If you’re a regular Philly Neighbor reader, you might notice that we don’t use the word “fag” anymore.
Well there’s a reason.
The other day I found a document containing most of our old posts. As I read though them – trying to remember which ones I wrote drunk versus which ones I wrote blasted on Percocets – I noticed something. I used the word “fag” almost constantly.
And guess what? I was fucking embarrassed by it.
Now, I don’t think I qualify as a homophobe. Many times not just on Philly Neighbor – old posts and also a recent one – but also my old gig writing for the Fishtown Star, plus in my own personal life, I’ve been a vocal supporter of gay marriage and gay rights in general.
But then I look back on the language I used, the countless times I called someone – almost always jokingly – a fag, faggot, queer, or some variation thereof. I even recall using the term “fag cycle” when referencing those ghetto ass dirt bikes all the hoodrats are riding these days (and Kenzos and F-Towners have been riding since the late 90’s, god I fucking hate those things).
And when I look back on that language I feel like a goddamn douchebag. Sure, my intent was never to disparage or offend gay people. But my intent doesn’t matter, now does it? The truth is, no matter what way you use the word “fag,” it will always carry a negative connotation of gay people, mostly gay men.
What disgusted me the most about my use of the word was that I reminded myself of the racist douchebags who say “nigger” all the time, then justify it by saying, “Hey man, nigger doesn’t just mean black people, there are white niggers too!” Or the people who drop the n-bomb to “take away its power!”
I think sometimes we hold onto words that we know offend people. Some of us do it in a lazy attempt to be edgy or funny, like I did, and some out of anger at people who are different. Then there’s more and more people who realize using words like that makes you a fucking asshole, regardless of your intent.
So I stopped using it. And no, I’m not patting myself on the back. In fact, I’m ashamed it took me this long to stop using it.
Me and my Philly Neighbor co-conspirator were just talking about our days in high school, back in good old North Catholic. (Holy mother of God we graduated ten years ago…over ten years ago, fuck my life.) Back then, you couldn’t be gay. If you were, you’d be mocked endlessly, maybe even get your ass kicked.
Fast forward a few years later. I’m working in Kensington High School, mostly with ghetto kids, some rough little motherfuckers. In a “learning” (hah!) environment where drug deals, calculated assaults, and random acts of violence were all commonplace, I literally watched openly gay students go on about their day with little to no trouble.
(Obviously I could be missing something from my vantage point. Those gay kids could have been having a far more difficult time than I could have known, but on the surface things seemed okay.)
Yet me and my Catholic school buddies, most of whom came from more disciplined, more stable backgrounds than these ghetto kids, would have instantly targeted the “fags,” just to justify our own manhood and stay within the “norm,” even if most of us weren’t honestly hateful of gay people.
Basically, I can’t in good conscience use language that is, even in a joking context like I used that language, like a knife through the heart of someone else. (Or might lead to a gay person beating the shit out of me if they ever ran into me in public. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s some self-preservation going on here as well, bitches.)
Or maybe someone would read something I wrote and think, “Yeah, it’s okay to hurl around hateful shit like this, and I’ll just hope everyone knows my intent isn’t to hurt anyone.” Or, worse, some douchey hateful prick might think it’s perfectly fine to keep ugly language like that alive.
So yeah, I don’t use the word anymore, with the exception of quoting someone else or, as in this post, explaining myself.
Don’t get it twisted. Me and my partner-in-crime here on Philly Neighbor will still totally troll the shit out of everybody. We’ll still make fun of toothless Kenzos, hoodrats with too many goddamn kids, white trash Republicans, hipsters with tight pants, and whatever the fuck Gastrobpubs are (I’m still trying to figure that out), and we’ll still do it out of love for our city and our neighborhood, because we really do love everything about it.
But now I won’t do it using that word, or words like it, which aren’t just lazy, pitiful attempts for cheap laughs, but also might end up hurting our friends, neighbors, or random readers who might otherwise enjoy our juvenile, poop-filled bullshit.
*Note: No, I’m not one of those mainstream liberal PC pussies who think cleaning up naughty language will suddenly save the world. Institutionalized discrimination and marginalization — and the kind of anti-labor, anti-union, pro-business bullshit that destroyed large parts of Philly — are FAR worse than even the worst, hateful words. But hey, not sounding like a bigoted, hateful douchebag is always a good thing.