Sunday, April 21, 2013

Faggot








Being called a faggot is not a turn-on for me. Hearing somebody else called faggot isn't either. I'll admit that it even gets under my skin, although I know that the admission makes me seem uptight. It's not so much the word itself as the attitude behind it. That attitude is the way of thinking that takes male attraction to males to be inferior to male attraction to females. The same attitude can even be conveyed (and often is) with the typically inoffensive word gay--as in "that's so gay," or "this gay-ass organization," or "you don't come off as gay." (I never say thank you for the latter, supposedly a compliment. Usually I don't preach either. I try to politely ignore the implicit insult, assuming that the speaker intended to be nice.) I accept that all sexual desire has its funny side, its animalistic and absurd sides too. What I don't accept is that homosexual desire is intrinsically funnier, sadder, or nastier than any other passion. I don't think that what makes my cock hard is in any way inferior to what makes other people's cocks hard.

Strains of homophobia pervade the world of wrestling, pro and collegiate, perhaps even sumo, for all I know. Specifically it's male-male attraction that's condemned. Female wrestlers are not openly criticized for presumed lesbian tendencies. I'm unaware of there being a dyke gimmick in pro wrestling that's comparable to the gay gimmick or the various f-a-g acronyms (e.g., "fun athletic guy"). Because I'm a gay male who loves wrestling, I, along with others like me, too frequently have to work through complicated feelings of rage, insult, and embarrassment when homophobic attitudes intrude upon the sport and spectacle I love. Not even gay-oriented wrestling sites are safe havens. Several gay wrestling companies have featured wrestlers using gay-specific slurs or, less directly, depicted situations that look uncomfortably like gay-bashing.

What do I do? I pretend that the slur is ironic, knowing full well that comparable "ironies" are not directed to other minorities on the wrestling roster or in the audience. Usually a heel voices the slur, thus establishing his heel-ness and rebellious heel attitude. In such cases, I rationalize that the use of the word is part of the show. I take it as being somehow less real, fakery like wrestlers' coming from "parts unknown." I suspect that the slur is read in a multitude of ways by different members of the audience. But I also know full well that no heel is going to establish his villainy credentials by using nigger or kike in his tirades. 

But why then the slur against gay guys, specifically? It can't be that the wrestlers and promoters don't know we're in the audience (and the gay wrestling sites obviously know we're there ... and listening). It might be that they suspect that the type of gay guys who watch wrestling shows are too deep in the closet to object. Perhaps some of us even see it as kinky, fun abuse. Or perhaps it's a way for wrestlers to express their discomfort with being sexually objectified, in their skinny, shiny tights and oiled torsos. (On Facebook recently, a sexy, buff wrestler I'm very fond of complained that some fans seem to see him and his colleagues as "male strippers." More's the pity that they are not.) Or it might be that homophobia is so deeply embedded in our culture--like sexism, and racism--that use of the slur has no intentions whatsoever anymore, good or bad, ... like accusing your rival of having a vagina, or naming a football team "Redskins." And we all know that guy-talk gets kind of rough sometimes, with no real malice intended.

Also, it might be, as Wrestling Arsenal has suggested on a number of occasions, that pro wrestling spectacle is, in its entirety, a ritualized or stylized emasculation ... of wrestlers and fans. Homophobic slurs would then be just another form of low blow, or wedgie, or unmasking, or humiliating defeat. Or it might be cathartic, a way of inciting "gay panic" among the men in the audience, who may feel a bit touchy about showing up to watch "attractive dudes 'rolling around in their underwear.'" The slur might somehow collectively purge the crowd of its small-dick syndrome. I find this explanation not only plausible but kind of reassuring, but I also suspect that the average wrestler and the average wrestling fan do not go through the intellectual loops required to "read" wrestling entertainment in this way.

Words are just words. I know that. I'm not for banning any of them. I'll admit that I very rarely use faggot and queer and homo, but almost always with a measure of genuine affection undercutting the sarcasm. And thin-skinned professional "victims" make me cringe almost as much as people who deride people they believe are inferior to themselves. Hate and bigotry, however, are more than just words. They are attitudes, beliefs, and character qualities. Unchecked and unopposed, they become pervasive and normalized, perhaps even idealized as aspects of the rugged individualist or the romantic rebel. From there, it's just a step or two to thinking that we're not all in the same boat--or that some of us intrinsically don't deserve to be in the boat at all.

For that reason, I have determined to cheer the flamboyant gay-perceived wrestlers, to wolf-howl studly bubble-butted male wrestlers as if they were NFL cheerleaders, as much as possible to avoid publicizing matches that seem mainly fueled by gay self-loathing, and to follow the lead of my friend Elizabeth, who, at Ring of Honor in Richmond last year, told the guy next to us who had expressed some concern that the show was about to go all gay on us, "Gay? We like that. That's the reason we came!"

Photos: Top to bottom, so to speak--(1) TNA wrestler Bully Ray apologized last month for calling a fan "faggot" and "frickin' queer" on camera; (2)  WWF tag team Billy (Gunn) and Chuck (Palumbo), who in 2002 had a kayfabe "commitment ceremony" during which they came out as heterosexual; (3) straight GLBT rights advocate and wrestling coach Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally; (4) authentically bisexual Orlando Jordan flaunting it with a boy toy on TNA Wrestling, circa 2011; (5) 2009 photo by Oliver Stach of unidentified mat wrestlers at a Dutch wrestling tournament; and (6) Fandango on WWE.

5 comments:

  1. If not liking 'faggot' used as an insult makes someone seem uptight then I'm whatever is 1,000 times past uptight. Forget the obvious slurs, I can't stand the word 'gay' used as a pejorative.

    I actually shared a potential blog entry with Bard a couple of weeks ago after hearing "what are you, gay?" asked in a recent video I bought from a company that is creating videos for a gay audience. Hearing it coming from my iPad speakers bugged me. If that makes me a professional victim, just send me my paycheque.

    With that said, I think conversation is different than public or commercial enterprises. From public people/places, I think there has to be a zero tolerance on negative words. And I appreciate the efforts of the word police. I think they're the reason we have campaigns like "You can play" that I think are great.

    In private conversation, we all have our moments. I might say spaz or lame without really thinking about context. Our individual un-PC terms often depend on age and where we grew up. However, I'm not doing it in front of an audience, impressing it on kids, setting societal standards or consciously trying to marginalize anyone. And I'm trying to get better.

    So I'd probably be cooler with the guy you met in the audience than I am with a certain video producer right now.

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  2. I like to think I'm not a prude or a victim, but fag, faggot, feygit, it's so hateful. I suppose each person's own history affects what they can stomach.

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  3. P.S. Context and intent (and perceived intent) also go a long way in determining how the word makes me feel.

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  4. I hope that BG East is not among the companies you reference regarding overt homophobic comments. I can;t say for certain that no one has ever uttered the "F" words (faggot, fairy, fruit etc) in our 30+ years of production but I can assure you it is not something we would take lightly. Someday, as an ancillary discussion, we might consider why some gay guys like being verbally abused with homophobic epithets. I've had more than a few private matches with guys for whom this was a huge turn-on. I'm a very obliging heel but I always found this particular brand of humiliation curious.

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  5. Some good points by everyone.

    Alex, I hope it didn't sound to you like I tolerate homophobia. I'm more tolerant of words, all words, though some (like "faggot") come with such a vile history that intent and context have to be carefully considered, as Stay Puft points out. Slurs used in private, though not necessarily benign, generally do less damage than slurs broadcast through the mass media.

    Slurs used ironically don't bother me either, but there's always the risk that the audience may miss the irony (few young Americans today sense irony, though many still have a sharp ear for bullshit--I speak from my experience teaching).

    As for the kink for abuse that Kid mentions, I think I can understand it a little bit, but any intentionally hurtful slur (even something as mild as "old man") hits me like a slap. Actually, I can enjoy slaps, delivered in the context of fantasy or teasing. Most verbal assaults immediately turn me off, though. It's hard for me to get past the insidious damage that words can do. Physical blows are, by comparison, innocent and animal. I suppose that, for me, a fight is mostly just a proxy for bonding, attention, and a desire to pull in closer, while playing rough and tough and macho. In my mind, it should be an explosion of energy and aggression that's meant to build or strengthen something between the two opponents. It may hurt, but it solidifies something between us--or else it "clears the air." A fight (or a slur) that's meant actually to tear me down or get rid of me is never the kind of fight I fantasize about--or enjoy watching played out. But then I'm only one person--and if verbal abuse or ritualized degradation somehow touches something beautiful in you and makes you a stronger, better person, then I say by all means go to it.

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