Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?

Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein. Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform. Oakland: AK Press, 2012.

A photograph of two urinals; the one on the right is filled with jewelry and hair ornaments. A pink doily with the title is superimposed on top.

This powerful anthology explores masculinity vis a vis queerness, ethnicity, and gender identity. Sycamore and contributors interrogate the notion of “straight-acting gays” and the pressure to conform to a “sanitized, straight-friendly version of gay identity” (p. 1). For Sycamore fans, Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? really dovetails nicely with That’s Revolting! in terms of the exploration of straight conformity. Essays from diverse voices include perspectives from trans people, people of color, indigenous folks, immigrants, sex workers, HIV-positive folks, and a variety of class identities and gender presentations.


DasGupta, Debanuj. “Trans/Nationally Femme: Notes on Neoliberal Economic Regimes, Security States, and my Life as a Brown Immigrant Fag” (pp. 15-23). This biting essay critiques the push for marriage equality: “As the movement for sexual and gender revolution is hijacked by a narrow call to conform to a capitalist hetero-patriarchal core, the lives and aspirations of millions of  human  beings deemed ‘illegal’ or simply unwanted are torn apart by imperialist regimes across the globe” (p. 15).  DasGupta argues that privileged LGBTs are conforming and becoming respectable, while POC and immigrant LGBTQs are ignored and further marginalized. This marginalization includes explicit racism and classism in queer spaces; immigrant and POC queers are constantly sexually harassed, mocked, and essentialized. Personal anecdotes serve to richly illustrate race and class hierarchies in queer men’s communities while at the same time demonstrating resilience within marginalized communities.

Faris, Michael J. & Sugie, ML. “Fucking with Fucking Online: Advocating for Indiscriminate Promiscuity” (pp. 45-51). This essay is a conversation between Faris and Sugie about race, gender expression, and sexuality on hookup platforms such as manhunt.net and gay.com. On these platforms, ethnicity is an inescapable topic, either in terms of objectification (“I love Asians!”), questioning (“You look Mexican to me”), or expectations of how ethnicity affects sex (avoiding a particular ethnic identity because of stereotypes of how this person will relate to you sexually).  Faris and Sugie muse about how to express sexual preferences without fetishizing or demonizing racialized bodies; articulating preferences for sexual acts, attitudes, politics, and so forth. They argue “[s]o let’s be indiscriminately promiscuous. Let’s move our desire back to the acts we want done, and not think about who’s doing them” (p. 49).

Goldsmith, Larry. “Rich Man’s War, Poor (Gay) Man’s Fight” (pp. 181-184).  This concise and powerful piece criticizes national LGBT organizations for lobbying for “gays in the military” yet ignoring the poor and/or fey queers who are further marginalized for not fitting in. This piece focuses on Chelsea Manning, but since it was published before she came out as transgender, Manning’s name and pronouns are inaccurate—however, I think that the points the essay is making are even more powerful in the light of Manning’s gender identity.  The rhetoric that gays deserve equal rights because gays are just like straights relies on the spotlight to always be on gays who are white, properly gendered, “respectable,” and educated.


About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
This entry was posted in Nonfiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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