Name Game Over

The online LGBT community loves them some debate about reappropriation. Don't lie. I've seen you up 'til two in the morning, popping off that good shit to your friends about who can call who a homo and call themselves a tranny, on your blog keeping tallies of all the noobs you mock and make cry with your horror stories of prison rape and injustice like you're some sort of Flying Tiger for the movement. Step off, homes. I'm not here to judge. If you'd read my press rider, you would know that for that I require six boxes of strawberry pocky and one of those inflatable sea dragon things that go around your waist (so I don't drown in the pool of flavored lube). I'm here to give you the scoop, to sound the trumpet and prepare you for the reckoning.

Repent, my brothers, sisters, and those in between. The end of reappropriation is at hand.

It should come as no surprise to you (I would hope) that “fag” will be the first word lost to the void of cultural assimilation. That much is not prophecy. You've been all over the place trying to take that word back. But alas, beneath those angry e-mails to Comedy Central and awkward office place lectures to your cubemate the word has flourished on the website 4Chan, where the site's users have become so well trained at self deprecation that they've come to use the word to describe themselves.

You see, on 4Chan, “fag” has become somewhat of an honorific, much like “-san” or “-chan” in the Japanese language. If you're from Australia, you are known as an “ausfag”. Fond of music? You're a musicfag. Christfag. Macfag. Straightfag. No, don't rewind the scene, you heard that correctly. Straightfag. There is a place on the internet where (presumably) cis heterosexual men identify themselves as “fags”. Again, this isn't name calling. These are titles that people give themselves. If you can find a clearer example of cultural appropriation by an oppressor, then I will steal the hat off the nearest person and eat it in front of them.

Granted, I would argue that this word was lost long before 4Chan, or even the internet, for that matter. Sexual pejoratives are unique in that you don't actually need someone of that identity in the room for people to feel entitled to use it. A room full of white people are not likely to call each other, or themselves, or random inanimate objects the “n word” (unless it's a room full of white rappers, which shouldn't happen in the first place because I'm pretty sure that's why I pay taxes). I shouldn't have to tell you how painfully different this is from words like “fag” or “dyke” or “homo”. While visiting my point of origin Phoenix, Arizona, last week, I witnessed my friend, a grown man who has several LGBT acquaintances and considers himself “down with the cause”, call his toaster a “faggot”, and me a “double faggot” when I beat him at Mario Kart. Apparently I am twice the homosexual that a burned English muffin ever will be. Mama be so proud.

Before you thumb your nose at me, allow the opportunity to adjust your attitude for you. The anonymity of 4Chan does not diminish or short sell its impact on our current culture. Not even a little a bit. 4Chan is perhaps the most relevant non social networking website on the webs today. We're talking about a community of true neutral adventurers who shut down JFK airport with phony bomb threats with one hand and fight The Church of Scientology with the other. Only a fool would downplay the sheer strength of internet manpower it takes to bring Rick Astley's career back from the dead. It is a club with no membership roster that spans the entire fucking free world and Texas. Eating out, riding public transit, anywhere you go, there is Anonymous. You can practically see them from space.

And don't shake what little faith I have left in you by thinking that this trend will not migrate over to the meatspace. That's what the internet does. It modifies the analog, flesh and bone world to better emulate itself. Them's the breaks, kiddo. It's not that bizarre at all to imagine cis hetero folk calling themselves “fags” in public unironically. And if its usage spreads, the word will lose all its original meaning. It will be too ambiguous to reclaim. What are you supposed to do? Put an accent or write it in italics when you intend the homosexual definition? You better put your top minds to it, because I sure as hell don't have any answers. I've been up all night thinking of what I can call my genitalia without triggering half my blog readership, and I require their pageviews for sustenance. If I wanted to solve problems I would have pursued my plans to be an academic.

So what's the moral of this somewhat bleak and erratic rant? It might do us, as a community, some good to just look at LOLcats, count to ten, and hug it out. When one considers how much of our culture is usurped and assimilated by cis hetero society on a daily basis, the good that all this self-policing does amounts to less than nothing. So much less than nothing it would require us all to retake Calculus just to properly define it. In other words, just stop. Let the trans men call themselves trannies and the gay-male-identified women call themselves girlfags. Stop spell-checking the bi folk. Let everyone enjoy our language and culture before it becomes meaningless.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to change my phone number and fake my death.

Creative Commons License