Opinions and Rants

Is It Ever Okay To Re-Appropriate Homophobic Slurs?

Because of the slow news day on account of the holiday, I wanted to do an opinion piece on homophobic words. I’ve had this debate with fellow gay men so many times and last night was no exception: Is it ever okay to take a word used as a derogatory term against a group or community you belong to and reclaim it? You know the one I’m talking about: the three letter one  that starts with an F and ends in G; the one used to express that because you’re gay, that you’re somehow weaker, not man enough, or even less than human.

An associate of mine thought it was okay to use homophobic terminology with me during a lighthearted and jokingly matter, and I was not amused. Yes, I know words only have as much power that you give them, but the messenger of such words can be just as influential on how it makes you feel. He said that it was a term of endearment, but all I felt was dismay, and quite frankly, I got pissed off. I asked him why, as a gay man himself, he felt that he could use that word at me? He said that because of the fact that we’re gay, that we “own” that word. That since it’s used against us, we can take the word and make it our own. To me, that is complete and utter bullshit.

The incident did, however, cause me to reflect on the concept of re-appropriating, or re-claim and reassign the definition or meaning, of words used against us in the community. Can we reappropriate words? I mean I’ve heard the same re-appropriating words rhetoric with a common racial slur against African Americans…do you think it will ever be okay to use that word to describe me? NO. So why the hell would it ever be okay to call me a homophobic slur? See my point? There’s no difference between them. It will ALWAYS have a negative connotation and history.

Yes there have been news of reappropriating  of racial words several years ago and you know what? The words still has just as much negative connotation then it did then, maybe even more so. Some believe that usage of these words in song lyrics like, Frank Ocean, who recently came out as bisexual, use both racial and homophobic slurs in their music is okay. Others feel that we can’t reclaim words still used negatively, and I emphatically agree.

Honestly, I don’t believe that it’s possible once the word is used for a negative purpose, the m eaning is forever changed. I feel the same way about any rackial, ethnic, or whatever word is used. iIt’s why I refused to use it in the entirety of this article. Yes I kn0w that we have free speech, but it isn’t always so free, and there is ALWAYS consequences, both negative and positive, to our words. Just a thought…

So I ask you fellow readers, will it ever be okay to use homophobic slurs as a term of endearment?



Sly Merritt has a BA in psychology/sociology. MA in clinical psychology. He's a flip flop wearing hippy with a peaceloving mindset. Even pacifists like him know when it's time to do all we can for LGBTQ equality. Sly's views are all opinions not advice.

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5 thoughts on “Is It Ever Okay To Re-Appropriate Homophobic Slurs?”

  1. I have been debating this on and off about symbols in general. And when people say a swastica has other meanings I am the first to jump on them to say maybe in 2000 years it could be used but I doubt it.

    That is one end… Never can be redeemed.

    The other end?

    Can african americans redeem or negate “power” the n-word by using it among themselves? Some think so.

    The argument for gays using the word “f*g” is the same. Do I use it ironically friends and tricks to refer to myself? Sometimes and its in the same vein.

    You can be offended or not… But it happens.

  2. I agree with you. Obviously, there is a difference between people using the term viciously and those who use it “endearingly,” but the problem is it causes people, even one’s friends and even oneself, to devalue you. In the ultimate analysis, it says, you are just a “f-g” and thereby should not be taken seriously. While sometimes people need to be taken down a peg and their pomposity punctured, using homophobic slurs is not a good way. I cringe whenever gay friends use such language.

  3. I think that some words HAVE been reclaimed, most significantly the use of “queer” as a basis of sexual or gender identity in a lot of today’s youth. However, I think there is a big difference in the connotation of the words “queer” and “fag,” the latter being much more severe.

What do you think?