Monday, June 13, 2016

A Culture Of Hate: Processing the Tragedy of the Orlando Mass Murder

I blame Trump. There, I said it. Let's call this what it is: a tragedy borne of radical right-wing American extremism, promoted by politicians like Trump, and the fear-mongers that rally to their campaigns and platforms. I blame you. You have spent your careers vilifying and demonizing these vulnerable communities—LGBT communities, Latinx communities, and Muslim communities— and you have created the culture of hate that made this vile act possible. You do not now get to blame these murders on an outside threat; you do not get to use this tragedy to fan the fires of fear and promote your divisive agenda. We will not be turned against one another in hatred and fear! This was a quintessentially American mass shooting, fueled by the homophobic, transphobic, and racist bigotry of our own domestic politics.

Right wing republican legislators work tirelessly to curtail the rights of the LGBT community, to deny our access to equal protection of the law. They vilify immigrants, isolating and stigmatizing Latinx communities. These politicians deny our humanity and explicitly advocate for violence against our communities. I refuse to minimize the impact of the hateful discourse promoted by their policies. Make no mistake, the policies espoused by the current right wing of the republican party IS violence. Building a wall is violence. Equating trans women with sexual predators is violence. Deportation is violence. Denying our access to public bathrooms is violence. Closing the borders to refugees is violence. Misgendering us is violence. Racial profiling by law enforcement is violence. Now a home-grown domestic terrorist has embraced those messages of hatred and violence and committed a horrific mass murder. This tragedy is a direct result of the culture of hate and fear promoted by the violence our domestic political discourse. So I blame Trump, his supporters, and all of us for our complacency in allowing this hateful rhetoric to grow to be such a cancer in American culture.

As we move into this contentious general election season, we on the left need to start calling out their hate not only as intrinsically despicable, but also as a root cause of the horrific violence that plagues our communities. Obama, Clinton, Sanders, Warren, Stein—all of them need to step up and call out the right wing for their role in creating this tragedy. And they need to step up and take responsibility for how they too have contributed to the violent hatred of American culture, through their own support of war-mongering foreign policies, drone strikes, and their inadequate responses to domestic racial and economic inequalities.

It is not enough to offer prayers and condolences. It is not enough to call for gun control. I am a supporter of increased gun control in general, but frankly I don’t think that is the biggest issue right now. We just lost 50 precious lives, and forever altered hundreds more, to a culture of hate. We need anti-discrimination legislation, we need to welcome refugees, we need paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. We need to call out hateful policies for the bigotry that they are. We need to create a discourse on the left that truly and deeply espouses the values of inclusivity and tolerance, love and solidarity. Our common humanity and pursuit of true equity must be the core value behind everything we do. We cannot stand for homophobia, transphobia, racism, Islamophobia. Our vehement opposition to this bigotry, and all of the policies and rhetoric which promote this violence, must be our primary platform in the coming months.

To my cis-het Muslim friends and family: Thank you for your support and your solidarity. I know this violence and hatred does not represent you or your religion. I will stand by your side to face the impending backlash of Islamophobia.

To my Queer Muslim friends and family: I see you and I love you. You are part of my queer family, and I will not see us divided over this.

To my other QPoC friends and family, and especially Latinx queers: I see you and I love you, and I mourn with you. I apologize for the times when I have fallen short as a white ally, and I pledge to do my best to fight by your side moving forward to combat the toxic racism of our culture, especially as it intersects with homophobia/transphobia to make you a particular target for violence.

To my fellow white Queers: Let us grieve, but also let us acknowledge the ways our own privilege has contributed to this tragedy. We need to recognize the way the assimilation and growing acceptance of homonormative white gay/lesbian culture contributes to the marginalization of QPoC and Trans/GNC folks. And us white, privileged, afab trans folks need to be especially aware of how the transmisogyny in our own communities contributes to the violence against trans women of color. We cannot grow complacent or complicit as the most vulnerable members of our Queer family continue to suffer. We need to do better.

To my cis-het white friends and family: Step up. You prayers and love and grief and solidarity are welcome, but they are not enough. Use your privilege and the relative safety it provides you to speak out and act out. Do not tolerate hatred or bigotry in your communities. Speak up at the office, at school, at church, at a coffee shop. Call your elected representatives, campaign against politicians who espouse hate. Donate your blood, your money, your time, whatever you are able to give, to the community that was harmed by this tragedy and all of the other instances of violence that don’t affect you directly. Many of you are already doing these things, and for that I thank you. To those who aren’t, to those who have hesitated to speak up, out of fear or preoccupation or apathy, I’m calling you out. Your silence, your complacency, is unforgivable.

To all my beloved friends and family, of all religions, races, genders, and sexualities—now is the time to stand together. Let us join hands and show the world that we will no longer stand for bigotry in our communities. We will not let hate beget hate. Trump thinks this tragedy proves him right, let us join together to show the world just how wrong he is. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's in a Name: An open letter to my friends and family

Hi everyone,

I want to introduce myself to you. My name is Ashir. You can call me Ash. My preferred pronouns are gender neutral; please refer to me as “ze/ zem/ zeir/ zeirs/ zemself”.

Of course, you already know me. I’m the same person you knew yesterday, before you knew my name. I’m still your child, your nibling (niece/nephew), your cousin, your colleague, your friend. I’m still that kid you remember who loved to play dress up and climb trees, get zeir hair braided and roll around in the mud, rearrange your dollhouse and play soccer just a little too rough.

A rose by any other name, right? But names are important and language is important. What we call things shapes how we conceptualize them. You all have known me as Leah for a year, or ten, or twenty-seven. But Leah is not my name (anymore? Perhaps it never really was?). I’m not changing it just because I don’t like how it sounds. This isn’t superficial or frivolous. I’m changing it because I need to do this. I am genderqueer and non-binary transgender. The past few years have been an ongoing process of self-discovery and constantly coming-out. I’ve changed my hair, I’ve changed my wardrobe, I’ve changed my posture and my stride. I’m intentionally and deliberately transitioning into an androgynous and fluid gender presentation and I need a name that matches this crucial part of my identity.

I've known I wanted to change my name for a long time. This is a big year for me. It’s a year full of transitions. In the next few months I’ll be getting married, moving to a new city in a new state with my new wife, and starting a new graduate school program as the first step in pursuing a new career. With so many changes I’ve spent a lot of time this year in self-reflection and this isn’t as sudden as it might seem. I’m not rushing into anything; this has been a long time coming and this is the right time for it.

People keep asking me what my new name means, why I chose “Ashir”. I don’t have a good answer. I think part of the reason I waited so long to pick a new name was because for a long time I couldn't fathom what my new name might be. I kept hoping something would just come to me and I would instantly know it was right in a spiritual epiphany of certainty. Surely something as important as my name would be the easiest most obvious decision in the world, right? (Hah!) But my epiphany never came. I knew I wanted a gender-neutral Jewish-sounding names, so finally I just picked something. Ashir is androgynous in both Hebrew and English, I think it’s aesthetically pleasing, and I like that shortens to a fun and quirky nickname (Ash! Call me Ash!).

I’ve tested it, I’ve started getting used to it, and I don’t have doubts any more. This name is right, This change is real, and it is permanent (or, as permanent as anything is in this uncertain, chaotic, and changeable world). Eventually, I plan to make the change legal.

Moving forward, I ask that you address me by my chosen name and pronouns. I know it’s not easy, and that you’re more comfortable with my old name and pronouns. What I’m asking is that you step out of your comfort zone in order to support me and be a better ally. I’m asking you to respect my choice even if you don’t quite get it, even if you don’t really understand why. I know it’s hard, and I know you’ll make mistakes. Don’t worry, I won’t get angry with you, and I’ll be patient. I just ask that you try.

I know you have more questions. I’m not an expert but I’m willing to do some basic public education about gender and non-binary identities. So here’s your invitation: Ask me anything and, as long as you ask in a spirit of respect and love and with a genuine wish to understand, I promise I won’t be offended (though if it’s too personal I will politely decline to answer). In return, I ask that you understand if there’s some things I’m not ready to share, or able to explain, and don’t be offended if you disagree with my answers.


**Most of you already know that I identify as “genderqueer” and “non-binary transgender” but many of you might not know what that means. Several people have asked me for resources to read up on it. There’s not a lot out there, but here’s a couple decent websites you can check out if you want reading material on the topic:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Leaving the Safety of the Closet

For those of you enmeshed in the queer community, you know almost everyone has their "coming out story". Most of us love to share, love to commiserate and celebrate and reminisce. Of course, we all know that coming out is a continual process, not a singular event, but it's still fun to share the stories of that first memorable time. I don't really have a true coming out story because I was never really in the closet to begin with. I was extraordinarily lucky to grow up in a supportive community in which I had the safety to openly explore my gender and sexuality throughout my adolescence.

Sure, I have some funny anecdotes to share around the coming out campfire. Like the first time I explicitly told one of my Aunts that I was dating a woman and she happily responded that "bi" meant I could have one of each(!) and proceeded to gleefully introduce me to the "nice Jewish boy" on the treadmill at the JCC. Or the time I completely failed to convince my grandmother that the label "queer" is not derogatory, that my chosen identity label is not self-deprecating, and no, I can't just call myself a Lesbian instead.

Similarly, coming out as Genderqueer never included one big pronouncement. I've always been a bit genderfluid. As a kid I loved sports and mud and roughhousing, and I also loved pretty dresses and long hair. I especially loved to combine the two--who says you can't climb a tree in a princess gown? When I wore a ridiculously huge corseted ball gown to my high school's senior prom, it wasn't an act or a farse or a lie (I loved that dress!). But no one was surprised when I cut off all my hair sometime during college and started wearing mostly men's clothes, and that's not a lie or a costume either. By the time I had enough queer theory in my lexicon to understand what the gender binary is and how I don't fit into it, I was happily claiming my label(s) to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen.

I am genderqueer, I am Trans*, I am non-binary transgender, genderfluid, transmasculine, androgynous, gender non-conforming...and I've always been "out" about all of those things. BUT. I've also always been safe. I've always had a female name, female pronouns, an identifiably female-sounding voice. Most of the time, I'm read as a soft-butch lesbian. I've been lucky enough to be able to immerse myself in communities where appearing stereotypically lesbian is safe and accepted, and I've coasted on that. I've been calling myself genderqueer for years, but I've always "passed" as (butch, lesbian) cisgender female.

I'm done passing now. I'm in the process of actively changing my name and pronouns, and I'm going to be openly, obviously, and publicly gender non-conforming in every sphere of my life. And for the first time I'm a little bit scared to "come out". For the first time, I honestly don't know how people are going to react, and I'm not certain of my community's unwavering support. I don't know what my family is going to think of my new name. I don't know how brave I'll be when correcting my professors or my employers on my preferred pronouns. I don't know whether I'll still feel welcome in all of the women's only spaces I've enjoyed for years (like gendered sports teams and my beloved alma mater)

I've always been defiantly proud of my fearlessness: I've been the LGBT spokesperson, the ambassador, the one who isn't afraid to answer question and teach the gen/sex 101 to unsuspecting bystanders. So its been really hard to admit that I was scared to take this next step. And it is scary, but it's also empowering. And I'm ready.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Feminist Weddings

**This is a cross post originally published on the Offbeat Bride Tribe. The original post can be found here but you must be a member of the Offbeat Bride Tribe to read it (thus the need for a cross post).**

I want to talk about feminist weddings. For those who don’t know, I’m in the midst of planning my own wedding. It will be a same-sex, genderbending affair, so I’m facing different challenges than cis-gendered heterosexual couples face. But I’ve been caught off guard at how hard it is to break down the gender binary in wedding planning, even for queers like me and my fiancĂ©. I know wedding planning can be a touchy subject so I want to start with a disclaimer: I am not criticizing your/your mom’s/ your brother’s/ anyone else’s wedding. There are lots of very good reasons to make many different choices, my values may be different from yours, and that's ok. I am a radical third wave feminist, and this post is about my interpretation of the way feminism can be used to reclaim--or at least coexist--with an institution (weddings/marriage) which is, by its very nature, a pillar of the patriarchy.

First of all: Do you believe in gender equality? If yes, then congratulations you're a feminist. Are you a feminist who's having/had a wedding? Then congratulations, it's a feminist wedding. That's all it takes, folks.

I don’t want to turn this into a competition of who’s a “real feminist” or “feminist enough” However, if we're looking at the idea of "feminist wedding" as more than just an aspect of your identity, I want to delve into what it means to bring our feminism into wedding planning. There's a lot of discussion—on a variety of media--about how to incorporate feminism into weddings and how to balance tradition with feminist values. So for the rest of this post I'm going to talk about feminism as activism, and feminist weddings as an expression of that activism rather than just as a facet of your identity. I've seen a lot of comments that planning a feminist wedding just means being aware of the sexist history of traditions, and then intentionally choosing what to do for your own reasons and not because it's what's "expected." I disagree. That's a good recipe for having a beautiful wedding that is comfortable for you, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not feminism.

Feminism, as activism, is not comfortable. It is not safe or easy. Social inequality is pervasive, and it is often perpetuated in extremely subtle and unintentional ways; feminism is the constant awareness of the systemic oppression of women and gender minorities, and taking action to combat that oppression. It is not just about intentions, it is about realizing the implications your choices will have for everyone else in your community. Now, I know, one person's wedding isn't going to change society all by itself, but feminism is about thinking in the aggregate and acknowledging the ways in which the decisions we make in our daily lives contribute to a culture of cis-male privilege.

One litmus test I use it to envision things through the lens of a hypothetical six year old girl, with no exposure to feminism, attending my wedding. Then I picture her attending five other weddings just like mine over the next ten years. And I ask: "What does she see? What did these weddings tell her about her role in the world? What did they teach her about gender norms and sexuality and what it means to be a woman or a wife?"

If any given tradition would (subtly and unconsciously) teach that imaginary six year old girl sexist values that I disagree with, then it has no place at my wedding. Take it one step further. Imagine your wedding, with whatever choices you are making about traditions to include or not. Imagine that was the cultural norm. Imagine that every six year old girl--and boy--saw your wedding, with minor variations, at every family wedding, and in every movie and tv show over the next ten years of their life. What have they learned about gender roles and femininity and masculinity? What kind of 16 year olds do we have in ten years?

To me, feminism means grappling with these questions, and using the answers to impact our choices. Feminism isn't just about recognizing the way that we have been affected by patriarchal expectations in our own lives and rejecting the status quo to make our own choices--that's a great first step, but it's not enough. Feminism is activism, and it goes one step further to recognizing the implications that our choices (in the aggregate) have on the rest of society and making choices with a consciousness towards creating a society with gender equality.

So, again, not everyone has to use their wedding for feminist activism. That's ok. You can be a feminist and decide that, on your wedding day, you are choosing aesthetics or family unity or anything else over your feminism. That's ok. It's also ok to incorporate some feminist choices while compromising in other areas. You can have a mostly feminist wedding that incorporates some less-than-feminist traditions for any reasons you want that feel right to you. That's cool, and it doesn’t make you less of a feminist.

We all make so many choices during this wedding planning process, for so many different reasons. We're all trying to make these choices with intentionality to create an event that is a genuine representation of us and our lives and our love, and whatever is right for you is right. You want your wedding to be genuine, so part of your decisions need to take into account whether or not the image you are projecting is genuinely true to your feminist values. If feminism is important to you, if this is a cause that you’re passionate about, then please add one more layer of intentionality to your decision making process and consider not only the origins and historical meanings behind wedding traditions, but also the effects that your decisions will have for the future.

Activism isn't just rejecting the "way it's done" mentality, and then making personal and private decision. It's about recognizing that decisions aren’t really private, and using your choices to actively help create a new way that is in line with your values, whatever those values may be.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Choose the Rainbow

It’s Pride month and the media is abuzz with talk of parades and frivolity, and speculation and anticipation for the upcoming Supreme Court's rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. One of the most common talking points and indeed one of the most popular pieces of rhetoric utilized by the queer rights movement in general is the notion that "we were born this way."
Frankly, that rhetoric has always bothered me. I understand why it originated. It had its place, its role to play in the gay rights movement,  But now, in the context of our contemporary understanding of queer theory and the political and social needs of present day queer communities, the biological determinism of "born this way" rhetoric does more harm than good. 
Where is my agency? Why are we so determined to deny our own ability to choose our path and determine the course of our own lives?
The claim of being "born this way" conflates sexual attraction with identity. What we really mean is that people have no control over to whom they are sexually or romantically attracted. Throughout history and across cultures it is a universal and natural part of humanity that some people are innately attracted to members of the same sex (or both sexes, or all sexes, or no sexes in an infinite variety of degrees and combinations). But identity is something different, and the modern manifestation of sexual identity is a fairly recent development in human history. Having same-sex attraction and engaging in same sex-sex has meant many different things in different times and different cultures. We as an aggregate determine what it means today, in America, and we as individuals choose what it means in our own lives.
Thus our identity is a choice. and we are not doing ourselves any favors by denying our own power to determine how we live our lives and how we interact with society. Our persistent denial of this choice is its own sort of internal homophobia. As if being queer were so awful that a free choice to accept and embrace one's queerness is unthinkable. By insisting that we did not choose this, we accept the basic implicit premise that being queer is somehow bad or wrong and we would not choose it if we had the option.
The denial of choice is the fuel behind bi-phobia, used as an excuse for ostracizing members of our own community who are somehow perceived to have more choice than those who deem themselves more "purely" gay. Most importantly, by denying our own ability to define ourselves, we give our opponents the ability to define us instead. Consenting adults should be able to make whatever choices they want in their romantic and sexual lives, without legal or societal discrimination. By insisting that our civil rights are defensible only on the basis of immutable biology or genetics, we implicitly deny the rights of anyone who makes a choice not to conform to arbitrary social norms and constructs.
Let’s reclaim our agency! We do not choose our lust or our love, but we choose our lives. We choose to pass, or to come out. We choose any label we want, or no label at all. We choose to defy our oppressors and live the lives we want with the people we want, quietly and subtly or with rainbows plastered on our walls. We choose to create communities for ourselves with their own varied practices and ideals, and then we choose to what degree we want to re-assimilate into mainstream American cuture. We choose to stand up and fight for our rights- or not, as safety or convenience allows. All of these choices are valid, none of them any more or less gay than the other. Being LGBT does not mean any one thing, but is rather a fluid and ever evolving identity. We created that identity, and we continue to define it through our choices every day.
Talk of genetics and nature is necessary for some arenas. Historically, It was instrumental in the de-criminalization and de-medicalization of homosexual sex. Even today, it is sometimes necessary to protect our physical safety, both in legislation and in public opinion. It is necessary to defend against our most violent and sometimes most vocal foes. These are not issues of the past, but are still urgent in the lives of millions of LGBT people in America, and even more so in other parts of the world. We must continue to remind the world that being sexually and romantically attracted to people of any and every sex is natural and normal and not a matter of choice.
But having gay sex does not in itself make a person gay, and our identities are defined by far more than what we do in our beds. It is time we make explicit the distinction between our actions and our identities and reclaim our agency in our own lives. We do not choose who we are inclined to sleep with, but we choose to transform an action into an identity we choose what that identity means. We are out and proud, so it's time we stop being ashamed to admit our choice. It is time we choose to stand up and claim our right not only to live queer lives: we need to claim our right to choose.
I choose to be Queer, and I am not ashamed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Red Kettles and Rainbows: On Giving Responsibly

One of my most persistent holiday woes is the little red kettle and jingling bell in front of my grocery store. My distaste for this iconic part of the holiday season is motivated by far more than the Holiday Humbugs. To me, they do not represent a warm spirit of charity and altruism; they represent bigotry. The sound of that bell sends a chill down my spine invoking the oppression and intolerance alive and well in my community.
You see, The Salvation Army (TSA) does not approve of homosexuality. Thier official stance, quoted from is:
"Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.
Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse." 
They claim to "oppose abuse," but their hypocritical denial doesn't make the harm they do any less real. And their bigoted policies do harm, to their LGBT employees, to those they purport to serve, and to society as a whole. Even aside from specific instances of policy discrimination, the widespread acceptance of an organization espousing such values contributes to a society which tacitly allows for hatred as "just another viewpoint" and enforces a tolerance of bigotry in mainstream society. 

The annual and oft disputed boycot of the red kettles has become routine and almost tiresome. And despite our boycott, they break fundraising records almost every year. But the Salvation Army boycott is one we cannot afford to abandon.

I should be clear that I don’t wish that the Salvation Army did not exist. I don't want to put them out of commission, and I certainly don't want to hurt the people they help. The point of the boycott is not to destroy TSA, it is to make it clear to them that an attitude of bigotry is no longer acceptable, to their donors or to the society they purport to serve.

Giving to charity isn’t like other types of shopping. When it comes to buying a product, a company's social and environmental policies must be balanced with the price and quality of the product they offer. Sometimes we make compromises and buy from a company we don't agree with simply because we like their product. Usually, if we're willing to look, we can find a comparable product from a politically progressive and environmentally sound company, but it is unrealistic to hope that every dollar we spend will go to a company we whole-heartedly support. Giving to charity isn't about convenience nor is there a product to be purchased. There is no excuse to compromise. Charity is about supporting a cause and helping others. Supporting an organization whose policies and beliefs help to perpetuate a cuture of oppression and inequality goes directly against the spirit of giving, even if some of that organization's actions are indeed charitable. When you donate to an organization you throw your name and your voice behind everything that organization stands for. So do your research and make sure it is a cause you actually agree with.

There are plenty of great charities out there that don't support bigotry: try the American Red Cross, the Trevor Project, Save the Children, or your local shelter or food bank. You have options, so if you don't think same-sex sex is evil, if you don't think all queer people should live celibate lives, if you believe everyone has the right to marriage, choose a charity that shares those views. In short, if you are LGBT or especially if you are an ally (we love our allies!), then for G-d's sake, give responsibly this holiday season and don't put your spare change in the little red kettle.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reclaiming a Word

I’ve had a lot of conversations about language recently, and how important it is to use language that accurately reflects what you are trying to say.  Using certain language can contribute to a very harmful form of micro-aggression.  Thus, I feel the need to explain why I don’t like the word “Faggot” 

“Faggot” is a pejorative word to refer to gay people, usually gay men.  It is derogatory, and is meant to imply negative stereotypes about gay men.  Homophobic people often use that word as the worst possible insult against gay men (I'm thinking of Westboro Baptist Church's "God hates Fags" signs.)  When a heterosexual man is called “faggot” it is explicitly an insult, meant to emasculate him and make him less of a man, implying that he is secretly gay and that that is the very worst thing he could possibly be.  Obviously, that’s homophobic.  If being gay isn't bad, it shouldn't be an insult to call a non-gay person a word that just means "gay."  

But I think that word can be just as harmful even when it is not intended as an insult.  The other day, a (straight male) acquaintance of mine called another (gay male) mutual acquaintance a “fucking faggot” behind his back.  I spoke up, of course.  But his immediate response was “well, it’s not an insult if it’s true!”  This is a common sentiment among people who don’t think of themselves as homophobic, but there is so much wrong with that statement.  “Gay” is not a synonym with “Fucking Faggot”.  Most importantly, he’s implying that it would still be an insult if it were used to refer to a straight man.  That word is still derogatory in nature and it’s still insulting when used in that context.

So what about when gay men use the word faggot to refer to themselves or to each other?  That’s a little bit more of a gray area for me.  Words can be reclaimed.  My own chosen label “Queer/genderqueer” is a reclaimed word.  (My friend Ryan wrote a great blog entry on that word yesterday, so I’ll just refer you there for further reading on the word queer: )  Has word Faggot be reclaimed?  I think, in order for a word to be reclaimed, we have to assimilate the negative connotations of the word and make the word so much our own that it is no longer potent as an insult.  If “fucking queer” were ever used against me as an insult, it would be meant as “you are not normal, you break social boundaries, you are odd, strange, queer, you exist outside of a narrow and traditional conception of the way gender and sexuality are supposed to work.”  And I could look them in the eye and say “Yes, I am a fucking queer,” and I would mean it in exactly the same way they do.  That word is mine, it has been reclaimed.    

Can the word “faggot” been reclaimed?  I don’t know.  Reclaiming a word has to be a conscious choice, and either an intentional assimilation of negative connotations or at least an explicit defiance against those undertones.  Maybe some people have reclaimed the word faggot.  Maybe some gay men have taken that word and made it a part of their identity.  But I know that when I hear a straight person use that word, whether it is intended as an insult or not, I still flinch.