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Queer Terms That Annoy - Mo's Journal
September 20th, 2007
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Queer Terms That Annoy
I was motivated by a post on niennah's journal, where she expressed distaste for the term "homosex" to try a poll.

Poll #1058344 Queer Words That Bother You

Which of the following words or usages of words rub you the wrong way?

Homosex
2(6.5%)
Gay, when used as a noun
0(0.0%)
Sexual Preference
0(0.0%)
Lifestyle
2(6.5%)
Queer
0(0.0%)
Dyke
0(0.0%)
Fag
1(3.2%)
Gay Marriage
0(0.0%)

Which of the following terms bother you when used to identify a member of a committed same-sex couple?

Lover
0(0.0%)
Partner
1(3.2%)
Significant Other
0(0.0%)
Roommate
5(16.1%)
Friend
1(3.2%)
Spouse
0(0.0%)
Girlfriend or Boyfriend
0(0.0%)
Husband or Wife
1(3.2%)

Of the ones above that rub you the wrong way, do they

Bother you when used by straight people
4(12.1%)
Bother you when used in mixed (i.e. queer and non-queer) company
1(3.0%)
Bother you when used non-ironically by anybody
16(48.5%)
Bother you when used by anyone for any purpose
12(36.4%)



Please feel free to expand on your views in comments. I'll give mine after I see some results.

ETA: I'm a doofus when it comes to polls. I realized, in trying to fill it out myself, that some terms could bother one in certain contexts and others in different contexts and still others in all contexts. So feel free to complain about that in comments and also to explain which terms bother you in which.

(35 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
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From:marag
Date:September 20th, 2007 12:49 pm (UTC)
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Don't ask me why fag bothers me and queer doesn't, but it's most definitely true. Maybe it's because I've seen queer "reclaimed" so to speak by the community but I haven't seen fag go through the same process.

It may go without saying, but I dislike almost any word spoken in a nasty tone that shows it's intended to be derogatory.

I'm bugged by roommate and friend because they tend to be used when people are afraid of coming out as queer. So it's mostly that their use makes me sad. You shouldn't have to call your lover/spouse/wife your friend to avoid being run out of town.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
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Fag is one for me that only works in an in-group way. I took a long time to accept the reclamation of queer, but I've been won over. It's such a useful word, just because it covers so much, yk?

I hate "roommate" and "friend" as well. I can't think of a good context to use those when referring to a committed partner. As you said, people use it about their own partners when afraid to come out and people use it about others' partners when not wanting to acknowledge the true nature of the relationship.

I seem to be the only one bugged by girlfriend/boyfriend but I feel it trivializes committed relationships (making them seem less than straight marriages and more like the precursors to straight marriages) and also that for those of us well past girlhood it's infantilizing. I was at my lover's union's annual picnic a couple of weeks ago and she said "Come on - I want to introduce you to the president of our local." I said, "Fine, but *don't* call me your girlfriend."


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From:marag
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)
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::nods:: I can totally see what you mean about girlfriend/boyfriend. That would bug me too!

And that's why I love queer--because I hate saying LGBTQWTFBBQ or whatever it is these days. I don't want to worry that I've left someone out!
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From:libgirl
Date:September 20th, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)
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This isn't necessarily a true picture for me. I don't like "dyke" or "fag" unless it's used by someone in the community (an even then I don't really like but respect their right to self-identify in any way they like). Both of those terms carry a lot of connotative baggage for me and most of it is bad. As a political term, "Swarm of Dykes" for example is a radical feminist and lesbian group at OU, used by the LGBT community, I can understand it.

I don't like roommate or friend used to describe someone to describe a committed couple when it's done in order to obfuscate the real situation or relationship. I would never use "lover" to describe my relationship with anyone for me it's too intimate a term to use as a public identifier--but that's me.

I hate "homosex" and "gay" as a noun always.

Sexual preference is a loaded term--another one with connotative baggage. It implies that one's sexual orientation is a choice, something one can control. I don't personally believe that and I think that politically it undermines the fight for equality. After all, if one really wanted to have those equal rights, then presumably, they could just "choose" to be with the appropriately gendered/sexed partner. (grrrr) I have the same issue with lifestyle.

Sorry Mo, didn't mean to take over your journal for a mini-rant.

I'll stop there.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
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Don't apologize for the rant - it was interesting. And it's my fault that the poll results don't adequately represent your views. The poll was flawed.
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From:skyline3way
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
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Completely misread #2, so answers are skewed. Please forgive me, I'm on my way to the dr with the 4 year old.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
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I hope the four-year-old is okay!
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From:notmonica
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:06 pm (UTC)
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I think the first category has the most terms that are open to interpretation depending on how they're used and by whom. I probably would have included "gay as a noun" except I recently heard it used in a comedy routine (the character was a dim witted teenage boy) and it was hilarious.

I notice that some people clicked lifestyle, which to me calls to mind a generic term, not one solely used for describing a same-sex situation. I talk about my 'lifestyle' all the time, then again if that term were being flung at me in a derogatory tone I'd probably find it offensive.

Conversely, as of right now, I'm the only one who clicked 'queer' because my immediate instinct is to say "that implies that there is something wrong or unusual about being gay or lesbian and that's wrong". So, *shrug* I won't be adding any new terms to my slang vocabulary but if anyone tells me that using a particular word is offensive I'll remove it immediately.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:44 pm (UTC)
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I'm fine with "lifestyle" in some contexts, e.g. "urban lifestyle" "affluent lifestyle" and so on. But when being gay is referred to as a lifestyle, it bugs me. You hear it in a variety of contexts, as you said, but you never hear about "the heterosexual lifestyle." Queer folk have as varied lifestyles as straight people and "the homosexual lifestyle" like "the homosexual agenda" assumes otherwise.
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From:notmonica
Date:September 20th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Well, referring to "the gay lifestyle" implies a degree of choice which is fundamentally incorrect.
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From:notmonica
Date:September 20th, 2007 03:43 pm (UTC)
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And, may I add that, even though I'm straight, I think if someone of ANY sexual orientation introduces their lover as their "roommate" or "friend" then they're ashamed of either the person or the relationship. Not good.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
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FWIW sometimes I think it's fear, not shame. And sometimes the fear is founded, and sometimes un -. Why does Jodie Foster, for example, with all her wealth and power, feel the need to pretend in public that she's a single mother? I don't think it can be deemed a reasonable fear, but I think it's definitely fear.

Sometimes closeted folk like to believe that they just value their privacy, but I think they're deceiving themselves. The composition of one's family is not generally considered to be something even the most private people keep secret.
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From:notmonica
Date:September 21st, 2007 12:04 pm (UTC)
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It's interesting that you pick Jodie Foster. She and I are exactly the same age and I feel I've "grown-up" with her. I adore her, but I've always been disappointed that she has chosen not to "come out", particularly since she has had children (interestingly, our children are exactly the same age as well). She so smart and level-headed that it surprises me. She's powerful enough in Hollywood to drive her own projects so I don't think it would a career breaker for her. It makes me sad for her.
The composition of one's family is not generally considered to be something even the most private people keep secret.
Exactly.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Well, yes and no. I think "the gay lifestyle" is fundamentally incorrect because we have a whole lot of different lifestyles, as I mentioned. But what one does with one's sexual orientation is, after all, a choice. Larry Craig, for example, chooses to be publicly heterosexual and have anonymous sex with men in bathrooms.
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From:notmonica
Date:September 21st, 2007 12:06 pm (UTC)
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Larry Craig, for example, chooses to be publicly heterosexual and have anonymous sex with men in bathrooms.

OMG, that actually made me LOL (and I was drinking water at the time, unfortunately)!

Thanks for doing this poll. I found it (and the associated comments) to be very illuminating.
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From:mofic
Date:September 21st, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
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OMG, that actually made me LOL


I live to serve. And to make you spit water all over yourself :-).

I'm finding the discussion interesting, too!
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From:melannen
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
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I dislike 'gay' used as a noun to refer to a person, but I'm okay with it used ironically to refer to the essence of homosexuality, ie : "There is so much gay in that show, it makes The Sentinel look straight."

Of course I don't like any of them when used derogatorily or used as a general synonym for 'bad'.

'Dyke' and 'queer' I think of as mostly reclaimed - in most contexts - but I'm only comfortable with 'fag' if the person is using it to positively describe *themself*, not other people. I guess I don't think it's quite as reclaimed for me as the others.

I don't like girlfriend and boyfriend for a committed couple regardless of gender. And husband and wife are really strongly tied to heteronormativity in weird ways in my mind, so it bothers me on a kneejerk level when same-sex couples use them unironically, even if they're married, and it bothers me at least a little with het couples who use them constantly, too. But I live with both of those sets of terminology for lack of anything better. Same thing with pretty much everything on that list, actually - I don't much like any of them for het or gay couples (except maybe 'spouse'), but I deal.
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From:melannen
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC)
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Oh - also, I don't like 'lifestyle' at all when it's used to refer to just being in a committed relationship with a person of the same sex, but I'm okay with it when it's used to describe people who actually are basing most of their lifestyle choices on their orientation (...which these days would be a lot rarer than in a historical setting, and I don't know why I automatically assumed you'd be meaning it in the second sense. Time to go examine my privilege again yay.)
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
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I'm okay with it when it's used to describe people who actually are basing most of their lifestyle choices on their orientation

Can you describe what that would look like? And, in particular, when you would say that someone is living a heterosexual lifestyle? I'm having trouble picturing it.
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From:melannen
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
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I guess I associate it with 'camp'? Somone who embraces all the stereotypes on purpose and experiences gayness as a subculture as much as an orientation. I'm not sure I would ever use the term, especially because of the less-specific use (I'd be more likely to say 'camp' or 'flamboyantly gay' than 'living the gay lifestyle') but it doesn't bother me at all to see it used, especially when used to refer to the subculture as a whole rather than to pigeonhole a specific person. But all of my knowledge of gay-as-subculture comes from books, so I'm willing to admit that it may not have much to do with actual experiences people had.

But I think there is a straight-male-as-subculture lifestyle that's talked about fairly often which would work as a contrast (and in many ways I guess they're deliberately performed as opposites), 'the bachelor lifestyle', although both of those subcultures are admittedly extremely problematic.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:25 pm (UTC)
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But I think there is a straight-male-as-subculture lifestyle that's talked about fairly often which would work as a contrast


Hmmm. I've truly never heard anyone refer to "the heterosexual lifestyle" or "the straight male lifestyle" except to say how ridiculous it sounds, so why would we say "homosexual lifestyle" or "gay lifestyle."

I do consider myself part of gay and lesbian subculture, although I more often use the term "gay and lesbian community," but I don't see it as limited to camp or being flamboyantly gay. Our subculture or community has a bunch of elements to it, including common reference points, cultural artifacts, shared history, shared terminology, etc.

I do think that "flamboyantly gay" or "stereotypically gay" are meaningful terms, but I can't see "gay lifestyle" as having any meaning other than as a put down. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, though.
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From:melannen
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:43 pm (UTC)
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I am not the person to convince you because, like I said, I'd never even though about it until now!

I was contrasting it with what's called 'the bachelor lifestyle' rather than 'straight male lifestyle', - the bachelor lifestyle is referred to pretty often in its own right.

And maybe, honestly, it's a carryover from way back in the day when the average straight person wouldn't associate the word 'gay' with anything *but* camp (and for that matter, the bachelor lifestyle was seen as kind of edgy too.) My vocabulary is occasionally about sixty years behind the times due to reading too many old books.

I think there is a difference between being in a subculture and living that subculture as a lifestyle, which I didn't really make clear. To use an example where I actually know what I'm talking about: I live the geek lifestyle because pretty much everything from the way I dress to where I work to how my home looks identifies me as a geek, but I have plenty of friends who are happily into the subculture and spend their free time doing geeky stuff with other geeks and speak out for geek solidarity when they need to, but they don't define their entire lives by it and aren't identifiable as members until they start talking passionately about it, so I wouldn't say they're living it as a lifestyle. (Some of them are even 'in the closet' to their families.)
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
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I don't much like any of them for het or gay couples (except maybe 'spouse'), but I deal.

LOL! We all deal, regardless, don't we? I used spouse when I was married.

I think I'm with you on husband and wife, even for straight people. It doesn't bother me when someone introduces someone as "my husband" or "my wife" but if they always refer to the person as such, it grates. I feel like saying "Why can't you use his/her name?" I'm not sure why it bugs me, though. I say things like "I heard from my sister today" perfectly comfortably, even to those who know her name, so why should it annoy me if someone says "My husband wants to see that movie" rather than using his name?
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From:melannen
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I agree. If someone uses 'husband' or 'wife' in situations where the first name would work perfectly okay, it starts to feel like they value them for their gender role rather than as a person, and that gets icky-feeling real fast. And I think it's because it's strongly associated with those traditional gender roles for me that it never sounds quite right when same-sex couples use it even in introductions, though of course I'll go with it if they want.

I think if I end up in a committed relationship it'll either be 'spouse' or it'll be 'this is my man' or 'my woman'; problematic as those are I prefer them to boyfriend/girlfriend or lover.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
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You have "Bess you is my woman now" singing in my brain!

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From:lilacsigil
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:15 pm (UTC)
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I'd never heard the word "homosex" - does it mean "sex between homosexual people?" or something else?
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
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I generally see it to mean a general term for all manner of sexual activity between men. The female analog is "lesbisex". And both terms are used with a little irony or humor more often than not, in my experience.

Here's an example of its use from my fiction. Scott, having just told his coming out story ("coming out" in the sense of first same-sex sexual experience) to Logan in an email, says at the end of the description of having sex for the first time at a boy scout camp out:

P. S. So, which do you think that the powers-that-be in the Boy Scouts would be more upset about? The homosex, or the fact that they were harboring a mutant in their midst?
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From:born2rumble1st
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
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Gay, used as a noun, is my pet peeve. I don't know about other age groups, but in the 20 something crowd (and younger) it's very common to hear people say "That is SO gay." And since it is usually meant in a derogatory way (i.e. bad, girly, unusual), it irritates me to no end. I've almost trained all of my friends out of it, but I still hear it pop up occasionally. When I do, I give them the glare of death, and I rarely hear it from them again. :)
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC)
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But in "that is so gay" it's being used as an adjective, just a pejorative one!
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From:born2rumble1st
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)
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Really? I thought it was a predicate noun or something? What can I say, I admit I missed way too many grammar classes when I was little. The perils of being a military brat. :) Whatever it is, it still bugs me!
(Deleted comment)
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC)
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So a lot of it has to do with context, of course. And the words I don't like are for my own weird reasons.

LOL! That about covers it for all of us, but I do find it interesting to hear which contexts bother whom and for which weird reasons.

When I started working in public health I felt put off by all the references to MSM (men who have sex with men). I've come to feel that it's a very good and useful term!
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From:fyredancer
Date:September 20th, 2007 01:48 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, that last needs to be a ticky, too.

Dyke and fag bother me when they're being used by someone as deliberate insults, or by people who haven't earned the "right" to use them if that makes any sense.

"Roommate" of all those terms bothers me because it's just so closeted and condescending. Though I guess "friend" could fall in the same euphemistic category. Everything else in that pollset allows for the emotional and intimate connection.
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From:mofic
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC)
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by people who haven't earned the "right" to use them if that makes any sense.

It makes sense to me. I said something similar, when I said that they are fine when used by fags and dykes but suspect when used by straight people. I should have added that the suspicion can be allayed.
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From:mercy
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:43 pm (UTC)
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None of the terms from the first question bother me, so I left it blank.

I know that the "that's gay" slang annoys a lot of people, but for me it was more of an issue of grammar. I choose to use it correctly (i.e. the Batman and Robin's relationship is so gay) and have had this spread amongst my straight friends.
[User Picture]
From:mercy
Date:September 20th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)

PS

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Homosex

I have never heard that before. It sounds stupid.
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