the f word

[Title] fabulous disposition: queer life, love and drama in this prairie town
[Deck] the f word
[Byline] sean manson

There was something queer about the meeting I attended the other day, and for once it wasn’t just the people. At first I could not quite put my finger on it: this odd feeling inside, like something I had verbally ingested had just upset my unconscious. But than half way down the street I was struck by revelation and it all at once came back to me. As the street lamp shined its yellow light on me from above, it shed illumination on the cause of my queer reaction to such a normal affair: It was the “F” word, also known as Fag.

As my brain was kind enough to rewind the preceding events, the word came back to me over and over again. Never before had I been referred to as a fag in such frequency since Junior High. But this time was different, and not just because the braces were off and the clothes were tighter. This time the people on the other end of the slang were not repressed but the exact opposite, totally out. With enough light shed, and the fact that I look better in lower lighting accounted for, I continued on my way and wondered whether I had missed the reclamation memo announcing the “F” word had been taken back.

Reclaiming derogatory slang is something that is not new to the community whose acronym I can never get right. As Mariah Carey was awarded the Grammy award for “Best New Artist” in 1990, a raging battle was happening on the streets of New York as the term queer was being recaptured by a militant AIDS activist group named Queer Nation. Since then the controversial term has continued to gain positive adjectival power for those of us who consider ourselves as decorations that fell far from the tree.

My relationship with the term queer has been similar to all my other relationships to date, on and off. Once upon a time last year I encountered the word while on my way to the supermarket. It all happened when I walked passed a girl, who for naming purposes I shall refer to as Guerilla. In a bold move, Guerilla used her warfare tactics to freeze me in my tracks when she uttered the word at the exact moment our two personal space bubbles became one.

My relationship with the term queer has been similar to all my other relationships to date, on and off.

In defense, my initial reaction was to yell, “Nobody gets away with calling me queer unless it’s followed by ‘as’ and ‘Folk!’ But I didn’t, and before I could properly explain to Guerilla that her offensive vocabulary tactics were outdated she was long gone.

Coming into the New Year, the battle over the derogatory value of certain words is still as prominent as it was twenty years ago (minus the militancy). And as for my own use of the notorious “F” word when engaging in good ol’ queer conversation – well, I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to jump on that bandwagon yet. But in the meantime, I will continue my educational search for Guerilla so that she can come up with something different to call me next time.

Published: Outwords Inc.  #147, November 23, 2007 – January 4, 2008