Would you want someone to call you a fag? Your son, your mate?
“Bum a fag”, means an entirely different thing in the UK than elsewhere, to be sure, because there the term “fag” is slang for cigarette. But the most commonly known reference for the word, especially in the USA, is used to derogatorily refer to a homosexual male. It is a shortened version of “faggot”, used in the same type of reference.
For many people, it is a term of derision, an attempt to demean and embarrass the individual. In schools, if the term is used, it is considered a form of bullying and the user would be subject to a penalty. My son had to often endure such slurs by students who mocked him for his appearance and seeming “gayness.” Story of a Bullied Gay Teen. If someone heard it being used, most people, gay or heterosexual or anywhere in between, might question the mentality of the person using it as a description. At the very least, I would say many people would see it as inappropriate and unnecessary.
So why then are some gays using it to refer to themselves? I’ve heard the explanations:
“We’re taking the word back!” or “We’re showing that it doesn’t affect us!”
I’ve heard the defensive responses:
“Why should it bother you?” and “We’re just playing!”
The majority of the time it was a certain age group of persons, approximately 16-26 or so. By observation, I found those younger in age are still very upset by the term, even if it was applied in jest or a kind of commiseration, because it has negative connotations. My son and others like him do not like or want to be called fag even by a friend.
There was no particular outcry from those older than that core group first mentioned, those in the +30 category, but rather, the usage of the terms was viewed as the speaker having a lack of true comprehension of what it signifies to so many others. A kind of short-sightedness that lives only for what one thinks is fun and affectionate, and in some cases, to seem “cool” or “trendy” by those who also speak thusly.
“This personifies the gay, over the top gay personality, and faggot could refer to that type of gay as a way to define them and separate them from the average gay community members.”–The Etymology of Faggot Analysis.
In either case, they are disregarding the fact that many people find it highly offensive. So it can also be viewed as a kind of rebellion. Just a side note, the term “gay”, while generally seen by both homo and heterosexuals as an acceptable term for homosexual, has somewhat evolved into a derisive term to reference almost any and everything the user believes is stupid or unworthy. So certainly, words and their meaning can change over time.
The term “fag” doesn’t bother me personally, but I don’t play that way or think it’s funny. It makes me question why the words are still being used even if solely among gay friends or acquaintances. In the same way, I would question why some black people or African Americans use the “n” word to refer to each other, yet if someone else calls them that, a serious problem can develop. If someone called a gay man a “fag” maliciously, it would equally be unacceptable, so why do some think it’s just a silly lark to use it to refer to other gays?
What is the etymology?
Originally “faggots or faggot,” meant a bundle of sticks that naturally would be used for fire making purposes, though some consider this arguable. Later, arguably, the term was applied to the homosexual, who without trial or confession, were thrown alive on fires used to burn witches. They were used to keep it burning as it was sinking lower, so to speak, while more witches could be found, though hanging was the most common punishment for homosexuals. This was in England, and of course came to America. The word itself came from the Greek word for bundle.
I speak English, and rarely do I use slang because there are enough “regular” words to describe what I need. It’s purposeless for me, and by majority, many slang words seem negative in connotation. That’s arguable too, but since we’re on the subject of homosexuals and homosexuality, even terms like “fag hag” I find unnecessary, the casual usage of terms like “gang bang”. For I feel they are negative ideas projected onto gay sexuality with criminal activity.
Unless specifically asked, I wouldn’t make any comment about any of these words or similar ones, but the psychology behind why people use them and think it’s acceptable does interest me. That they broadly use them in a rather homo-ignorant way and are surprised if someone objects or disagrees with their speech, doesn’t. I do think it is telling, however.
Deliberately using words known to be offensive, inflammatory and negative could be considered yet another example of a type of egocentrism, which believes others should abide by or accept one’s own standards no matter what. Basically it’s, “I think it should be done, so you should do it.” Why would you use words other people find offensive? Because you want to.
To me this is a matter of controversy that need have no controversy. It’s simple.
“Do unto others as you would have done unto thee?”
That may seem like a good idea, but I don’t agree with it either.
“Do unto another as they wish to be done?”
This is what I believe in.
You may not think twice to call someone a fag while playing with your friends. It may not bother you if someone is called a fag in your presence, whether it’s in jest or not, but some people don’t like it. Many people don’t like it and you know it, as well as why they don’t, so why would you use the word around them? If one went by the “first Golden rule”, it would justify calling someone a fag because you think it’s okay, because you wouldn’t mind if someone did it to you. Applying the second would keep you from calling someone a fag, even a friend and in jest, because they don’t like it. A very important difference.
When I received an invitation from a certain gay website whose slogan states in bold, “Yes, we do use the word fag!” I almost laughed. Not because of their set-up or possibly good-natured irreverence but rather the mentality behind it. It suggests they believe others, anyone gay, should accept and agree with their statement just because of their sexuality. I may be gay but it doesn’t mean I agree with, accept all other gays, personally, academically or every gay organization, cause, or entertainment preferences, just like I don’t accept the application of the word “fag” or “faggot.”
“The etymology of “faggot” within — it’s ugly.”
“Etymology of Hate”
“The Roots of Violence: Converging Psychoanalytic Explanatory Models for Power Struggles and Violence in Schools” by Stuart Twemlow, M.D.