Wait, put your pitchforks down for a second. I’m 0% homophobic and I love my brother, I swear. There’s an 18-month age difference, and we grew up inseparable. We’re best friends, we share an apartment, we know basically everything about each other. He’s gay, I’m straight. I call him a faggot to his face. Why? Because we’re brothers.
If you’ve never greeted your sibling or best friend with something in the vein of “hey, shithead,” or said something like “love you, douchebag,” then I have no idea how you got an Internet connection or what you’re even doing in this conversation. The gift of simple, fun expression has eluded you and I’m sorry for your loss. Siblings say this shit to each other. The term “faggot” is just one of those words I’ve chosen to use when talking to my brother in common brotherly fashion.
Now, if a stranger calls him a faggot, that person is getting a verbal atomic weapon dropped straight on his unfortunate eardrums. My brother goes to the gym far more than I even use the word “gym,” so if anyone is delivering an ass-whooping, it’ll be him. Plus I don’t believe in violence. But that won’t stop me from acting like a crazed Al Pacino and screaming at the fucker who dared refer to him as a bundle of sticks in Old English. The Big Brother Defense Response doesn’t go away, ever, and I will act tough (which usually fools nobody) if necessary.
This is where you pick your pitchforks back up, brand me a homophobe AND a hypocrite, then proceed to eviscerate me in the comments section. What gives me the right to use a hateful word and not someone else? That’s easy: nothing. The word itself will never, ever bother us. There is no such thing as a hateful word—they’re just letters strung together. The context and intent behind each individual use is what I focus on, as is the case with any derogatory or “bad” word. My theoretical straw man, for instance, with the backwards cap, bulging biceps, and “Come At Me Bro” sleeveless T-shirt, uses “faggot” with the purpose to be hurtful. He is somehow repulsed by homosexuality and feels the urge to be venomous about it. That’s what pisses us off. There is no hatred or any malicious purpose when I say it and my brother knows that. He recognizes the context.
There’s a catch, though: not everyone can magically know the context behind what I’m saying. I’m not going to walk around the grocery store with the brother yelling, “Ian! Stop walking so fast, you fag!” I’m aware of the history of hate and violence associated with the term. For some, it’s a bitter reminder that many shitty parts of society are still full of ignorance and those parts will never accept them for who they are. I can’t imagine how much that sucks. Thus, that’s the context we assume strangers are using. So I don’t say “faggot” in public because that would be insensitive on a staggering level.
Notice I’m not saying you can’t use the word in public. Nothing will piss me off more than hearing that. “You can’t use that word.” Are you seriously going to sit there with “Je Suis Charlie” slathered all over your Twitter and then tell me what words I can and cannot use? Do people understand how glaringly stupid that is? The stranger who called my brother a faggot is an absolute dick, but he has every right to say it. Just like my brother has the right to respond with the most horrendous verbal lashing that dude will ever receive in his pathetic life. Use whatever words you want, people. Freedom of speech really is muy importante. Just keep in mind that not everybody knows you’re not an asshole and you might not want to be giving them a reason to think you are (like I am right now). If you do give them a reason to think you’re an asshole, they have the right to tell you so.
Oh, and when I’m not in public? Well, what I do or say in the privacy of my own home doesn’t affect you in any way. Can’t remember where I’ve heard that little gem before.
My brother and I have a tacit understanding that no matter what we call each other, we’re still brothers and we love each other. A word isn’t going to magically sever the bonds we’ve formed over 24 years of growing up together. The fact that we can say whatever we want simply reflects how close we are. Hell, we look alike (unfortunately for him), have the same mannerisms, both have this weird obsession with Nicki Minaj, and yet there are countless differences that set us apart. We acknowledge them in funny ways and that’s awesome. Just one of those differences is that he will sleep with a dude and I will AT MOST drunkenly make out with a dude, which there is apparently photo evidence of. I can totally explain, by the way.
Well, never mind. I guess we’re both faggots.
Love you, Brah!