a comment to be automatically rejected. But for some reason the word faggot does not. Why don’t you explain this policy?

    I don’t think it’s nice to call people anything they don’t want to be called but treating a word as unutterable in any context, is silly and anti-intellectual. I would go so far as to say its superstitious. If A publication were to use “f-ck” instead of “fuck” every reader, including a 10 year old, will still read it as “fuck”. To believe that it’s ok because a letter is eliminated, strikes me as superstitious.

  • Rulito

    For the record, I’m not transgender. And I’m not a drag queen. So maybe my opinion is invalid. but…

    I think if someone told me to stop using any word, say spaghetti, my first reaction would probably be to roll my eyes and carry on with my life. I don’t like the idea of “policing” any one.However I also know that if I realized saying “spaghetti” was causing pain to a certain group of people, I would stop using it, regardless of whether my original intention was benevolent or not. I’m not attached to words, my preference for them has changed throughout my life.

    I think RuPaul is right saying this issue is becoming an ego problem, but I don’t know if it’s just the other side that needs to check their ego. Maybe once upon a time the word referred to both transgenders and transvestites. But does it today? To me the word is mostly attached to that specific kind of porn… When the violent homophobes use it do they refer to both groups? When people talk about all the tr#nnies in Thailand, are they talking about drag queens? It seems to me that despite its origin or the intention with which we say it, the word has dark connotations for transgenders. To me that’s enough to stop saying it. Whether she likes it or not, RuPaul has a national platform. Her words or lack thereof do set the tone for a lot of people. She has responsibilities that the rest of us don’t necessarily have when we’re talking between friends. I wish RuPaul could understand that intention is becoming irrelevant at this point and just come up with some catchy new word instead.

    And I think it’s important to consider that we’ve already done our fair share of policing already. We call out people all the time for saying that’s gay or fag. Is their intention important or is it just the fact that they are using those words? We’ve tried time and time again to “take words back” to rob them of their power, but does it ever work? If some jocky straight boy called me a fucking faggot at a bar, I would still feel threatened and insulted regardless of what I call my friends.

    Regardless of whether or not the use of the word is right, what has bothered me most throughout this whole thing is the attitude of some members of the community have shown. I’ve seen responses that essentially insult and threaten anyone that would challenge RuPaul because of what he’s done for our community. And that to me is really troubling. We have come a long way and we have a long way further to go. Any journey like ours is destined to be full of mistakes. Mistakes that we have to be able to question and acknowledge and correct and move on from. RuPaul is amazing, but he’s not infallible. If you think he’s right, that’s fine. But the level of vitriol many transgenders and gay men and allies are receiving for even questioning Ru is gross. If we don’t allow ourselves room to grow, we are going nowhere but down.

    sorry tldr. i don’t know what’s right about the word. why not avoid the argument altogether and find a new one.

  • hotshot70

    Carmen needs to remember, RuPaul and Rupaul’s Drag Race made him/her/it famous. Carmen has made Carmen a real jerk.

  • Mezaien

    You can do anything you like! but to tell me how what when where. But to stop me from say “how much I hates Christian” won`t work I call it DEMOCRACY.

  • wickentower


    adjective: queer; comparative adjective: queerer; superlative adjective: queerest

    strange; odd.
    “she had a queer feeling that they were being watched”
    synonyms: odd, strange, unusual, funny, peculiar, curious, bizarre, weird, uncanny, freakish, eerie, unnatural; More

    Please tell me what part of the LGBT Community that this does not describe?

  • wickentower


    im 32 years old.

    I came out when i was 9.

    I was called a SISSY…

    I learned to accept that label and wear it with pride.

  • ingyaom

    @wickentower: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual are sexual orientations… and are normal. Transgendered is a gender-identity which is pathological, but can be medically treated with counselling, drugs, surgery, etc. That’s why I think we need to drop the “T”. We just don’t have anything in common.

  • DarkZephyr

    @jacobmcNLR: There is a difference though. When a drag queen (transvestite) like RuPaul uses the “T” word they are describing *themselves* and its utterly unrelated to Transgendered persons because its about *transvestites*. There is no ill intent and the word is not being used as a slur. Its not even being used with the same *definition*. Most drag queens don’t feel that the word (when describing themselves) is a slur because its an affectionate diminutive as far as they are concerned. Like what Lady Bunny was talking about.

    When the boyfriend said the “F” word he was *intending* it to be a slur and he had the pejorative definition of gay men in mind. Unless you believe that he was asking her if the bundle of sticks was still near the fireplace. In which case you should not have felt offended at all.

    In the end YOUR experience is not comparable to what is going on with the “T” word because the circumstances surrounding the definitions of the words in question are very different. You can’t point me to an instance where RuPaul ever looked at a Transgendered woman and said “You T****y! You can’t take part in Drag Race!” Ru has NEVER used that word that way and she has NEVER discriminated against Transgendered contestants. For some reason, people like Parker Molloy, Rebecca Juro and apparently now Carmen Carerra don’t care about this distinction. They *do not care* about OTHER people’s valid experiences and only care about their own.

    While I COMPLETELY understand where my Trans* sisters are coming from on this, especially after a very sweet Trans* friend explained it to me WITHOUT the hatred and contempt of Parker Molloy and Rebecca Juro and I COMPLETELY appreciate the fact that the word brings them pain and as a result, outside of conversations like this *I personally* choose NOT to use it, I think policing people like this, especially if it ultimately proves to be a successful policing, is going to set a terrible precedence that will leave a very bad legacy and have terrible implications for the future when it comes to our freedom to express ourselves and say what we want to say in ANY given situation about ANY given subject.

  • truckproductions

    I think I’m so important and I have an opinion! And it is a very good opinion! A great opinion! I think everyone should think that my opinion is great too!

  • Tobi

    @DarkZephyr: +1. I have to laugh, this is what’s important? I’m sure some older Queens think we’re madly obsessing about radios. Eurotrash is an ethnic slur in Canada and a popular television show in the UK. I hear “I’m just going for a fag” a dozen times a day on this side of the pond. If you call heterosexuals “straights” then you’re defining yourself as bent. “Gay? What’s “gay” about them? I’ve never seen such a miserable lot in my life.” Larry Grayson. It’s just words people.

  • michael mellor

    What we’re seeing now is karma. We’ve created this phony coalition of identities with conflicting interests, and now it’s coming back to bite us.

  • tdx3fan

    @jacobmcNLR: No offense dude, but grow a pair. You are talking about some bitch you didn’t even know and her boyfriend who you obviously didn’t know. If you give them that much power over you then you aren’t ever going to be happy.

    We can only really care about what people we care about think about us. Everyone else can have their own opinion, and that is none of our concern.

  • tdx3fan

    @Spike: That is the problem with the “bullying” in the first place. The “bullying” never changed or got new. It happened in my day. It happened in your day. It was probably even worse at both points. However, we raise our children today to think they are entitled to everything. We set them up for a fall when they experience real world life. Its shitty parenting that is to blame not the “bullying.” Your kids don’t need another friend, they need a parent.

  • tdx3fan

    @hotshot70: Little girls (trans/drag queens) with little power often need to lash out at whatever they believe is more powerful than them. I see this as Carmen throwing a temper tantrum to extend her 15 minutes because they are almost up.

  • tdx3fan

    @Mezaien: Do you hate all Christians? Must be hard to hate 80% of the population (many of which support you). I can understand hating fundamentalists. But all Christians? Come on!

  • DarkZephyr

    @tdx3fan: You make a good point. Here in WA the largest religious group to vote in favor of marriage equality back in 2012 was Catholics in the Pew.

  • jcrascal

    You know, almost 20 years ago, a gay guy {from Noo Yawk) overheard me refer to my now-late-husband, Michael, as “my husband”, & went into a ten-minute tirade about how, since we weren’t “married” he couldn’t be my “husband” – “He’s your PAWTNAH”, he said. Over and over and OVER again. Marriage was a soon to be completely outdated institution, blah, blah, blah, he said (wonder if he is still alive?). Anyway, I finally said, since he’s MY “husband”, and doesn’t mind that I call him that, I can call him whatever I/he like/s. So, if you don’t like the “T” word applied to you? Don’t use it, and (try politely but firmly) let people know you don’t like it used towards you. Personally, I HATE the word “queer” . . . all the others are more or less okay with me. There are plenty of people out there who prefer the “Q” word to self-describe, and I say, more power to ’em, just don’t use it in my direction, please? I am GAY, a big HOMO (both are terms I use to self-describe) and if I don’t have a problem with them, that’s my business. And don’t call me bisexual because I have f*cked a couple women over the past 30-something years – at best, I call that “Mother Nature’s twisted sense of humor.” ;-)

  • Ben Dover

    “Should We Be Policing the Use of Language Within the LGBT Community?”

    Yes because we have solved all of our other problems and we have nothing better to do.

    No, that’s not it…

    Yes because it’s just so-o-o much easier to b!tch at other Gay Bacon Lettuce & Tomato people, instead of fighting oppression by those icky straight people. Because straights are, you know, scary. They might, like, hit you or something like they did in 8th grade.

    No, that’s not it…

    uhhh… No!

  • Dionte

    I want to hear what Christopher thinks, Carmen should be charged with murder, she killed him.

  • alterego1980

    I love that in the LGBT community sh!t like this RuPaul shaming wasn’t going to go unconfronted. It is through years of dealing with bullying from straight assholes that we learn to deal with our own BS and learn to communicate with each other. We are not afraid of confrontation or sticking up for our selves any more. A lot of times issues will die down, but this [email protected] mess needed to be talked about. And now that it’s out there people are not going to let it slip back under the rug. The idea in my mind is that trans people have always felt second class even to the gays when it comes to the royal “LGBT”. This is a big reason for the attack on Ru. I think it was misguided but the trans community is now to the point where they have people out there with a social media voice and there are others willing to listen. This is a great thing. There are no easy answers but the bottom line is going to be a 50/50 split. The trans community should look around at who their friends are before opening their mouths and looking like idiots, and the GLB and drag communities will hopefully take positives from this conversation about how the trans community feels left behind and marginalized. The result, ideally would be more understanding and cooperation on both sides.

  • Wilberforce

    No, and here’s another reason why.
    Years ago, Larry Kramer wrote a novel called Faggots. None of us batted an eyelash, because we are men who know who our friends are. That’s basic emotional maturity.
    This whole case shows that the trans community have a long way to go. They don’t see us as friends, which is also obvious from the hatred they have shown us for years. Until they grow up, I don’t don’t think we should treat them as friends.

  • James Hart

    No. True civil libertarians should ALWAYS support free speech. Whether it’s RuPaul, Harvey Fierstein, the Duck Dynasty, or Donald Sterling’s speech. Just because you disagree with what a person says doesn’t mean you have a right to gag them. This isn’t Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

  • James Hart

    @DarkZephyr: I doubt that. The polls show NON-practicing Catholics support marriage equality, but practicing Catholics are still 70%-30% opposed.

  • James Hart

    @Mezaien: You can hate Christians and Christians can continue to hate you.

  • DickieJohnson

    @tdx3fan: He hates a lot of things, including himself, I believe.

  • Will L

    @ingyaom: When they first tacked that “T” onto the end of LGB, I kinda cringed but accepted it. They piggy-backed onto the gay cause. But I’m now inclined to agree with your statement. Perhaps it’s time to drop the “T”.

    @DickieJohnson: I couldn’t agree more.

  • allTnoShade

    No…policing language is the worst thing you can do…

    a) This leads to a society, where everyone puts up a fassade in public. It’s a society based on lies, if you so will…..and that’s not a world I’d want to live in….

    b) It builds resentment towards the communities that are trying to police people….and this will -over time- be projected on the whole LGBT-movement… So it eventually drags us all down and will set us back…

    c) It’s noone frecking business what kind of vocabulary is being used by others…. If you have serious problems with peticular words, you can kindly ask the people in your surrounding to be more mindful about the use of the word (towards you….and you only…).

    d) Those people that actually INTENT to harm you with those slurs….WILL CONTINUE TO USE THEM ANYWAYS!!! Especially once they know, that they hurt you THAT much… You’d be delusional, if you’d think you will/can change everyone…

  • Tobi

    @Will L: +1. Homos have a history of getting into bed with the wrong people, we encouraged paedophiles to join the party back in the ’70s, I thought we’d got past any minority port in a storm. I’m not too sure about the B either, I mean, who let the dogs in?! ;)

  • DarkZephyr

    @James Hart: These were practicing Catholics. They wouldn’t be ” Catholics in the Pew” if they were non-practicing.

  • DickieJohnson

    @Tobi: I’m beginning to believe that, as well. The B’s aren’t homosexual, neither are the T’s. Adiós, y’all BT’s, and, again, NO to the Word Policing nonsense!

  • DarkZephyr

    @DickieJohnson: Why don’t we kick out the Ls while we’re at it and make our group even tinier and MORE helpless? After all they aren’t gay MEN! Heck let’s reject our straight allies too! After all they don’t understand our struggles and SOME of them are Christians! We HATE Christians!!!

    Seriously, are you KIDDING me?!?!?! Please use your head! WE NEED everyone! We can’t do this by ourselves! The Bs and the Ts have been on our side for decades. Dont let the Janet Mocks, Parker Molloys, Carmen Carerras and Rebecca Juros turn you against all of our T brothers and sisters over 80% of whom are also gay. They’ve literally been with us since stonewall and many have fought for our rights as well as their own. I remember when Mock made that bi**hy comment “Gay rights are not trans* rights” but that’s because she is in her own “I’m so perfect, I’m so pretty, I’m so straight and amazing” bubble. MOST of our T sisters are not like that. Ms. Mock is totally out of touch with reality.

  • Cam


    The fact that the fringe activists seem to want to spend all of their time attacking gays, lesbians, and bi’s rather than attacking right wing bigots, would seem to indicate that they expect the GLB’s to be successful in getting all the rights and that apparently they don’t need to worry about it.

    That is where the angry fringe is really doing a disservice to mainstream Transgender issues.

  • Tobi

    @DarkZephyr: Lesbian and “gay” are homosexual. I don’t think anyone is saying that we shouldn’t be supportive of our B&T brethren, nor that we don’t welcome support from them with open arms, just that there’s no reason for us to be all lumped in together. If, as you’re stating, we need support from “everyone” then we’re back to letting PIE and NAMBLA join the party and we should probably be preparing heated cages for the zoo-crew too!

  • Cee

    The world today is full of overly sensitive weak minded people.

  • DickieJohnson

    @DarkZephyr: That’s my opinion, just as you are entitled to state yours. “Comments section.”

  • Danny

    It would be challenging to educate people and explain the context of each word where use is not offensive. It would also be challenging to predict when/where such words would be offensive and prevent feelings from getting hurt. Especially in a professional situation. Ultimately it creates a communication issue that leads to the isolation of team members, weakened team dynamics, and decreased team/mission effectiveness. We therefore should educate everyone about discrimination, your organizations policy, and it’s negative role in the workplace. Unfortunately, Rupaul’s language was found offensive and it occurred regularly in the workplace. Rupaul has done the right thing to correct her behavior. The reason is my bottom line, you can’t change others, so to stay out of trouble we must change ourselves. And personally I think this should extend beyond the workplace and into our personal lives. I’ve spoken to my people about such words. We all need to be on the same page and come to some agreement.

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