It's true: I am a cocksucking fag. In case you're unfamiliar with the phrase, it means I'm a man who finds pleasure in orally stimulating other men's penises.
Recently several (presumably) non-cocksucking straight men have had a lot to say about these terms and whether or not they've ever used them, whether or not they should ever use them and whether or not those terms are (or should be) considered offensive by real, live cocksucking fags like me.
Seeing as I have some practical (humility keeps me from going so far as to say "impressive") experience here, I'd like to clear up a few things for those men and anyone else who might be confused by these terms and/or when they can and should be used:
1. If you are a straight person, you do not get to use the word "fag." Ever. You just don't. Even if all your friends are gay and everyone in your family is gay and they all say they're fine with it (more on this below), it's still not OK. Sorry. Choose another insult.
2. If, for some reason, you do use "fag," you don't get to then insist, as rapper Tyler the Creator recently did, that "it's just another word that has no meaning." For millions of gay men, that word is only charged with meaning: There's a surge of crackling, bright-blue electricity sprinting down the corridor between our heads and our hearts whenever we hear or see it. It's the word we hear just before a fist meets our eye socket or a bottle is brought down upon our skull. It's the word that has told us we are dangerous and filthy and evil. It's the word that has led too many of us to our ends (real or imagined) too soon.
3. What's more, claiming, as Eminem did in a recent Rolling Stone interview, that the word "fag" doesn't refer to a gay man but is a way of "calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole" isn't any better. It reveals that he either equates being gay with being an "asshole" or doesn't understand the intimate relationship between homophobia (and transphobia) and sexism (and that's true of many other people, even some queer people like bisexual rapper Azealia Banks). Or he does understand but just doesn't care.
4. As a fag, I do get to use that word. And so do my faggot friends if they should choose to do so (and, it should be noted, many of them don't). It stitches us together with a shared history of pain and violence and strength and resilience, and if and when we choose to reclaim and use it to define ourselves, it is ours to do with it as we please. We have earned that right.
5. If you are a straight person and say "cocksucking fag" in a flash of anger, as Alec Baldwin allegedly did last week, admit it, offer a heartfelt apology and then work on your shit and try not to do it again. I get it: You grew up in a homophobic, sexist society, and learned behavior is hard to unlearn. That is incredibly challenging. But tough luck. And claiming that you said "fathead" and not "fag" or "faggot," as Baldwin did, is not appropriate or convincing, either. (I mean, really? "Fathead"? Who in the last 60 years has seriously used that phrase other than maybe Fred Flintstone? And I'm pretty sure even he isn't that corny.)
6. You can't (sort-of-kind-of) address your alleged use of the word "fag" but then not discuss your use of "cocksucking." (There really is no other word Baldwin could have been saying unless maybe he said "clockducking fathead.") "Cocksucking," when used in a situation like this, is also a homophobic and sexist slur that functions to demean a man by casting him as the submissive or receptive partner (like a woman!) during oral sex.
7. That being said, "cocksucking" shouldn't be a slur. It's a wonderful, powerful activity that has made and ruined many marriages and even careers. And it deserves a lot more respect, because it's really, really, really great. Those men who use it as a slur deserve to be prohibited from ever receiving another blow job. Or maybe, even better (or worse?), they deserve to be cursed with a long life filled with only rough, toothy head.
8. You can't claim to have queer people's backs and use words like "fag" or "cocksucking" as slurs. And if you do, you don't get to trot out your gay hairstylist, as Baldwin appeared to do, to defend you. (And really, your hairstylist, Alec? What, your floppy-wristed florist and your lisping interior decorator were too busy attending a matinée of Kinky Boots to film a clip for you?) You can have a gay friend or even a gay sibling or parent and still be homophobic or make homophobic statements. Hell, you can be gay and still make homophobic statements. When you've been told how disgusting you are for your entire life, it only makes sense that a little of that might have rubbed off on you too.
Ultimately, if you aren't virulently homophobic and simply made a mistake, I don't think you should be paraded out to the stocks and humiliated or punished. That doesn't change people; it just makes them angrier or more bitter or helps them miss the point entirely because they're so blinded by and busy deflecting the heat of the rage they're receiving. But you should be held accountable for what you say and do (especially if you seem to have an anger-management problem and your go-to slur of choice always seems to be a homophobic one).
I just want people to start thinking twice about what they're saying and why. Words do have meaning. Words are important. Words make things happen. And they have consequences. We can push for equality and pass all the laws we want in hopes of achieving it, but as long as terms like "cocksucking fag" are used against us or to shame anyone -- queer or not -- we will never truly be liberated, because the underlying attitudes and assumptions we're operating with will still be inherently homophobic.
So let's grow up, give it up and spend our energy sucking cock instead of talking about it. I promise it's a lot more fun, and it's much less likely that anyone will get hurt.
Follow Noah Michelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NoahMichelson