5 posts

In Defense of Fag Hags

Earlier this week, I was at a divey piano bar, and we were all having a good time. Until they showed up.  A gaggle of girls/women. From Westchester. With their boyfriends. Everyone was drunk, and one girl was wearing a tiara (of course). They spent the time being obnoxious, loud, requesting Total Eclipse of the Heart, and then Grease when informed that this was a show-tunes bar. These are the types of women who have watched too much Sex and the City and usually have or crave their own Stanford Blatch to their Carrie Bradshaw. These women dread the phrase fag hag, because it tends to carry the association of being overweight, classless, possibly promiscuous, losers who don’t have anything better to do then hang out with their gay friends and discuss baby names for when they both hit 35, single, and their marriage compact kicks in.

No, these women will proudly let you know that they are NOT losers, and that their Bump-It™ and Prada bag informs you that they are a different breed of girl. There’s always some sort of stupid name they come up with whenever some drunken idiot comes up with “Hey, aren’t you Mikey’s fag hag?” “No, I’m not! I have a boyfriend! I’m wearing a tube dress and a tiara cause it’s my birthday!! I’m a fruit fly/fairy princess!!” Yet, I’ve noticed something missing about these women when push comes to shove. An inner strength that I found in every woman I’ve known who’s worn the badge “fag hag.”

In college, I knew two women who were loud and proud to be fag hags. One of them had the most active sex life I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot. Low self esteem has its perks). One of her specialties was to go out and find a big hulking red-neck and first introduce him to her gay friends, then the gay clubs she hung out with, and rock his world with things he never thought he’d  allow himself to do/have done to him (we’ll just leave it at that). The other one I knew was one of the sweetest humans I’ve ever met. She always had a smile on her face, and a kind word. She’s the type that will grow up to be Sharon Gless on Queer as Folk. And that’s a good thing, folks.Later on, I meet a young woman at a music conservatory who knew how to treat her gay friends. She was pretty, just out of the armed forces, and studying musical theater. She abhorred these bridge and tunnel bitches that come into the city and try and instigate Straight Night at Splash. As she put it, “As a straight girl at a gay club, you’re like the puppy someone walks in the park; you’re there for conversation starters and not to be the center of attention.” I might not completely agree, but I do appreciate that she was willing to recognize that she wasn’t in “straight world” and therefore, tiaras and annoyingly drunk behavior weren’t cute, nor were they wanted. As a gay man, I barely like that in guys that I’m interested in, so when Miss Jersey Ego shows up, it’s just insufferable.

On the flip side, I spent a few months being one of those folks who stop you on the street going “Hi!!! Do you have a minute for gay rights?” (we can talk about that later) Numerous times I stopped a young (or a youngly dressed woman), often carrying an armful of bags. I would proceed to get an earful about how they supported their gay friends (with whom they were having lunch with this weekend, even!!). And they vote for gay friendly politicians! (only, like, every 4 years, when it’s a choice between the Anti-Christ and a hard place) But, as I could see, they were broke (since they just spent WAY too much money on shoes) and they’d love to help, and couldn’t they volunteer or something? (do you have a law degree? No, well, we don’t really need any envelope stuffers, thank you.)

The girl I used to sublet from was one of these girls. Drowning in credit card debt (thus she was trying to sublet her studio apartment for double what she was paying), thought her Snooki hair poof was the shit, wore a hounds tooth patterned coat, dated a total jerk, thought I was super awesome for being gay, but quickly turned into disgust as it turned out that I wasn’t the type to fawn over her.  Things got ugly VERY fast. And then she got hit by a car while out on tour, but that’s neither here nor there.

For a long time, I wanted to be liked by these girls (of course, I also wanted to be liked by a hot rich, hung 35 year old millionaire with light chest hair and a . . . I’m sorry, I’ll be in my bunk.). I thought it would mean that I had achieved some sort of level of social acceptance, like I finally took off the glasses and braids and put on a cute slinky dress to find that people really liked me. Only it took me a while to find out that when Josh finally asked me out to the Non-Denominational Winter Dance, that he was just using me for free publicity. While plenty of folks might be nice to that person’s face, at best, we’re all just waiting for her to end up as a Real Housewife, only without people being interested.

So, here’s to the fag hags, the girls who are a gay man’s true friend. The ones who will be there when you’re drunk and high, and can’t find your pants.

Craigslist Personals – Everyone Is Nuts

Morrissey sang the following words: “Oh, the Devil will find work for idle hands to do.”

Apart from him being a tortured closet case, you have to agree with him.

As you know, I am in Gay Nirvana with a man whom I adore.  But it was a long road to finding him.  (Straighties, stay with me – there’s plenty for you here and you know I think the world of you.  Except Arken.  Allergies to kitties are a character flaw.)

I’m homo alone, it’s cold and rainy, there’s nothing on TV and I finished my latest Douglas Preston / Lincoln Child confection of a book.  So, whilst surfing the Intertubes, I made a mistake.  I looked at Craigslist.

This wasn’t a mistake like Holy-Shiz-Betts-Is-A-Slut.  I wasn’t DOING anything, just looking.  Here’s why – you know that part in The Wizard Of Oz when he’s trying to be all Great and Powerful and Toto yanks the curtain off, exposing the fact that Oz is basically generated in a 1930s Frigidaire?  I LOVE that.  Because most people are full of baloney, and the best relationships are between people who know this and embrace it and maybe like your baloney a little.

I learned the following.

  • 1) No gay man on Craigslist is a top.  (For you straighties, this means a fella who likes to do the penetrating.)
  • 2) No one has a face picture.  There are lots of improbably worked-out chests, and if you forgot what a penis looks like, there’s plenty of that.  The M4M section is like a Sam’s Club sized crate of hotdogs.
  • 3) No one spells the word “discreet” correctly.
  • 4) There are codes! Skiing = coke, roses = you’re paying for the nookie, climbing = meth (I think).

Dating is tough on a Gay of a certain age.  We’re more repressed, the social damage done to many of us as kids leads to issues, and the pool is just smaller.  I lived this, and so have most of my friends.  Wee Gays have it a lot better.  That’s not bitching, it’s just fact.

But you straighties?  I don’t know how the human race survives, because I looked there too and lots of you are crazy.  Need a chubby girl to sit on your lap?  She’s there.  Ladies, are you driven wild by a man in panties? He’s there too.  HPV cases? Got ’em!  One gal calls herself a Goddess – why is she still single?  One jerk posted a pic of himself looking more stoned than James Franco in a bar.  I now will look at every child I see as a small miracle, because that is what they are.  I’m also not letting Cap’n Crocker out of my sight.

Lesbians had a startling amount of platonic friends to pick from, and men willing to impregnate them. (One such dude posted a sonogram, in case the lovely Sapphic ladies have never seen a baby.)  A few of the actual lesbians were crazy as well – one wanted to “lick and learn” and another was a Pool Having Sugar Momma.   I’m not sure what to do with either of those things, but I’m sure someone must have a clue.  Maybe a margarita with extra salt would work for both of them.

Craigslist is like a giant klieg light on the cavalcade of batshittery that is being single in the US.  I was afraid to even peek at Sweden’s version.  Not without a cocktail.

Aaaand, here’s where Uncle Betty gets servicey, because we may have forgotten something recently: Grandmother was right.

First of all, if you have a relationship with someone who isn’t an alkie, or abusive, or emotionally distant, you grab that person by the hand and never let the hell go.  You appreciate that person and you make sure s/he knows it.  Your honeybun likes lemon tarts?  He should get them on the regular.  Your sweetiecakes likes silk scarves?  You send one once in a while to her office with a note that says the color reminded you of her eyes. (She may go to pieces at her desk, which is ok.)  Your snoogins wants you to jump in your NYPD uniform and play cops n’robbers and fun with cuffs?  Now THERE’S a birthday present.

Ahem.  Overshare.  Sorry.

But if you’re single, Grandmother was STILL right.  You’re best off meeting people who already know some of your friends or family.  This way they’re inclined to treat you better.  I know that keeps the pool a bit smallish, but all you need is One Right One.  And it’s more important that there are shared values and interests, because some day her perky ass will be a lot closer to her cankles, and some day his strapping shoulders may stoop a bit and he may fart in bed.

Love the one you’re with, and be careful out there, kittens.

The GAMBIT Project, and The Gaming Community’s Minority Problem

Kotaku recently published an Owen Good editorial in response to a recent study conducted by the GAMBIT gaming research center at MIT that explored the legendary capacity of anonymous gamers to utilize hate speech in play and on internet forums.

At first I thought the article’s title – “Is This Studying Hate Speech, Or Just Intellectualized Trolling” – might have been one of Gawker Media’s signature pageview-grabbing titles, but upon reading the text I found several things that I felt compelled to address. Normally I’d just leave a comment, but their system seems to be on the fritz again, and besides, I feel as though my thoughts on this are numerous enough to compile a full retort, blog-style, and this is as good of a place to provide that as any.

I should preface all of this by providing my “credentials”. I am in what is often considered the core demographic of the gaming industry – a white, nerdy male in his mid-20’s pursuing undergraduate degree. I have loved video games (particularly those of the role-playing variety) for as long as I can remember. My favorite game is the original Fallout (for some wizened veterans of the gaming community, that might serve as a dog whistle warning), which I received for Christmas as an 11-year old in 1997.

I think a lot about games, about their design, about what makes them fun and their potential for real brilliance. But I have some beef with gamers and the gaming industry – I’m skeptical of the notion of games as legitimate art and I find myself at odds with the culture in general and its activist strains in particular. So it’s no small wonder that I get my hackles up over pieces of gaming journalism such as this one.

The GAMBIT study involved creating and registering gamer profiles with the names PROUD_2B_MUSLIM, GayPride90 and Black_N_Proud90, and playing Halo: Reach online with random players (for those who don’t know, the use of hate speech in gaming is usually associated with the proliferation of console multi-player gaming via the original Halo). As you can probably guess, the players using those names suffered much verbal abuse directed towards the identities their names indicated they had. Not only that, in player vs. player combat those with the minority-identified names were more aggressively targeted.

Good’s analysis of this study is, to my mind at least, indicative of the ossified privilege that is endemic to gaming as an industry explicitly designed to serve the sensibilities of disgruntled white teenage boys. Good looks at the hate speech and aggressive play and concludes that the minority-identified players brought the abuse upon themselves. Good writes – “If you’re looking to be called the usual filth-flarn-flarn-filth-flarn, those are some awesome gamertags, well worth the 800 Microsoft Points change fees.”

Good’s insinuation, as per his title, is that GAMBIT is involved in “intellectualized trolling” here, but his use of the term “trolling” is both disingenuous and fundamentally incorrect. Trolling, as those who have spent even a small amount of time on internet message boards will tell you, is a sort of forum sport in which a member posts something for the sole purpose of causing arguments and strife within the topic or thread. By definition, trolling is provocation – it is done solely to elicit emotion and negative response.

Thus, what Good is really implying is that being a Muslim, or black, or a woman, or a gay person, and being open about that fact to others, is an open provocation in the gay community, that being a minority player is something that you inflict on other people. There’s no real scandal in being called a nigger or a fag or a cunt in a game, or being singled out for aggression based on your identity – it wouldn’t have happened had you kept it to yourself. The onus is on the abused to prevent abuse. This is, obviously, a repugnant view to hold to, but it’s one that seems to be held as widely agreeable within the gaming community.

It’s not just relegated to multi-player games, either. In recent months, gay panic in single-player RPG gaming has hit an all-time high. When Fallout: New Vegas came out there were a surprising number of people who were shocked, shocked to discover that a perk called “Confirmed Bachelor” unlocked in-game flirting with same-sex characters. As the game’s lead designer noted, players would only experience a majority of these encounters if they deliberately indicated that their character was interested in the same sex, via the perk choice. But this didn’t really address what I suspect is the core concern of the horrified gamers – that gay characters were visible in-game at all.

"Confirmed Bachelor"

Dragon Age 2 is another game that features a degree of sexual diversity within its game-world, and in the weeks since it came out there has been some fan uproar over “neglecting straight male gamers”. From a poster on the Bioware Social Forums, one of the skeeviest corners of the internet –

“every previous BioWare game, I always felt that almost every companion in the game was designed for the male gamer in mind. Every female love interest was always written as a male friend type support character. In Dragon Age 2, I felt like most of the companions were designed to appeal to other groups foremost, Anders and Fenris for gays and Aveline for women given the lack of strong women in games, and that for the straight male gamer, a secondary concern.

It makes things very awkward when your male companions keep making passes at you. The fact that a “No Homosexuality” option, which could have been easily implemented, is omitted just proves my point. I know there are some straight male gamers out there who did not mind it at and I respect that.

When I say BioWare neglected The Straight Male Gamer, I don’t mean that they ignored male gamers. The romance options, Isabella and Merrill, were clearly designed for the straight male gamers in mind. Unfortunately, those choices are what one would call “exotic” choices. They appeal to a subset of male gamers and while its true you can’t make a romance option everyone will love, with Isabella and Merrill it seems like they weren’t even going for an option most males will like. And the fact is, they could have. They had the resources to add another romance option, but instead chose to implement a gay romance with Anders.”

This sort of complaint actually  first started cropping up when the first Dragon Age game, which had a bisexual male character that the player could “romance”*. The character, Zevran, was widely disliked, and there were anecdotal reports of players killing the character at the first opportunity so that they never had to deal with him. There were also complaints about being pigeonholed into gay romances, but as in the case of New Vegas and Dragon Age 2 (which also received the same complaints), gay romances actually had to be entered into deliberately and could be stopped at any time (except for New Vegas, which had no romances at all).

It seems as though the very existence of gay characters (who just come out and say they are gay and act as gay without the player’s permission!) is fundamentally threatening to many gamers, in a sad sort of reflection of grade-school level homophobia (is there any other kind?), like homosexuality is some flesh-eating virus that you can’t even acknowledge for fear of infection. It’s as sad as it is revolting.

And all that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The problems faced by female gamers are as old as multi-player gaming – ask a woman who plays World of Warcraft what she plays as, and chances are good she’ll be a male character so that she can move through the game without people assuming (correctly) that she’s a woman and acting according to game standards.

As for race, well, going back to Dragon Age 2, the third most popular fan-made modification for the game in its unofficial mod database is a reskin mod for Isabela, a dark-skinned romanceable character, that gives her fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. All told it’s been downloaded about 13,000 times as of this writing.

In his closing line, Good asks what the point of even talking about all of this is. “…if this kind of behavior is already known and largely assumed to be the norm,” he asks, “what is the application of this information?”

My reply is this: As represented by Kotaku and countless other gaming blogs out there, gamers have a pretty massive chip on their collective shoulder. They feel unfairly maligned, scrutinized, and persecuted. They feel stereotyped and disparaged (ironic, that). They hate being dismissed as ignorant, piggish college boys with no taste or intellectual merit, they feel like what they love is an art form, legitimate and worthy of respect. They want to be taken seriously.

The only way that the gaming community will ever receive respect (or be worthy of it, even) is by taking responsibility for itself, and that includes the ugly elements within the community. This sort of harassment and bigotry has no place in any other collective passion, why should it be accepted in gaming? The odd fatalism on display in Good’s editorial (“this kind of behavior is already known and largely assumed to be the norm”) is a tacit admission that a) Racism / Homophobia / Misogyny are acceptable as they are in gaming culture and b) there is nothing to be done about them. If these things are not worth paying attention to, how can they be worth addressing?

I think that taking ownership of these things is something that is actually possible, but given that a bigotry-supporting, victim-blaming opinion piece such as this one can be received with fanfare from one of the most prominent advocates of gaming culture on the internet, chances aren’t good. I honestly doubt the community is willing to commit. My only real hope is that diversity in games will be continue to grow, and that anxiety over it will abate. But that’s a slim hope. In the meantime, I’ve gone back to not reading Kotaku.


*And before you get the impression that Bioware is some vitally progressive company, they’ve refused to include queer male characters in their Mass Effect series, citing their “inappropriate for PG-13″ nature”, although female player characters can romance an alien character that is, by all signifiers, culturally and physically, a woman. The alien race is mono-sexed, so it’s not really a lesbian relationship, you see. They have ruled out exclusively gay characters in their games (all non-straight characters are bisexual) citing a lack of market incentive. Progress!

iOS App Looks to “Convert” Homosexuals

The latest anti-gay iOS app is receiving broad criticism for its stated purpose of providing people “freedom from homosexuality.”  The app is published by Exodus International, an organization well known for its “conversion therapy” and hate speech.

On its website Exodus International proudly states that the app received a 4+ rating so it’s not objectionable to anyone.

Exodus International has released its new smartphone application now available through iTunes!  Receiving a 4+ rating from Apple (applications in this category contain no objectionable material), this application is designed to be a useful resource for men, women, parents, students, and ministry leaders.

Are you a man, woman, parent student or ministry leader?  Have you been “impacted by homosexuality?” Then this app is clearly for you and your burning desire to rid the world of those damn gays help gay people stop being gay.

If you would like to add your voice to those opposed to this electronic hate mongering then visit

Source El Reg.

NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade: The Gay Edition

Well, it is the holiday that (at least for me) always makes it a little embarrassing to be a Mick. It’s sort of like letting everyone in to the house to watch aunt Colleen get loaded on Christmas. Regrettable personal history aside, we do have a nice parade, and my boss decided to send us out to watch it today. However, no matter how festive the parade, there is the whole not letting gay people march thing, which is also embarrassing. So, since my gay friends and neighbors don’t get to be in the parade, I am giving you some pictures of hot guys in uniform. While I don’t think this makes up for the stubbornness and bigotry of some of the members of the Irish community, I hope it is some consolation.


These guys almost make it worth it to stand next to drunk teenagers from Staten Island for an hour.