(Liya Rechtman)– I grew up pretty gay. And I don’t mean my sexuality. I grew up in a pretty gay world. Other than my parents, who are a heterosexual couple, most of the adults I knew were homosexual couples. I didn’t understand, until about first grade, why a man and a woman would ever get married – it seemed to me that a man and a man or a woman and a woman would have so much more in common. Pines, Fire Island, a little community on a little strip of beach about an hour from Manhattan, was a safe haven for me and my family. I had a set of “fairy” godsisters (10ish single gay men between the ages of 20 and 40) who took me to my first clubs, bought me my first ever drink (Sprite with a shot of peach vodka), and talked to me about my first crushes… Gay men are, were, and always have been what I know.
As I grew up, and started to realize that I was attracted to both men and women, gay men became a safe space for me in a whole new way. Managing being “queer” is difficult. It’s obviously not the same as being a straight woman, but it’s also not the same as being lesbian. When I came out of the closet it wasn’t just “I’m gay,” it was “I’m gay… but I also like boys…” which I think is harder for a lot of people to understand. It also becomes harder to find asexual, or at least tension-free space. Gay men were the only demographic of people where I had an automatic freedom from sexual tension. Justine Pimlott, director of the documentary “Fag Hags: Women Who Love Gay Men,” says:
“The company of the gay man gives the straight woman the potential to express her sexuality without feeling the need to tone it down. There’s a mutual identification.”
Since coming to college, I have found myself at the center of a lot of the gay life. And now I’m starting to feel uncomfortable in that position. Recently, I was ascribed the word “fag hag.”
Fag hag is a term for a woman who either parties/had close personal ties/pseudo-relationships with gay men. A fag hag is stereotypically very outgoing, and hangs out with gay men either because she is ugly (hence: hag), attracted to gay men, single, or doesn’t feel safe in situations without gay men. It can either be taken as an insult or, perhaps less frequently, a compliment. Margret Cho, the comic, says takes being a fag hag as a badge of honor — “I’m here, I’m with that queer, get used to it.” There’s even the Miss Fag Hag Competition…
Less harsh synonyms for “fag hag” include: homo honey, fruit loop, Goldilocks, flame dame, fairy princess, and fairy godmother. Lily Allen sang:
I could be your fag hag
And you could be my gay
I’ll never make you feel sad
When you come out to play
We don’t give a Fuck
What people are thinking
I know you’ll always look out for me
When we go out drinking
However, despite Lilly Allen’s acceptance of the term, I find myself unsettled by its use, and its personal application. And the more I think about it, the more I realize what my position is, as a woman, and regardless of my personal sexual orientation, in the gay male community. The more I listen for sexism, the more I find it. I keep hearing my gay male friends talk about their other close female friends, referring to them as “just some bitch.” Maybe this is a cultural slang I’m not used to, but I would never refer to someone I’m close to as “just some” anything, unless I didn’t actually like them.
But maybe it’s indicative of a greater issue in “the gay community.” As a queer woman, meaning neither gay nor straight, I find myself able to see the limitations of both gay and straight culture in a way that someone firmly settled in one or the other cannot. It feels to me as if I see everything in full color, while both groups are partially color-blind (to both their self-perception, and perception of the “other.”) A lot of gay culture is about rejecting straight culture, not just the heterosexual, hetero-erotic relationships of romantic partners, but all and any heteronormative/heterosexual relationships.
To me, this is problematic and frustrating. I expected, in re-acculturating myself, as an adult, into the gay community, to find a level of understanding and open-mindedness that was missing in my straight communities. However, what I’ve realized recently is that, while there certainly are perks to both, neither the gay or straight community is particularly tolerant of individuals who don’t fit into their normative standards. In the straight community I’m “just some bitch,” meaning queer and feminist and outspoken. In the gay community, I’m “just some bitch” meaning a woman, fag hag.
I don’t really know yet how to move forward with this realization, so, unfortunately, she-bomb readers, I cant supply you with a conclusive resolution. Maybe you can give me one…
If you’re interested in reading more about the sociology of “fag haggery,” I recommend this blog from the Scientific American, and this series of interviews of gay men on their relationships with straight women.