This Gaymer’s Story

Because it needs to be said, I only speak for myself. Trigger warnings for suicidal thoughts, sexual violence, homophobia, child abuse, life.

FAGGOT is a dirty word

FAGGOT is a dirty word

I made the mistake. The mistake I warn others of not doing. I read the comments. In case you haven’t heard, Blizzard made a rather poor decision in its choice of how to close BlizzCon. The comments are as to be expected. Largely predicated on academic reasons or “my gay friends/I’m gay/I’m straight and it doesn’t offend me.”

Let’s make this personal.

It starts around the age I was nine. I realized I liked boys. My first crush was in the PASS program with me (Program for Academically Superior Students), and I could not get him out of my head. Nothing sexual, but just imagining hugging him, marrying him, etc.

Then middle school began. I had always been a rather odd one in whatever society I found myself. At first it was my German accent, then my not being masculine enough by American standards, then my lack of interest in sports, my general nerdery, my intelligence, my liking games, etc. It also became getting called fag or gay every week through middle school. It became administrators taking me aside and telling me I was odd. It became teachers sitting down with my mother and telling her they were worried I was ‘immoral,’ which was code for not fitting into mainstream thought and probably queer.

During this time, from the time I was ten until I was almost fifteen, I was also being raped and molested almost every other week. I’ll let you do the math, but suffice it to say, I began having serious questions about myself, my sexuality, and guilting myself for sometimes enjoying the physical pleasure even while my mind loathed everything that was happening to me. I was also coming to terms with being gay.

But! Molestor/rapist was caught! Yay! He was out of my life (not really, he only exited my life this past year when I learned he was dead and no longer stalking me on social networks)!

I began coming out to friends at this point, when I had just entered high school. Not many, but here and there. It was also at this time that I had to deal with a court process that would drag on for five years. Five years of being threatened by the DA of Clarksville, TN, being told because of my age, I wasn’t quite as important to this case (rapist had raped other children), and various juries of varying sorts looking at me like I was a freak. To this day I am more likely to be triggered by reading stories of juries being judgmental toward victims than I am towards rape itself (which is my experience, and not to be ascribed to others). This time is known as when Denis really hated himself, thought himself a whore, had both the FBI and Clarksville Sheriff’s office tell him he was dirty, and was being tested for STIs along with HIV/AIDS, because he didn’t have enough to deal with being a gay teenager.

During this time I also dealt with school administrators, this time high school, calling my mother about ‘concerns.’ Then there was my father finding out about this and threatening to disown me if I ever ended up being gay (while my mother let me know fiercely that she was a fruit fly when she was young, and I would always be supported). Don’t forget the constant yelling down various hallways, “FAG! QUEER! HOMO!” Also, passing cars. I have dealt with passing cars calling me various anti-gay slurs since I was fourteen.

Thankfully, I never experienced any immediate physical threats during high school. This was likely partly due to the fact that once I stopped being raped all the time, I got very angry. Very, very angry. People generally thought I was crazy and that to involve themselves in an altercation with me would result in me not having any qualms about hurting them quite a bit.

Therefore, when college came around, I was grateful for the chance to leave Clarksville, TN. I would get to be in a liberal place! I might have a boyfriend! I might not have to be worried about being openly gay! If that was the case, I’m still not sure why I chose Wabash College (answer: scholarship money for creative writing and academics).

What resulted at Wabash was immediately being out and once again hearing the usual: “FAG! QUEER! HOMO!” Y’know, the usual. This was my rebellious phase. I yelled back, I gave the middle finger, I and a friend printed off bumper stickers that stated, “FAGGOT is a dirty word” and plastered them all over campus. Yet every time I put that sticker on my door? It was taken down.

Apparently I was a faggot, but daring to confront that language was not something I was allowed to do. Instead, some kind chaps decided to write FAGGOT in permanent marker on my door. Because I was visiting with a friend at Oberlin, I was not there that weekend, and by the time I came back, my good friends, and my RA, made sure the offending evidence was gone from my door, having sanded it off. Every time I now entered my room I saw a sanded off portion of the door, reminding me what some people thought of me and my personal space.

That still didn’t stop the harassing phone calls at 2 AM, though. Now, however, I typically only ever heard faggot, queer, or homo muttered under peoples’ breaths. It was understood I was confrontational. It was understood I was not going away.

Graduation was an amusing affair, largely because I had no idea what was in my future. I was off to Chicago and I finally thought I would have the life I dreamed of: a steady boyfriend, dating options, and being accepted. Come to find out, as a gay gamer who was generally nerdy, I wasn’t exactly popular in the gay community. Oh well, I shrugged, maybe I’ll find a group of gaymers somewhere. Over the years I slowly did—that or gay people who didn’t ostracize me for liking games.

Unfortunately, it was during this time that I was also coming home one evening and one of those passing cars happened by. “FAGGOT! QUEER! HOMO!” My response was a rather tired middle finger and shrug. Their response was to quickly turn around their car, jump out, and beat me into the sidewalk. I wasn’t seriously injured, though I did have a concussion, and still have scars on my hands and knees.

Whereas faggot was a word that annoyed me before, now it became very, incredibly emotional. Thinking on that night is still painful. I had built an armor of anger strong enough that the words only kept adding plate after plate, scale after scale, chain after chain. Words followed by that action suddenly turned all of that to nothing.

What was the point of this story?

Dear fellow gamers, I am tired of explaining this to you. I wrote this out so that you can stop saying I am seeking special treatment. I wrote this out so that you could connect it to an actual experience, not some academic exercise of “this is now a general insult.” You do not get to claim the insult so that you can go use it however you wish. Let me repeat: you do not get to reclaim this word that way. The assumption that language changes is one trotted out by people who get to make those changes, which is typically people in power, or those privileged. I am not letting you change that word on me.

Society has used that word on me since I was eleven years old in New Providence Middle School. Society allowed that word to be thrown at my back while I walked the halls of both Northwest and Clarksville High Schools. Society encouraged those college men who decided I could not reclaim it, but they could smear it on my door. Society gave strength to and encouraged those men who jumped out of a car and beat me for my sexuality.

When you say I am asking people to be too politically correct, I hear, “I want to keep kicking you, raping you, and subjecting you to painful court processes that go nowhere, and you’re not allowed to ask me to stop.”

Because, if you think I am oversensitive, I dearly hope you never go through a fraction of what I have. Otherwise, you might find that your skin isn’t so much thick, as it has been largely untested. I am still here. I have been suicidal, but I am still here, ready to raise a middle finger, yell, and demand that I not be subhuman.

Faggot is a dirty word.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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39 Responses to This Gaymer’s Story

  1. NordicNinja says:

    Thank you so much for this, Denis.

  2. Matojo says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and posting this. It’s important that the inappropriateness of Blizzard’s actions, and of the game’s audience’s reaction, is pointed out and called out over and over again until at least SOME people get it.

    You are amazing.

  3. diddlybit says:

    Powerful post and you’re absolutely right, It’s sad that such terms are now considered banal. same goes for “It’s so gay”, meaning isn’t that s**t. I may choose to re-appropriate a term as an act of empowerment, but that doesn’t mean that it can still be used as a hurtful insult.

  4. Farscry says:

    Dude. I just want to give you a hug now. :( Thank you for sharing and for the strength you’ve shown in the stand you have taken in your life!

  5. I was saddened to read the comments on Kotaku last night about this story. Any attempt to initiate dialog with them was met with the responses you mention at the beggining of your post.
    I don’t deny having using some of these words in the past. But I’ve grown up and learned they hurt and even when used with people who aren’t offended by them, it doesn’t remove their hateful intent. I’ve stopped a long time ago and do not tolerate and promote their use. Hopefully this means other’s can change as well.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. Thank you for this. You brought tears to my eyes. Your strength and courage is something to live up to!

  7. David Edison says:

    Thank you again my friend.

  8. Jan Ebrard says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. Greets from Belgium.

  9. Reading this brought me to tears also. Your sharing this is both humbling and inspiring.

  10. TottWriter says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is very humbling to read the stories of people who have had such terrible experiences but keep going.

  11. Tim says:

    Glad you brought that into perspective Denis, I agree, most people would say the meaning of the word shifted but after reading your story (which, by the way, reminded me how young, dumb, ignorant and foolish I was when I threw that word at people.) now, to me, the F-word is just as dirty as the N-word because it was used by people in power to keep others down. Thank you for sharing and I hope you can forgive those that have done harm.

  12. Jake Parsons says:

    I saw this on Kotaku earlier, I want to say that while I’ve never used the F-word, to describe anything, I have said things like “that’s gay” as to describe something, when I’m with a group of friends online or whatever. I have no negative connotation with that word and yet I use it describe something negatively. Even as a Conservative Christian male I don’t find anything wrong with it and yet I say it. I even have friends who are homosexual, and I don’t understand why I’ve been conditioned that way. This article is making me reconsider what I say and hopefully I can pass it on to others to get them to change their habits as well.

  13. Jason says:

    Thankyou for sharing your story Denis, that was a very powerful piece of writing.

  14. Powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing this.

  15. Kris Ligman says:

    First reaction while reading this: “Oh, honey.”

    Second as I read further: I just want to reach through the internet and hug you so hard.

    I don’t believe I’d heard too much about your past up to this point and reading this all made me appreciate 1) how damn positive you normally are and 2) just how strong you are. That it’s so difficult for all these man-children (I generalize, but not TOO much) to grasp that THEY ARE NOT THE ONES THAT GET TO DECIDE WHAT IS OKAY speaks endlessly of their disconnect from reality. Because the saddest, most hurtful part of your story is knowing just how endemic experiences like yours really are, and how little we’ve done to change that.

    I am wearing my “Nintendo realness” drag for my first catwalk in 8 days’ time and now I am going to wear it in honor of this post, and you.

  16. Ben-jamin says:

    Wow. Totally going to follow your blog from here on out. This is an amazing way of putting how I have felt about those kinds of words, esp that one, for a long long time. Cheers to you and your courage and your anger. Sometimes anger is what is needed in life. Cheers!

  17. Brinstar says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with the world, Denis. I hope that it impacts others in a positive way.

  18. Hannah says:

    We’ll probably never meet, but my heart goes out to you. Personally, I have generally chosen to stay indoors and away from larger society in an effort to avoid what you’ve had to experience. You’re stronger than I am and I appreciate you for speaking out.

  19. wow. This was a really awesome read. I understand exactly how you feel on so many levels, being a Gay nerdy effeminate guy as well. Thank you so much for sharing this. It really really made me think about how upsetting this word really is. I’m 26 and just moved back to my hometown. A small little conservative city where fag and homo and queer are yelled at me from cars. Thanks so much for this post. I feel a bit less alone when it comes to be harassed like this and how to deal.

  20. Tracey says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, Denis. It is incredibly brave of you to write about your experiences and I wish I could just give you a big hug.

    When I saw the story up on Kotaku today I felt this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach because I was afraid insensitive, unreasonable, and downright awful comments would be made. After reading the story in the morning before it had received any comments, I went to a conference where the story was always at the back of my mind. I was terribly worried that things would descend into vile dribble which, in a way (on the AU site), they did, and then I felt awful that I wasn’t able to protect your story — to stand there with a baseball bat in hand and swing it violently at anyone who dared to come near it and say something remotely negative.

    I’m sorry you had to deal with the vitriol from commenters from all over the internet. Someday that baseball bat will materialise for me.


  21. EgoPoisoning says:

    It’s funny how often I tell (parts of) your story these days, generally to paint a picture of the Wabash experience from multiple sides (with me being the black guy in Indiana who came in gentle and left not giving two fucks, and you being the fellow what made me seem timid). I’m teaching 4-week college classes now and have had lots of gamer students, so I’ve pointed many to this site as well as Borderhouse and Gaygamer when guiding them to their paper topics. One of my students is going to be turning in a Mortal Kombat-focused paper she was inspired to write thanks to an article from the Borderhouse. So thanks for putting those sites in my quiver!

    Best I can hope is that faggot will become what nigger has already developed into: an archaic phrase NOT accepted as a general insult, at least in a big chunk of the country. Playing League of Legends, that’s something I’ve noticed—I almost never see racial slurs thrown around, but the homophobic stuff crops up constantly. I report it when it does, and do my part, but a few more years of the shift in values will hopefully see a change.

  22. I had the weirdest run-in with “nigger” in League of Legends that I wanted to share, as I think it’s relevant to what you’re saying.

    I was queued with a friend (@wisclassic) and while the game was going in our favor, the other team were not what I would call the classiest of individuals when it came to comments in /all. At one point some person my side got a really clever kill, and I suddenly see this:

    [All] JerkwadMcUsername (champion name): “fuck you nigger”

    I actually stopped playing for a second or two because I was kinda shocked by that, for exactly the reason you say: that sort of thing hasn’t usually been said in LoL in my experience with the game since September or so (though I would say I see a lot of bitching about players from Mexico and Brasil, but that’s another story).

    I probably should have been more strident, but I did at least say “…classy” in /all, and my friend Rob chimed in with what I thought was a great comment about “dipping back into racial slurs from history.” This appears to have been a mistake on our parts, because it set off the most amazing conversation, where the person who deployed the n-bomb then started yelling at us for being racists.

    The logic, which was then taken up by someone on our team, was “Yeah… nigger just means ignorant person. You’re the racists for making it about race.” There was also mention, as the “discussion” (note quotes) wore on, of Chris Rock’s famous “There are black people, and then there are niggers” bit; I’m sure a lot of potential readers have seen it, but if you haven’t:

    I wanted to be dismissive about this, but it did make me think. How much of my dismissive response was based in my perception of what these players were like in real life, and I realized it was very much grounded in the idea that these were likely white young adult middle class males and this rhetorical turn was likely a way of deflecting the accusation that they weren’t acting properly. That said, I had to stop and go, “But that’s me imagining them.” For all I know it could have been them trying to reclaim the word just as much as I might when people call me gay in game.

    I never did come to a satisfying answer. Some part of me deep down still believes my gut reaction there, and it has something to do with the speed and the dialogue style of the way they argued their case. But I’ll never really know, and I know that even if the speaker believed they were making a race-neutral insult, to me it feels hard to separate them.

  23. Thanks for sharing, Denis. I just caught up on all this Blizzard stuff, and I only have 2 things to add:

    1) I love you, Denis! Internet hugs!

    2) We were both angry at the same time! I like to think we would have been high school friends. Maybe we would break stuff and go to shows?

  24. Erik you’re just showing it off. But I don’t like the line “break stuff and go to shows” sounds like a start of another story that is very not suitable in the masculine world.

  25. Dilyan says:

    I follow 11 WoW blogs and none of them have anything, not even a passing mention, on this. How shameful.

  26. I really wish that every one of those posters who claims that word doesn’t have meaning would read this.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it must have been difficult to do.

  27. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m the person that started the petition about the Blizzcon incident.

    I’ve been spending the past week thinking about why homophobia is so rampant in the MMO world. The best answer i can come up with (and I am not a psychologist, sociologist, or any -ologist) is that it stems from an overcompensation for the stereotype already in place about gamers — that men who play video games are weak, pasty, milquetoast nerds — and therefore this over-the-top ridiculous machismo bro-fist pumping attitude manifests in order to somehow counterbalance that. And so it escalates into the travesty that was allowed to be broadcast at Blizzcon.

    Words have meaning. That old adage about sticks and stones? Broken bones and bruises heal much quicker than a broken spirit. There are times when I’ve encountered hate speech in PuGs and after writing my GM ticket I’ve had to log off for awhile just to catch my breath. The best part is when you try to find some commiseration and get told you’re being “too sensitive” or that this is a “first world problem”.

    I think I’d rather be too sensitive than to be immune to injustice. Because heaven knows we’ve still got loads of it in the “first world” as well as in Azeroth.

  28. Dinosaur Nipples says:

    What an excellent bit of writing. It brought a bit of a tear to my (largely straight male) eye.

    I’m British, and find it really awkward to play most games on servers full of Americans, due to the density of homophobic and racial slurs; I’m white and more or less straight, and it mortifies me. I can only imagine how wearing and hurtful it must be to people directly abused this way.

    I know e-hugs are no useful sort of hugs at all, but that’s all this interface supports, so consider them yours. Meantime, nicely written, keep kicking ass- you got this far, clearly you have a lot going for you.


  29. Thank you for being so brave to share with us! I hope everyone who reads your story will remember it, because it is important to not forget that people are just people no matter how they look, dress, who or what they like. I wish that I could do more than just offer my support.

  30. IvoryTower says:

    I just… I’m so sorry. I’ve never used those words as insults, I’ve never raised a hand to anyone for such a reason, but all I can say is *I’m so sorry*.

    As far as I’m concerned “you’re being too political correct” is often short-hand for “I don’t like to think about the way I’m hurting other people, so I’m going to make it their fault instead of mine”.

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  32. Zevereh says:

    I just ended up here after reading about the Blizzcon Video, I’m not gay so honestly I don’t know why I even clicked into this site …
    But for some reason this really took me back to the times when I was a newbie at WoW.
    When I was about 14-15 I played wow alot, actually most of the days, for the whole day. I had this best-friend who used to just watch me play (I figured because he didn’t have good enough ethernet/computer etc. to play himself).. One day he asked me “What would you do/say If I said I was gay?”. He asked me casually, and I thought he was just asking like as a joke or something. And I answered “Hah, I’d never speak to you again, Not because you’re gay, but because you held it a secret !”
    All this while I was playing WoW, so I never thought anything more about it, probobly forgot it right after.
    Didn’t hear anything before 2-3 years later, when people started telling me that this friend of mine had just “exited the closet”, I always responed “Naaah, he’s always looked like a fag, but trust me, he’s not…”
    Ofc I was totally wrong, he had confirmed all of this. And he didn’t dare to tell me, because of that earlier episode.

    Now that I’m done writing this, I do not know why I absolutely had to write this. Guess I liked the fact that this is a gamer site, while it’s still a gay community x)

    Also, please do not misunderstand, I have nothing against gay people, I just have a tendency to say the wrong stuff…

    Before I wrap this up, I’d like to give you some creds Denis, it’s a brave thing you did there. Well written post, and I will seriously try to stop using those bad words.

  33. John Brindle says:

    Great respect for this. It’s hard to imagine even the most blase casual nerd-culture homophobe reading this and having any other response than “…well, jeez, fair enough, I see your point now.”

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  35. Casey says:

    Unfortunately, plenty of blase’ casual nerd homophobes/apologists are shitting all over this heart-rending account in the WOW LJ community. :(

  36. Gene Stewart says:

    Thank You for this. I grew up in a very small town on the Oregon coast and had similar experiences in school. I have always been effeminate, but in the 5th grade I started hearing the hateful slurs as well. “Fag”, “Faggot”, Homo”… Words hurt and shape how you feel about yourself and others. It does my heart good to see other GLBT people survive, recover and thrive, even after all the pain. Thank you for being a positive force for change.

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