I was on Jian Ghomeshi recently. I was trying to explain what angers me so much about Richard Florida – and started out saying “I’m a big fag!” (which I am) because I hadn’t said anything about gay stuff yet on the show, which is like, so unlike me. Then I went on to use the ‘f-word’ over and over. I said that there a lot of ‘fag plumbers,’ and that ‘there are a lot of ‘non-creative fags’ – cuz I'm tired of Richard Florida saying we’re all a bunch of designer types.
Well immediately after the show a queer from Hamilton tweeted to all the twits in the twitterverse that I had been politically incorrect, reporting me to a website called http://www.nohomophobes.com/. The tweet says “This site tracks the use of 4 homophobic slurs. Sky Gilbert just used one of them excessively on @CBCRadioQ #shame. ”
I call myself a fag all the time. I always have and I always will. It’s not unlike when people of colour use the n-word. Now I understand that racism and homophobia are not the same thing. But they are alike in this way: people who have been verbally abused sometimes wish to take back the abusive term by calling themselves that word. It’s empowering. Calling myself a fag says to all the homophobes out there “I know you hate me but I don’t give a fuck. I’m going to use the word you used against me to show how much I love myself.” But people who oppose the appropriation of the f-word think that the ‘fag’ is always homophobic, no matter who says it.
Well, I have a big problem with that.
First, the people who tell me I can’t call myself a fag harbour the completely unrealistic fantasy that if we purge language of all politically incorrect terms homophobia will go away. This is just simply nuts. Political correctness is like a little garden planted by left-wing people so that right-wing Nazis can grown all the racist, sexist, and homophobic flowers they want. This is the way it works: if people don’t say the f-word or the n-word or the b-word (BITCH, you bitch!) anymore, than right-wingers can claim that homophobia, racism and sexism are over, and they can eventually try and retract progressive measures like affirmative action (which they are doing now in The States). You can always get people to stop saying offensive words – people lie all the time about their true feelings – but it’s a much more difficult and worthwhile project to hack into their hearts and hew out the hate.
I’m not, of course, saying that I want people to abuse us verbally, or that I want children to be encouraged to say awful abusive things in the schoolyard. They should be taught not to, and scolded for saying them (of course after being told why). But those who think that policing all those horrible words from adult speech is going to erase all the hate from the world have got it all wrong.
Hey -- baby, bitch, girlfriend, fuckbuddy -- when I call myself a fag, it’s for one good reason only -- there is a gay culture out there and I am sooooooo proud to be a part of it! And gay culture is different than straight culture. We have our own lingo. And we have different ideas about morality, sexuality, gender, art – we’re much more honest about sex than straight people -- hell being queer is really different than being straight! We’re not ‘just like you!’ We bear the scars of homophobia, because we had to tell our angry Dads and our crying Mums what we do in bed, while all you straight kids had to tell them was stuff like “I’m not wearing that tie to grandma’s funeral!” or “I’m quitting my MBA to become a welder!”
Unfortunately, my remarks are not just scandalous in Hamilton; there is fear of the f-word in Toronto too. I’m doing my little play To Myself at 28 (with Spencer Charles Smith) at VIDEOFAG Feb 14, 15 and 16, 2013. VIDEOFAG is a storefront video and performance space (google it!) run by Jordan Tannahill and his partner, William Christopher Ellis. When I tell people in Toronto about the play, I sometimes get into arguments about the space’s name.
The ‘fear of fags calling themselves fags’ is everywhere. Hell, I remember a great Boston magazine called ‘fagrag’ -- named after the cum towel that you store by your bed. (You do have one, don’t you?). What the fuck happened?
Well I can bet you anything that most of the opposition to the f-word is from the kind of gay men who want to assimilate, who say that homophobia is dead, and who say ‘there no such thing as gay culture.’
Well sorry -- but I do have a culture and I love who I am and I’ll call myself anything I fucking want!
So (to quote Shirley MacLaine): shut up and deal!