Sean Kosofsky

Flame Dame: This Year's "Fag Hag"

Filed By Sean Kosofsky | August 02, 2007 5:28 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: fag hags, fairy princess

Like many gay men who adore straight women and count them among our closest friends, I have been in a quandary for the thirteen years that I have been openly gay. I have always hated the sexist term "Fag Hag" but have used it like any guilty pleasure. So many of us have secretly wished there was a better term. Eight years ago I first heard the term "fairy princess" but that still stereotyped gay men as effete sissies. Then I heard the term "fruit fly" but that made gay men sound like rotting fruit and the woman sound like a disgusting aerial nuisance. Yuck.

In a movement that can think up clever drag names and other plays on gender norms, where are the clever and creative alternatives to "Fag Hag?"

In the past year, my best friend Rachel (I know, I know) heard the term "Flame Dame" and it has stuck with me every since. It is, so far, the most respectful term for a straight woman, used yet. Granted "flame" could mean effeminate or it could just mean "obviously and unapologetically gay." I could spin this until I am dizzy, but until we have a better term Dammit, I am using Flame Dame.

This may seem like a silly discussion, but I believe that the language we use does set a tone and that use of the term "Fag Hag" should be limited if not entirely rejected. Ok, some think it is cute because it rhymes but that is really an immature excuse to keep using a term that is offensive to many people.

I encourage anyone reading this to send me your best and favorite terms for a straight woman who loves to hang out with gay men. I also would love to hear any terms that may exist out there for lesbians who love to hang out with straight men. Hell, this could get fun. Send them to sean@tri.org or just respond to this blog.

The same debate rages regarding the term "straight-acting" among gay men. They clearly mean masculine or athletic but default to a term that many find problematic. I don't want to sound like the PC police but I do want a fun and light-hearted way of describing naturally occurring phenomena in our community that doesn't degrade the participants.

Sorry this blog entry isn't about politics, current events or celebrities. But I am really interested what our GLBT and allied friends are using around the world instead of "fag hag."


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Sean, why is fag hag limited to just straight wimmin? I'm a dyke who LUVS me some gay boys . . . Just ask Alex! I'm the biggest hag I know.

I think the more perplexing quandry is what to call a (typically gay) man who hangs out with lesbians. I've heard dyke tyke, but that's just stupid.

That's funny you should mention that Serena - my best friend is a lesbian. She and her partner are probably who Jerame and I hang out with most. I just call us "friends." :)

But I do agree that "fag hag" just isn't quite right; I've thought that for a while and tended not to use it regularly with any straight women friends. I can live with "flame dame." (And it rhymes!)

A. J. Lopp | August 3, 2007 1:07 AM

Two observations:

(1) I don't know if Bil and Alex and the rest of the Bilerico family will agree with this, but one reason I like Bilerico is that many here have indicated that they take language usage seriously ... but also not too seriously. Is it ever proper to use the n-word for a black person, or the f-word for a gay man? When is the word "queer" OK, and when is it not OK? These are important questions, because the way we speak influences the way we think, and the way we think determines what humans do with their lives.

So, Steve, please don't feel like you need to apologize because your post "isn't about politics, current events or celebrities." It's about language, and language is culture, and culture is one of the things that make us uniquely human and connects us with each other. In short, it's damn important, and totally worthy of discussion.

(2) One reason why finding a better term than "fag hag" is so problematic is that there are very few truly respectful terms for gay men --- and the ones that do exist tend to be specialized, such as "guppy" (still a bit disparaging), "bear" (a particular physical type of gay man), etc. Before we can solve the "fag hag" question, the totally acceptable terms for gay men need to be identified and/or expanded.

It just occurred to me that if "queer" is an OK term for a gay man, then maybe a woman whose best friends are gay men might be a "queer dear" --- it rhymes, it is affectionate toward the woman ... but it's a bit square, and somehow I doubt that it will catch on.

A. J. Lopp | August 3, 2007 1:11 AM

Ooops! I meant Sean, not Steve! Excusé moi, s'il-vous-plaît

Thanks for posting this because I've actually wondered about it for some time. My question is, why does there need to be a name at all? I do understand the unifying effect that group or team names can have, but it seems to me that "fag hag" is demeaning to both parties. It makes the woman seem very shallow to me--like the ONLY reason she likes the gay man is because he's gay--not because he's funny, kind, intelligent, witty, or whatever other traits he might have that make her like him and want to spend time with him. It also seems to demean the man in question because it makes it sound like he's not really someone likeable except that he's gay. Of course, I'm the type of person who resists labels and stereotypes of any kind because most of them end up being used in a derogatory manner, so it is hard for me to understand why you would want to create yet another label to apply to your friends. Am I missing the point or over-analyzing?

Queer dear! I like that!

Haley, I think the reason that this is an important question is because while heteronormative relationships have labels, queer relationships don't. And that is one way that people are able to minimize our community. If there's no word to describe something, it's easier to say it doesn't exist. There's no word for queer love. Therefore, we are incapable of love and consequently less than human.

I am a BIG BELIEVER in the concept of chosen family. I think it's what allowed us to survive the early days of the AIDS epidemic. My best friend and I had a really long talk about this one time. We are family, but what word do we have for each other? Because friend just isn't enough to describe the way I love him. And brother isn't right. We decided on "my petite ami." He is my heart, my special love. And yes, I am the hag to his fag.

But queer dear. I do like it!

Thank you all for your comments. I guess it was worthy of discussion. Hugs to you all. Queer Dear is very cute.

This is certainly an interesting (and ongoing) debate. When I first started hanging out with my gay friends, there was much debate about what to call me, to identify me, quickly and respectfully, as a friend of the 'family'. 'Fag hag' was quickly and decisively rejected by my best friend, and we have all since settled on the fact that I am, unapologetically, a Flame Dame. We have come up with the following 'definitions':

Fag Hag - while demeaning and not a preferred term, refers to those who hang out with gay men exclusively and use them as a means to boost their (low) self-esteem.

Fruit Fly - those who are enamored with the 'glamor' of the gay lifestyle and think it's fun to party... but the involvement ends when the party does. Often loud and views gays as fun 'tokens'.

Flame Dame - one who is a straight friend of the gay community and takes that friendship seriously, at all times. An advocate for the community and one who sees her gay friends not as 'gay' friends, but simply as amazing friends and people.

Hopefully this debate continues as we integrate the gay and straight communities even further. Perhaps one day, we won't even need the labels. :-)