Bil Browning

Should we ditch the queeny lingo?

Filed By Bil Browning | May 21, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay slang, gay stereotypes, Michael Musto, old queens

Village Voice columnist and hilarious cable news pundit Michael Musto asked an interesting question on his blog earlier this week about stereotypical gay slang.

Certain pre-Stonewall-ish lingo is still thrown around by old queens like bottles of Poppers, and it may be starting to sound a little stale.

Musto continues to ask if slang like "Girlfriend!", "snap!", "fabulous!", etc. should get the heave ho in order to push the LGBT movement forward. Click through to see what Musto's decision is, but what say ye, Projectors?

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When i was younger and first heard men using the word "she" referring to themselves, i was righteously appalled. Then i grew up and realized that what other people say is no reflection of me. Now when i hear that i smile and feel nostalgia. I think it somewhat cute and coy even if used on me by friends if it is few and far between. Musto has to think of somethin to write and "Mary Louise, she's aint one to talk!!!" I adamantly say NO to blending.

christophe | May 21, 2009 7:18 PM

While I've always felt uncomfortable using that slang, to ban it would be like banning our entire culture. its so much a part of who we all are it would be impossible to get rid of. It certainly doesn't make us look any worse to the right wing fundies than we already look, nothing could do that. They already think in their own minds we are nothing more than a bunch of child molesters in the making. I've had many friends refer to me using this slang and I've gotten used to it. It can be quite amusing.

blah. "oh snap" isn't gay, is it? It's what google chrome says when a tab crashes - "oh snap!" I thought it was more a part of gamer culture than teh gayz.

I wouldn't mind seeing "bitch" go away because of the sexism, though.

A. J. Lopp | May 24, 2009 11:17 AM

"Bitch" can be de-sexed, the way that some hip-hop artists went a distance toward de-insulting the n-word.

I know a number of men, both gay and straight, who I can say, without trying to feminize them, that they are real bitches.

Slang doesn't make us look bad. Our values and behaviour do. Looksism, ageism, objectification, irresponsible sexuality, etc...
Gay slang is a subset of camp, the greatest and most fantabulousest comic genious in the known Universe. Mary. Get used to it.

Sorry, no interest in anything that transphobic twit has to say.

Christopher | May 21, 2009 7:50 PM

girl, please

I love queeny language. People who think it needs to be chucked "for the good of the movement" are usually the same people who will only advance "the movement" if the movement only means gay men whose gender presentation doesn't intrude anywhere near the feminine end of the scale. That's anti-femme, anti-woman, anti-queer, anti-trans... if you're trying to advance LGBTQ rights, you have to remember it's about more than just YOU, you straight-appearing monogamous vanilla cisgendered white gay men who have picket fences and 2.3 children.

Wait a minute, that's the same guy who recently claimed that bisexuality didn't exist and all the bi folks were just closeted monosexual queers. All the bi lists were in an uproar about that.

He's anti-trans, anti-bi, and now anti-old queens. Why does anyone still give him a platform?

Indeed. I'm deeply suspicious of anyone who wants to give any form of expression "the heave ho" in the name of "push[ing] the LGBT movement forward," but if I wasn't sure, the fact that it was Musto saying it would have clued me in to it being bad news. We're no longer worth anything as a movement if that movement is only for certain people, or only for people who toe the line and express themselves in particular mainstream-friendly ways -- and writing off a way of talking is sure to lead to writing off the people who speak that way, if they refuse to comply. I'm no more interested in leaving old queens behind in my quest for justice than I am trans folks, bisexuals, or anyone else.

Well then exactly how would the old queen Michael communicate?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2009 10:23 PM

I did not read him as being "anti" anything but pro preservation of slang. I would add that in a less safe time then today you could be identified as part of a group by the mildest phrases.

"You are a club member, right?"

This phrase, and others like them, allowed Gays to have full communication without anyone else knowing what was going on. Other minorities do the exact same thing to communicate around others who might oppress them.

Slang phrases come and go, but there is a subset of Gay people who live there for a period, and usually outgrow it. I have heard many regional variations including "Fabu" which grate on the nerves the 20th time you have heard it in five minutes.

A. J. Lopp | May 24, 2009 11:23 AM
"You are a club member, right?"

I'm not only the CEO, I'm also a client.

I've never used language like that, and don't care for it. But it's not for me to tell others how they should speak.

Tobi & Dyss -

I must have missed Musto's anti-trans and anti-bi statements. Got links? I find him funny quite often and look forward to his appearances on cable news shows. I added him to my RSS reader just because of his TV appearances. That would bring him down quite a bit in my book.

Here's the anti bi article he wrote. You can see from the comments that folks are quite upset. I didn't know about him until he popped up on my lists for his anti-bi hate speech, but apparently other folks have been upset at him for a number of other things in the past.

Since I don't follow him, I actually don't know what anti-trans stuff he's said, but it wasn't hard to look back in the archives and the only mention of a trans person I can find on the first page is one that is getting the death penalty for murder -- and Musto goes ahead and uses what appear to be inappropriate pronouns without any explanation. It's not the worst thing someone can say, but the fact that the only representation of a trans person is to deride them definitely appears to be a red flag to me.

This video has Musto saying some pretty darn transphobic stuff, starting at around 3:25.

That whole Olbermann editorial was disgustingly misogynistic, and just got worse when he brought Musto on. Surprised the hell out of me. Rachel Maddow should have ripped him a new one for that.

Well, a bit late to the party, but now you get an idea.

You might find it humorous, his using trans lives as an insult, but I find it demeaning to be used as an insult.

Its not that I lack a sense of humor, mind you, about trans stuff (indeed, I might be dark, but its there), it s that there are better ways to be humorous than using race, or sexual orientation, or similar as an insult.

Nor is the olbermann quote the first time he's done so -- he does it frequently in his columns. While I'm all for exposure, his sort does more damage than the twits pushing "bathroom bill" as arguments against us.

At least they simply side step the issue of our existence.

He might as well be saying that's so Gay.

If you ever hear me say the word "fabulous", it is because I'm being sarcastic, as in "Spaghetti Junction's blocked by an overturned tractor trailer rig - fabulous, simply fabulous."

Who in our "community" or world has the authority to ban any words? Who has such ultimate control over meaning?

I know if anyone tried to set themselves up in my life as the "definer", the first thing I would do (if it was worth the effort) is show them how they are not.

Our community has a long history of slang, like Polari. It's kind of interesting to read about it. Makes me feel like I'm part of something enduring.

People should be as they are. And, as we used to say back in the day, "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke".

It's better in the long run for "the movement" if we don't change how we behave. I don't use that particular type of slang (nor am I a gay man, so I suppose it doesn't impact me directly), but it seems to me that the goal of the LGBT movement should essentially be to get folks to accept and grant equal rights to people who are different from them. Making deliberate changes to our behavior in order to render ourselves more acceptable to mainstream straight culture doesn't really do that. As the other commenters said, people are free to speak however they want (barring offensiveness), and our movement should be supporting that freedom.

divadarya | May 22, 2009 11:09 AM

Aww...Our movement is growing up. When we grow up, we have growing pains, and like any group of oppressed people, we're hardest on ourselves. On a purely subjective level, the "queeny lingo" is a red flag to me about how and when that particular gay man was socialized. I've had very few young gay men give me that "Oh, puleeze" look that older gay men give me, especially when they've been drinking heavily. It's a look of world-weary bemused contempt that assumes that if you are six foot three and wearing mascara you are just a gay man in denial; they don't get teh Trans and they don't get teh Bi. Musto's attitude about bisexuality is as contemporary as a Village People album on vinyl.
All this said, I love the music of hearing our elders dish this stuff out; puhleeeze Mary, lighten up!

How great that so many people piled on to Musto and put the smackdown on him. Some of those comments were so articulate and shrewd.

this discussion is really a bit unfair. most are attacking Musto on what was in the post above and didn't bother to go and read everything he wrote. This is how he ends his post on the Village Voice:

Let me sashay right into my own discussion and answer that, girlfriend. No! I LOVE these hoary old words and feel they should be linguistically landmarked because of the history they represent and the punch they continue to carry. They still fieeerce! And if you're embarassed by them, I'll read you to filth, bitch!


i have this tendency of going directly to the source to find out what really happened, probably from being burned in the past by media types.

It may be my young age, but hearing other gay men call themeselves things like "she" does kind of bother me. For example, when gay bloggers called Adam Lambert, Ms. Lambert. It did offend me, but I will admit, I have been wondering is it because I am so freshly out of the closet, that I havn't ajusted to still being offended by straight guys calling gay men sissy. I really would like to know what older gay men think of this and what other young gay men like myself think. Maybe it is an age thing. I have heard that gay youth now, are "straighter" now then ever before. By that I mean, we no longer resurve our selves for the gay scene, we are "gay" everyone.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 23, 2009 6:45 AM

It is an age thing believe me, my Gay aunties would have read you the "dozens" and you would have learned something. Also know, we have lost a generation of mentors to Aids and many individuals are rudderless in comparison to what we learned from our elders.

I promised myself that I would punch the first person in the nose who ever called me "queer" and to date, I have not had to exercise that option.

A. J. Lopp | May 24, 2009 11:49 AM

Butcha are, Blanche! ... butcha are!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 25, 2009 1:58 AM

Thanks Mary.

Anthony in Nashville | May 23, 2009 6:59 AM

Musto is not the kind of person anyone should be taking advice from. Would he have been able to carve out a career without acting like a stereotypical gay man?

On the one hand, queer slang is our history, and woe to anyone who can't deal with it.
Also, a lot of it is about gender bending, which is a grand tradition.
And a lot of it is hysterical. I mean girl, it don't get no better.
But there's a large strain of contempt in there that I never cared for, going back 30 years. Double bagger, for instance, meaning someone so ugly, for sex they need two bags over the head. It may be clever, but it's still cruel.
As fr Musto, he's another dingbat hired by commercial media to dumb down public discourse. What else is new.

A. J. Lopp | May 24, 2009 12:10 PM

This is a tension I think we would be best to tolerate. Note how similar this discussion is to the corresponding one that resides permanently in the African-American world: Bill Cosby tells the teenagers to clean up their English (and they should learn what good English is), and the hip-hop streeters reply that Black slang is a part of their culture (and they are correct). It's the same "To assimilate, or not to assimilate?" question.

It would hardly do much good for Black civil rights if we went through all the old Gospel songs and replaced "wid de chillens" with "with the children" --- in fact, we would be annihilating culture and falsifying history. But just the same, neither expression "wid de chillens" nor "I'll read your beads, bitch!" should appear in the coverletter to your next job application.

Context is everything ... have I said that before?