Homophobic Slurs From LGBTQ Folks Need to Stop
“Hey, gay boy! Yeah you, mama’s boy! Why’d ya look, fag?”
Recognize those lines? If you’re a gay or bisexual man, chances are you’ve heard words like that weaponized against you. Studies show that upwards of 85% of LGB people report being verbally harassed in middle school or high school.
Most of us know what it feels like to have our sexual orientation or gender expression used to taunt us. We live in a world where gay is a synonym for bad and where most people using it like that won’t even admit it’s disrespectful.
So, why are we so fast to use those same loaded words to criticize people who oppose LGBTQ equality? Don’t know what I’m talking about? Let me back up.
Mike Pence is a homophobe
I guess calling Mike Pence a homophobic bigot won’t shock anybody. He’s notoriously anti-LGBTQ, with a track record reaching way back into his political and public past. Curiously, though, he probably never advocated for state-funded conversion therapy, the one thing he’s most infamous for.
Pence speaks with a powerful voice in the Trump administration, calling for the second-class status of LGBTQ people in American civil society. He pushes for laws and regulations to make or keep discrimination legal, and he sets a terrible example in his own life by praising his wife’s employer for refusing to hire LGBTQ people or people with LGBTQ family members.
While it’s true that strongly homophobic men are more likely to be secretly gay than men in general, data do not show that most homophobic men are secretly gay.
Last week, I wrote a story about Pence’s latest public display of homophobia. He appeared at an event honoring National Adoption Month, where he told the crowd that he “couldn’t be more proud” of proposed HHS rules that will allow federal dollars to flow to private contractors that discriminate against LGBTQ people:
Attacking Pence for his sexual orientation is not helpful
After I posted the story to my Medium publication, I promoted it as usual on Twitter and Facebook, where I have a modestly substantial LGBTQ following. I hoped to encourage critical thinking about religious liberty, so I emphasized that in my promotion.
What kind of responses did I get? Hundreds of (mostly) gay men disparaged Pence by calling him a closeted gay man, a position for which no evidence exists.
But, oh, the language! Here are a few choice examples:
- Pence is such a homo!
- He’s such a little mama’s boy.
- Come out of the closet!
And my favorite?
- Look at that sissy ass bitch. She’s such a fag.
That one attracted a couple dozen thumbs up in a Facebook group for gay American military veterans.
OK, I realize we’re talking about Facebook and Twitter, not exactly overflowing with rational public discourse, but how over-the-top is all that? And how what does it say about us LGBTQ people that we would use the language of our oppressors?
First, no evidence suggests that Mike Pence is secretly gay
No rumors, substantiated or otherwise, float around the Internet suggesting Pence has had torrid trysts with men. The National Enquirer isn’t known to be paying jilted ex lovers to not tell their stories. No rent boys are selling tell-all books to the highest bidder. For that matter, no women are accusing him of sexual harassment or extra-marital affairs. Pence has been in the public spotlight for decades. If he’d been anything other than the happily married man he appears to be, somebody would be talking about it.
Not all homophobes are hidden homosexuals
Ever since good research began to link strongly homophobic men with repressed same-sex orientations, people have been misunderstanding and mis-quoting the data. While it’s true that strongly homophobic men are more likely to be secretly gay than men in general, data do not show that most homophobic men are secretly gay.
People are simply misunderstanding the studies. But don’t take my word for it, click the links above and do some digging.
Disparaging Pence for being gay feeds toxic homophobia
When we as LGBTQ people try to shame Pence for being effeminate or for being attracted to other men, we’re feeding OUR OWN shaming. There’s not a damn thing wrong with stepping outside traditional gender roles. There’s not a damn thing wrong with a man being attracted to men instead of to women.
Oh, and while we’re at it, men who have close relationships with their mothers are ADMIRABLE. “Mama’s boy” is a taunt based on the debunked idea that boys who are close to their mothers will become gay. It’s also a tool of shame and stigmatization.
This is what homophobia looks like
New York Times slammed for 'homophobic' cartoon of Trump and Putin as gay lovers
A New York Times animation has drawn criticism for portraying President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin as a…
Remember the New York Times cartoon that portrayed Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin as gay lovers? Gay Twitter erupted in protest. We GET IT that straight people shouldn’t use our sexual orientation as a weapon. Even if Putin and Trump were lovers, that wouldn’t be a problem in itself. While it might call Putin’s taste into serious question, there’s nothing wrong with being gay, and there’s everything wrong with making fun of people for being gay.
We gay people don’t get a homophobia free card
If we expect straight folks not to make fun of people for being gay, we sure as hell need to watch our own mouths. The toxins are just too powerful and the consequences too serious.
We’re not RECLAIMING slurs, by the way, when we call Pence a fag or a sissy. We’re weaponizing orientation against him exactly the way bullies weaponize it against us. We’re REINFORCING the trope, not turning it on its head.
When I call myself queer or I claim my identity as a kween, I’m taking those words back. I’m empowering them with positivity. I’m standing up and OWNING my difference, celebrating my diversity. I’m fierce and fabulous BECAUSE I like other guys and BECAUSE being campy rocks.
If I took digs at Pence by calling him a fag or a sissy, I wouldn’t be defanging those words at all. I’d be injecting them with just as much toxin as they ever held — right before lashing out with them.
I’d be teaching young people that those words cut, that the concepts behind them are shameful. I won’t do that. I know how damaging it is, because I was part of that 85% when I was a kid. I’m working for the day when homophobic slurs lose their power because people are ashamed to utter them.
Let’s call Mike Pence out on his real issues
The vice president of the United States is a homophobic bigot who is twisting the concept of religious liberty in order to unconstitutionally establish religion and to enforce religious tyranny across the land.
That’s a big problem. Some would call it an existential crisis for American democracy. So let’s call him out! Let’s attack him as an enemy of freedom. Let’s fight to see him thrown out or elected out of office.
Let’s NOT empower homophobia
If Pence really were secretly gay, then he’d be a self-loathing hypocrite, NOT a sissy ass fag. NOBODY deserves that label, because there ain’t a damn thing wrong with being gay, lesbian, trans, bi, or any other kind of queer.
This fierce old kween is here to tell ya! Got it? Snap!
James Finn is a long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Act Up NYC, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.