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How to respond to the word "fag"

A Loving Response to Homophobia


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This is a letter that a reader wrote to her brother. She said he uses the word "fag" often as an insult. She says he's not a homophobic guy, and she wants him to consider the impact his words might have on the young people in his life.

Dear Brother,

I wanted to tell you a bit about my feelings of you using the word “fag”, but I didn’t want to get into it at the dinner table. I hope you will read what I say with an open heart, and consider thinking about my feelings about the word.

When someone in our family uses the word “fag,” I balk, the same way I would as a teacher when I hear the word in class. I know that it is a word that people throw around, and if I heard it in my classroom, I would more likely try to educate than to punish a student for using it. When I reacted to the word, you started to say something about me having a “cause”. Yes, I do have a cause, but it is not what you might think.

I am not offended when I hear you use the word because it personally offends me. My “cause” is young people. Gay kids, straight kids, questioning kids, they are my “cause”.

Now, I know from your actions that you are not homophobic. I see you treat my friends and your kids’ friends with love and respect. I see you treat me with love and respect.

Anti-Gay Bullying and Harassment

I am also sure that you know that there is an epidemic of anti-gay bullying and harassment against gay kids. Gay kids are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight kids.

The kids who are most likely to harass gay kids are jocks. When I’m at your house, and I see it filled with kids, usually “jocks”. You are the adult that they look up to and love. When you throw around a word as an insult, “You little fag”, it is like being gay is the worst thing you can call a kid, and that it is the opposite of being a good athlete.

I know you are smart and sophisticated. I know you are just trying to be funny or tease the kids. But, what if one of your kid’s friend’s really was gay? How do you think the kid would feel having heard that? Do you think it might foster just a little bit of self-hatred if the biggest insult his friend’s cool dad can come up with is a term that describes him?

What Are The Kids Learning?

Maybe none of the kids coming around are gay. When they come to your house, though, they learn that it is okay and fun to cut down on gays. Maybe they take it, in their unsophisticated teenage mind, to the locker room, or the hallways in school. Maybe they see that it is okay to push the sissy kid into a locker. Or maybe they never even consider getting to know or becoming friends with a gay kid, because they are “a fag”.

Clearly they way you are raising your kids is awesome. I don’t see any homophobia or prejudices in any of them. And that is because of the living example that you give them. They know you aren’t homophobic.

Wouldn't it be cool, if the big tough jock was the one to set the example. “Hey guys, let’s not use that word because there are many gay people who I love and support.” Who is going to mess with you?

Being a Role Model

I am sure that there are tons of kids who have never heard someone come out and stop homophobic language when it is used as banter. What do you think about being that kind of role model? Being the kind of adult who shows kids that it is cool to be supportive to their gay friends and classmates. Being the guy who helped maybe just one kid feel like it is ok to be a jock and anti-homophobic, that it is cool to go against stereotypes.

Anyway, all this is to say you may never know the impact you are making on a kid.

I hope you will read this with love and respect, because that is how I want it to sound. I wanted to write it in a letter because I didn’t want to get defensive.

Thanks for reading and thinking about what my feelings about this are. You are my brother, and I love you.

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