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Oh, Sorry…I’m a Faggot

I‘m gay, or so they say.  Others call me a faggot, a queer, a homosexual. Sometimes, I use these words to describe myself, too. I’m really fond of using faggot. I like the way it sounds. I like being a muscular, hairy, deep-voiced punk guy who doesn’t fit other people’s expectations of what a gay man’s supposed to be, and when a woman flirts with me or a guy tries to engage me in a conversation about ‘chicks,’ I growl a bit and say,

“Oh. sorry. I’m a faggot.”

Occasionally they’ll argue with me.

No, you’re not!”

That’s not funny, bro.”

Or whatever.  This is often funny, sometimes not, especially when they try to convince me otherwise.  It happened a lot more when I was younger, women grabbing my crotch or rubbing their breasts in my face, men assuring me that I just hadn’t met the right sort of woman. As I’ve gotten older and more aware of my power, I tolerate these reactions much less, but they still irritate me.

I enjoy messing with people’s perceptions of what a ‘gay’ person is supposed to be. We’re supposed to be flamboyant, or enjoy shopping, supposed to have fashion sense and like certain kinds of music. We’re supposed to shave certain places, live for the gym and spend lots of money on our homes. Or, alternatively, to be a complete failure at life, shoot meth into our anuses,  have long strings of abusive relationships and die an early death from AIDS.

I fit none of those, of course. And certain aspects of my personality and presentation fit more the expectations of what a ‘straight’ man is.  Because of this, I’ve been been accused of ‘internalised homophobia,’ failing to liberate myself from societal expectations of “heteronormative masculinity.” I don’t ‘fag out’ enough, my refusal to buy expensive clothes is a sign of self-hatred, or my utter cluelessness about pop-culture shows my disdain for other gays and thus myself.

Gay, you see, is an ‘identity,’ one I often fail to perform to the collective groupthink of the gay or straight ‘community.’

Queer is another identity which I adopt but don’t perform very well. I am too male-presenting, not non-binary enough, and too ‘exclusive’ in my choice of sexual partners to qualify for my queer card for some people. Yet at the same time, I don’t fit into what most consider middle-class white gay man behavior, so that’s another category where I’m often seen as an imposter.

Why call myself gay, then? Or queer? Or adopt the derogatory ‘faggot’ when describing myself?

Sometimes it’s to make up for my lack of conformity to social expectation. Not ‘coming across as gay’ gets me in awkward positions with both men and women. Because I don’t correctly ‘signal,’ it’s easier to get that out in the open before I have to explain it to a woman who’s propositioned me or a man who attempts to include me in discussions about his sexual activities:

 Oh, Sorry…I’m a faggot.

Identifying as ‘gay’ gave me something else, though.  It gave me a feeling of community. Because I have sex with men and not with women–and because men in America mostly have sex with women instead of men–being ‘gay’ made me feel like I was somehow in solidarity with all the other gays in the world. I liked to imagine I shared similar traits, feelings, experiences, emotions, sufferings, and joys with all these other people I’d never met.

Some gay men do share similar experiences that straight men and women don’t. Most straight men and women don’t have to scan their general vicinity before kissing someone they love in public. Most heterosexual couples don’t fear getting attacked or spat on while holding hands in the streets. That fear and alienation is definitely shared amongst many gay men, and also lesbians, and bisexual folks, and trans people. And because it’s common to all those groups, you imagine a sense of community, forged by pain and trauma and the need to feel not alone in the world.

This sense of community certainly helps you get through much of the alienation of society. Imagining that there are thousands and thousands of others who know what it’s like to fear and love as you do? That gives you the sense that there’s nothing actually wrong with what you’re doing. And in gay bars or queer spaces, as well as in cities and especially during Pride parades, that imagined community manifests for a few hours.  Thousands of people ‘just like you’ celebrate how they’re not like like others, and you feel safe, full of hope, and most of all, not different from everyone else.

Such moments become a break from the relentless trauma of being not-like-the-others. They can be so welcoming, so comforting, and so relieving that you forget that the whole thing is imaginary. You also forget it’s a really tragic thing to have a ‘community’ founded on pain, suffering, and the sorts of people you prefer to have sex with.

As I mentioned, I actually have little in common with most gays, and the differences between us are sharpest when it comes to politics and economics (and music, but that’s another matter entirely). I don’t think anyone should register their sexual partnerships with the government (marriage), I don’t want to own a home on stolen indigenous land, I don’t want a government to protect me or punish people who hurt me.

Actually, I don’t want to identify by who I have sex with, either. My lovers are amazing and wonderful people, but what we do together doesn’t actually make me part of a community of people doing the same thing.

This hit me particularly last month. I had a first date with a really amazing guy (who’s now a lover who I like lots).  We went for pho and then coffee and while he waited for his ride we made out on the sidewalk of a Florida strip mall. We both looked around us to make sure it was safe, but he had another reason to worry. He is Black, I am white.  I was just a faggot; he’s a Black faggot, doubly fucked when it comes to both straights and gays.

In fact, there are many, many white gays who don’t have sex with Black men. Or if they do, they heavily racialize their sexual relationships (I recently learned “BBC” doesn’t just stand for the UK propaganda engine). Scroll through any dating app and you’ll see “I only like white guys. Sorry, just a preference.”

I have nothing in common with those men. Also, I refuse to be part of an imaginary community where their racism and exclusion is still included and something I’m supposed to be okay with because they’re gays like me.

Being ‘gay’ doesn’t accurately define me–it only describes something I do. It’s not something actually inherent to me, regardless of how much scientists and gay activists try to prove I have some gay gene that forces me to love men instead of women. Also, gay is an identity only useful in describing how I am different from others. Those others are the ‘majority,’ and I’m a minority. And gay is supposed to explain why I suffer more than others.

Worse, that sense of community? The idea I’ve got some kinship to others who love people of the same gender? It isn’t just imaginary. It’s an illusion that’s easily manipulated by the powerful. According to politicians, ideologues, advertisers, and the media, being gay is supposed to make me do stuff.

I’m supposed to furiously vote against one particular candidate in the American election and vote excitedly for another. It’s supposed to make me support foreign wars against Arabs and Muslims, elicit my support against both immigrants and conservatives, celebrate that the military will now accept me, and desire to buy certain things and hate certain others.

This pressure to conform to gayness, to an illusory community, doesn’t just come from the outside, but it gets repeated by other gays. Gays tell me I’m betraying gays by not voting, taking the side of people who want to kill me by not supporting the military, spitting in the face of all the gays who came before by not supporting marriage.

That identity built on shared suffering, one I once thought was liberating and included me in a vast community? It becomes a bludgeon that others use against me, to limit me, define me, and most of all control me.

Do I need to identify as gay?  Not really. It does little for me at all, and it certainly doesn’t describe much else about me except who I have sex with. As an adjective, it gives me hints at what sort of bars I’m likely to be safe kissing another man in while drunk. And it’s useful to signal to others that I’m potentially sexually available.  But all that can just as easily be accomplished without the shorthand of sexual identity and without the false myth of community.

There are other false myths of community that likewise do me no good, both those that have been used as protest and those created by the powerful. For instance, I’ve never identified as ‘polyamorous,’ even though all my relations would fit into that category. Why accept the idea that my way of loving needs a label?  “American” also comes to mind pretty quickly. Nothing good has ever come of that one.

Even the stuff I believe doesn’t really describe me. I’m a Pagan, but not like lots of other Pagans. I’m a polytheist, but definitely nothing like some of them. And I’m a Marxist and an anarchist, but I’m not like lots of either of those categories either.

But where should I get my identity from, then?

Myself.

I’m human–I possess the same skills of creation as everyone else on this planet. I can name myself, and change that name at will. I can decide who I am, and change my mind the next day or even the next minute. The need of other people to pin me down, label, box, and shelve me shouldn’t be my concern. And I don’t think I’ll let it be.

If I’m not part of an imagined community based on shared suffering though, where do I belong?

Everywhere.

The earth cannot be owned, no gates can last forever. Nations and races are human illusions just like gender and sexuality, just names we came up with to exclude some and preference others. I can and do choose who I fight alongside, who I support and who I reject, who I hold close and who I push away.

But if you’re a boorish lout or a handsy drunk woman, I’m definitely gonna growl at you and say,

“Oh, sorry…I’m a faggot.”

Because the look of shock on your face will be pretty funny.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd WildermuthRhyd’s the co-founder and managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He has sex with men, drinks lots of tea, and misses Europe a lot.

Also, he writes here and elsewhere.

Pagan Anarchism, as well as our other great publications, can be ordered here.

25 Comments »

  1. “Such moments become a break from the relentless trauma of being not-like-the-others. They can be so welcoming, so comforting, and so relieving that you forget that the whole thing is imaginary. You also forget it’s a really tragic thing to have a ‘community’ founded on pain, suffering, and the sorts of people you prefer to have sex with.”

    Very interesting reflection. I don’t agree, but it’s good to hear what others think. You are of course entitled to, and empowered by, your perspective. This is mine:

    I believe that communities based on oppression are very necessary, until that oppression ends. That we cannot build a world without oppression without first coming together, those of us who believe in Nothing About Us Without Us, and ensuring that we aren’t erased from society (which happens all too often to many oppressed groups). It’s easy to say we should simply be ourselves. But in societies that want to destroy us – literally want us dead in many cases – we need our shared identities, our imagined communities. They give us space for agency – space that one day we may be able to break out of, but not until society no longer wants to put an end to us. Space to exist, which is of course a pre-condition of being able to be ourselves…

    As my hero Rosemarie Garland Thompson puts it, we need both ‘strategic essentialism’ and ‘strategic constructionism’ when it comes to imaged shared identities like ‘disabled’ or ‘woman’ or ‘gay’… Speaking particularly about the disabled community, she says “A strategic constructionism de-stigmatizes the disabled body, locates difference relationally, destructuralizes normalcy, and challenges appearance hierarchies. A strategic essentialism, by contrast, validates experience and consciousness, imagines community, authorizes history, and facilitates self-naming. The identity ‘disabled’ operates, then, as a pragmatic narrative, what Susan Bordo calls a ‘life-enhancing fiction’, grounded in the materiality of a particular embodiment perspective, embedded in specific social and historical contexts.” (from ‘Feminist Theory, the Body, and the Disabled Figure, 1997, p.283)

    My thesis is talking about this a fair bit, at the moment. So it’s interesting that you bring it up. Maybe I should write a reply to your post…!

    Liked by 2 people

    • “But in societies that want to destroy us – literally want us dead in many cases – we need our shared identities, our imagined communities. They give us space for agency – space that one day we may be able to break out of, but not until society no longer wants to put an end to us. Space to exist, which is of course a pre-condition of being able to be ourselves…”

      If I thought this was true, I would agree with your stance 100%. But for those of us who have been excluded from ‘identity’-based communities due to the same groupthink and policing that Rhyd describes, its not true at all. Its not a space for agency. Its a space where we are once again told that we are not doing it right, that we are not what we think we are… and its one thing to hear that from the overculture, but when one hears that within a community that supposedly is a safe space where one has agency, its an incredibly traumatic experience. I’ve had that experience in pretty much every oppression community I’ve ever dipped my toe into, which is the main reason why I don’t wear my ‘identities’ on my sleeve.

      Liked by 6 people

      • Members of oppressed groups are often not privileged enough to choose our own identities, or to consider whether or not we will be allowed to ‘wear them on our sleeve’ or not. We have identities ascribed to us, in the process of stigmatisation and Othering. When I leave the house on my mobility scooter, I can pretend I’m not disabled all I want, but that identity will be ascribed to me repeatedly by people who see me and want to abuse me for what they say I am. It happens many times every day. Similarly, black people can’t choose whether or not to be known as black – that identity will be ascribed by them by, say, police with guns, who won’t care whether or not they want to wear their identities on their sleeve. I find it’s often people when groups move into a place of relative privilege (privilege is always relative) that people start being able to accept or reject those groups, and simultaneously these groups feel more able to accept or reject members. That isn’t to say that there isn’t exclusion when groups are just trying to survive – there is – I’ve been excluded from many expressions of the disability movement and other movements. But some of us tend to scrabble back together somewhere, somehow, we people that society wants dead, is actively trying to kill. There is policing in all groups. I see it in socialist and anarchist groups often – I see it at Gods and Radicals. It’s impossible to escape, in any group. And we form groups because we are human. People are free to accept or reject groups if they want to. I rarely feel safe in any group. But I need disabled people around me if I’m going to, say, protest all the Pagan events I literally can’t get into. It can’t be me alone. I have no voice alone. Together with my community, I am stronger. I respect your different view, but please understand that mine comes from a place of experience also.

        Liked by 2 people

      • How do you mediate between those who feel they benefit from an oppression identity and those who feel it limiting? For instance, my lover is Black but doesn’t accept many external- and internally-enforced aspects of American Black identity. I am gay but do not accept gay identity as a useful field of political struggle.

        And while I fully support the choice of the majority of gays to adopt that identity, i have to reject (and resist) it when it becomes a political weapon either from above or from within. For instance–Clinton has based much of her campaign on social justice language, and there’s been a move in Black, trans, gay, and feminist groups to enforce complicity. The rare voices who point out dissent over this (for instance, a well-known Black Pagan activist who’s written here before) are drowned out by the larger political machine. Many women (and men) are being told they MUST vote for Clinton because according to them, not to do so is racist, misogynist, and privileged.

        There certainly must be a way to mediate both the need for political solidarity around identity while also avoiding the essentializing nature of identities originally created to other people.

        How to do that?

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      • Well, I think we have to start by acknowledging that this focus on ‘choice’ is a neoliberal, potentially privileged concept that some people, some communities, are not afforded. Choice, in capitalist, post-colonialist, hegemonic societies, is only afforded to some. This is something that those of us who have choices need to contemplate, and we need to consider that we may be oppressing others with our choices.
        I won’t comment on the American situation because it’s foreign to me, but I don’t relate it to what’s being talked about here, personally. As I tried to say above, for me this is about identities that are enforced upon people. Stigmatisation and Othering is happening to many, many groups over here – Muslims, ‘immigrants’, disabled people, people living in poverty, and many others. They are not allowed choice over their identity. The gaze of the hegemony is turned upon them, and it names them. Some choose to reclaim those names and form communities around them. It is very, very important not to further stigmatise those who do so, or to say that we’re part of the mainstream when we resist together under the banner of a name. That’s deeply unfair.
        The disability movement is not unfamiliar with the gulf between those who want to ‘define as’ disabled and those who don’t. Good movements can make room for those who reclaim certain names and those who don’t. They have space for many approaches to oppression and freedom. The problem isn’t naming or not naming, nor identities or non-identities. It’s about whether we can maintain solidarity as diverse groups. The Rosemarie Garland Thompson quote I shared above is talking about the need to allow some essentialising when groups of people are stigmatised as groups. If some people feel they are ‘past’ that, great. Some of us don’t, and we should be respected. I’m kind of sick of being able-splained about all the ways I’m doing activism wrong, at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I apologize if it seemed I was telling you you’re doing your activism wrong. I don’t think that at all, nor could I judge that anyway!

        How does a revolutionary movement make room for all iterations of resistance and hold space for those very deep divides within those communities? For instance, both you and Alley are activists and have deeply different opinions about this matter yet both have similar ‘essential’ experiences of disability. How does someone outside those experiences hold space and support both radical strategies, even when they greatly conflict with one another? How do we maintain that solidarity and strengthen all the intersections not just within specific communities, but across all of them?

        I fully agree that choice is limited within Capitalism. My belief is that, once the rich and the state, both of whom force those identities on us and maintain them (often by force), are gone, the terrain will be open for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hope that’s true. As I’ve said before, I worry that the anti-capitalist movement doesn’t make space for disabled people now, and that it may not do so after revolution (or, more importantly, won’t protect us during it). I try to hope, with the founders of Disability Studies in the UK, that capitalism is the bedrock on which normalcy will stand or fall. We’ll see.
        I think that the only way to attempt to hold both of these different approaches within a radical movement, is to start trying. I believe that it’s possible. I think the problem is that we easily fall into tribalism around such approaches, believing that our way is the one true way. It’s really important to work to make space for other ways, I think. Beyond that, the question of ‘how’ is yet to be explored, I think.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I have an essay I’ve been working on for awhile regarding creating solidarity networks that I’d like to ask you to look at when it’s done and before it’s published. It was triggered by watching both candidates in the American election say some really dangerous things about Black folk. In that moment, I foresaw things getting much, much worse from Blacks (and every other group) very soon here, and I realised there are no physical solidarity movements ready to support them when it does. The same goes for disabled folks, especially those who rely on the government for their very survival, and for trans people who rely on it for protection, etc.. Without broad and physical (not just internet) networks, people will die.

        Would you be willing to look at it when it’s done?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Faggot was a nice word at one time, back when it referred to a bundle of wood to be used in a fire. Then they started burning people at the stake using faggots, and so “sodomites” were bound and thrown on the fires to burn, as well. Only they did not get their necks broken right before the fires started.
    Just a bit of queer and witch history, but yes the word is useful unless you have had it used against you, by family, peers, and snort friends. Then like all the others it becomes something painful.

    That is identity though, and identity politics, as well. To be other is to be lesser, unless you have some trait that is admired. Usually money in this day and age, then you are not other. Instead you are better.

    Oh, for the record, SAFE spaces usually are only “safe,” if you “fit” the definition of those who maintain that space. Consider the transgender people of color who started the Stonewall Riot. Within three years Marsha P. Washington, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major amongst others were sidelined. Even today the “Stonewall Vets” (all white folk) deny they were there despite so many records to the contrary.

    Yeah, it’s SOGI history month, learn it, or have the repeat leave boot prints on your backside.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That etymology of “faggot” isn’t true at all. I wish people would stop repeating that fakelore, as it doesn’t help anything and only spreads ignorance.

      It first went from “bundle of sticks” (which is still used that way in other English-speaking countries), to a derogatory term for old women, specifically from “faggot woman,” who had to sell bundles to make money. From THERE, it went to effeminate and homosexual men.

      Like

    • We also reclaimed “witch” from the kind of people who placed witches on bonfires.

      I would rather try to reclaim queer than faggot though, personally.

      Like

  3. “Actually, I don’t want to identify by who I have sex with, either.”
    Ooo, how glorious to read one’s own opinion so well presented!
    Although I appear cis, my gender is actually ‘none of your fucking business’. Since I’m old and not-pretty, my only problem is people normalizing/conventualizing me, which is pesky but not nearly as bad as unwanted sexualization.
    Kudos to you!
    (Although, actually, sorry-to-be-an-asswipe, it’s ‘by whom’)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Never been a group person, nor felt much need to fit in in any group. I don’t run into gay people very often, especially out here in the desert, so I have no feeling of kinship with them a a group. I haven’t had sex in a couple of decades, so I rarely seek any out. I know a few online, but it is unlikely that we will ever meet, that includes a man here in a nearby town. So I doubt that I would fit most stereotypes of the label.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, seems people who has something not fitting the mainstream mould have their “communities” with their own mainstream moulds. Sometimes, when people defends the right for “everyone to be what s/he is”, to me it sounds like “right for everyone to be like me”. Excluded people reproducing exclusion. And we’re back to binary logic : are you like us, or like the dominants ? Oooh this Rhyd is not a “normal queer”.

    “And I’m a Marxist and an anarchist, but I’m not like lots of either of those categories either.”
    Anarchism is not dogmatic, but… Oh my Bakounine ! An anarchist with gods !

    We all are puzzles who can’t identify only as one piece. Just…. when you gather your pieces and make the puzzle, few people like the picture.

    Thank you for this post.

    PS :
    I laughed much when reading your misadventures with women…Not fun for you, I know. But can’t they just smile and say something like “oops” or “Lucky men”? Well… good luck in dealing with your herds of female admirers.
    Sorry for my english, and thank you again.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Little boxes” Sometimes all there needs to be done is rattling some drawers until a few stereotypes shake loose and fall out. Thanks for writing this. Disrupting the images of hetero- or homonormativity for that matter might bring more acceptance into this world.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have trouble identifying or being identified in the gay/queer/lgbt cloud of identities. I was married for years to a woman, but I was attracted to men at the same time. Some lgbt people don’t like that, and try to say that I was a gay man hiding out, but I loved the heterosex for years. I do ok with individual gay men, especially on sexual terms, but I am bad in groups. I just stand there thinking where the hell am I. I tell people I’m gay, just to get them off my back, but most of them don’t think I am, or they think I’m “new to the gay world” which would be funny if they really knew about me. And it’s not that I’m butch or something. I just don’t project “gay”. I started writing fiction and poetry after I came out. I also have a disability. Maybe that’s what makes me gay/queer/faggot. Oh, and I like having sex with guys. I don’t mind being identified that way. It gets me more dates. Once I asked someone if they thought I was gay, and he said, “Well, I would say you are someone who really likes men.”

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    • It seems that the kind of labelling yourself is n the most cases not much about identity but more about other people’s perception. The persons I’m having sex with will now that I am attracted to them, even if I don’t expressedly tell them I am gay/straight/bi/queer. “I would say you are someone you really likes men.” That sounds really good. 🙂 But the problem you are voicing has to do with certain stigmata attached to men perceived as “bisexual”. I’ve noticed a lot of gay men having trouble coming to terms with people that sleep with men and women using the very same stereotypes they hate (you just need to find the right guy..It’s just a phase….) or even worse bigotry.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I wouldn’t want to impose a label… but that sounds like bisexuality to me.

      (And to any pansexuals reading this: no, bisexual does not mean only desiring 2 genders.)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t fit well within gay stereotypes either; I’m a little too masculine, a little too atheletic, a little too disinterested in popular culture, a little too monogamous; and far too unwilling to engage excessive displays of debauchery on the grand scale that the gay community has become accustomed.

    That having been said, I am gay. It doesn’t define me as a man, but it does correctly label some of my concerns. When I married my partner of fifteen years, with whom I have lived and loved since we were both teenagers, it changed my life. Preserving that marriage became the focus of my politics, obscuring almost any other concern. Why? It mattered to him, the look in his eyes as we exchanged vows is not something I will ever forget. He is Christian, and I don’t mean he is a church on Easter Christian, but one that truly believes. In his mind, the marriage was something he desperately needed. I’ll vote for the Democrat, I’ll condemn anyone who helps Trump get elected, I’ll send Mrs. Clinton thousands of dollars (I’ll have maxed out the personal donation limits before Election Day), and I’ll do it happily if it protects something he needs that badly.

    If he can walk past the altar in my study, come sit quietly and hold my hand while I pray, or celebrate festivals with me, and never once disparage my beliefs or my Gods. I can conform to the gay agenda to protect him; even though the fact that I feel the very masculine need to stand between my mate and the world often puts me at odds with that agenda.

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    • That’s beautiful.
      For me, it’s not the ‘masculinity’ issue (I only present that way to people who don’t know me well, and I find it frustrating when people paint me with that label).
      The difficulty for me is how the political aspects of being ‘gay’ became defined by rich white men, demanding we conform to a Statist agenda (legal marriage, rather than abolishing the government’s demand to legitimize our love and relationships), privilege gay/lesbian struggle over trans struggle, and then employ our allegiance as a weapon against Blacks and Arabs.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I refuse to identify with any identity that tries to restrict how I perform that identity.

    I experience Pagan as a pretty broad community where you can be any politics you like. Awful dress sense though, mostly. I have ruthlessly eliminated crushed velvet from my wardrobe.

    I tried hanging out with other bisexuals and found that a lot (though by no means all) seemed to clock me as ‘not queer enough’ / ‘not radical enough’.

    I think intersectionality is key here, in constructing a unique identity.

    Also as @leithincluan pointed out, some people don’t have a choice about whether they get to be labelled as a particular group, if they are visibly a member of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hmm. I have some thoughts about this.

    Firstly, yeah…I’ve been through the whole radical-queer politics thing (in a few different iterations, from being a teen wishing Queer Nation was still around to, just a few years ago, building my social circles out of radical transfeminist politics while building my politics out of those social circles). I’ve ended up concluding that, yeah, subcultural markers aren’t inherently radical or political, even if the subculture is composed of deeply marginalized people. What you’re saying about gay identity and marriage, hate-crime sentencing, etc resonates, even when you go past relatively integrated marginalized groups (such as cis white gay men). Capitalism sells bigotry to bigots, but it also sells diversity and in-group pride to the targets of bigotry. And that was a hard lesson to learn, but getting over the belief that my gender or who/how I fuck has anything radical about it was necessary. Whether capitalist politics (such as liberalism) can overcome any of those marginalizations isn’t, I think, the right question. Rather, whether or not that type of cultural radicalism can succeed, capitalism has already shown that it can turn the movements themselves into products that it sells to us. And given the hegemony of the business class within marginalized groups (not just society at large), any queer, or trans, or feminist etc etc politics that isn’t working-class will never be able to transcend its own commodification – and the working class is cis as well as trans, straight as well as gay, white as well as of color, etc.

    That said, I think there’s a bit more nuance to be had when discussing what those imagined communities involve. Like, when I was a gender nonconforming teenager in Texas and I was able to get involved in gay community spaces, the community there was as imagined as that of the Christian churches where people like me weren’t welcome, and as imagined as the incarnation of traffic laws into those flashing colored lights at the intersection 😛 I think rejecting the claim that a community like that is somehow radical or revolutionary is important, same as the claim that it’s somehow written into our DNA. However, at the end of the day that was still the only place I could form social connections because everywhere else, no one would have me. The question of authenticity, or the problem of in-group groupthink, didn’t make an enormous difference on the ground, since out-group groupthink meant that I wasn’t gonna be socializing with many straights. So, the scene I was in was whatever I and the other participants (most of them also teens in the same position) made of it, same as the social scenes of our homophobic Christian peers. Of course, at the same time I did get caught up in the notion that being an out-and-proud queer in the queer community was this political thing that had much more power and opposition to the status quo in it than it actually did. And I don’t know that you’re necessarily saying anything different than that.

    Finally – “faggot” is a word I have a lot of feelings about. Like, people talk about male socialization vs. female socialization (often, though not always, in a specious attempt to claim trans women have some metaphysical essence of Privilege that justifies our exclusion). But from early adolescence on, the fact that I was assigned male at birth ceased to mean I was socialized in the same way as my cis male peers. Like, there was the expectation that they’d date women, play/watch football, socialize with other men (but not fuck them), etc. None of that was expected of me, though. People assumed I’d date men, never be into sports, socialize with women (but not fuck them), etc. Even people who thought those things meant there was something morally wrong about me still never expected anything different. (Condemnation, no matter what they say, is not always an invitation to change.) I could go into more depth about those expectations and assumed/imposed roles, but overall? Faggot is a gender – a socially-assigned gender that exists in some cultures that don’t admit they have genders other than (cis) male/female (in my case, conservative Christian Texan whites). At some point people stopped gendering me as male, and I was reassigned as faggot. So, like, I identify as a faggot as well, although not necessarily for the same reasons you use it. Which I suppose is a bit of a tangent, but still. Got me thinking. Thanks for that; this was a very good article.

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