Lunchtime Poll: Is the Word 'Faggot' Always Homophobic?S

In the wake of Frank Ocean's announcement that he once loved a man, there has been a renewed discourse about what it means for the supposedly homophobic crew Odd Future to have a male member that is queer or queerish or whatever Frank Ocean is. This makes him the second known member that isn't entirely straight — Odd Future producer Syd tha Kyd is an out lesbian who hates the word "lesbian."

Odd Future's head wolf in charge, Tyler the Creator, as you probably know, is fond of hate speech, specifically hate speech like "faggot" and "fag." Though reports on the number of times those words are uttered on his 2011 album Goblin are greatly exaggerated (instead of the often reported 200+, it's more like 14), his frequent use still feels like an assault to people who don't like that word. Tyler is also the type of person to make blowjob motions behind the back of someone he perceives to be gay, as he did to Jim Cantiello during an interview on the red carpet of last year's Video Music Awards. (Jim Cantiello is not gay.)

Over at BlackBook today, Tyler Coates has a good roundup of the latest Odd Future discourse, including an excerpt from Foster Kamer's recent Tumblr post praising the way Ocean's sexuality complicates and creates nuance in his collective:

Besides all of the wonderful things that will come out of Frank Ocean's "outing" himself—or whathaveyou—the idea that labeling Odd Future as a homophobic collective just became more complex and frustrating to people who are fans of oversimplifying complex issues as a matter of making an argument (but really: jumping onto whatever outrage bandwagon is getting "liked" on Tumblr more than others on any particular week) is also a particularly delightful one. The world needs more nuance. It needs to frustrate our most simple thinkers (who have the loudest, angriest voices, as is often the case).

I wonder, then: is to always consider the word "faggot" offensive to read without nuance? If Tyler the Creator refers to the ostensibly straight B.o.B. as a "faggot nigga" to describe a certain softness or whatever he finds negative about B.o.B., is that better than calling Bishop Eddie Long (who headed his own gay sex scandal) a faggot? Does "faggot" ever not invoke gay people or negative feelings toward them, even if it's done so indirectly? To call someone a faggot isn't always to say they are gay, but I can't think of an instance when it is not to say "bad...like a gay person."

Is there nuance to be found within the word "faggot," or is using it an inherently homophobic act that no amount of gay friends can forgive? Are there some expressions, like "theater fag," that transcend bigotry, as argued by the asshole protagonist of Young Adult?

In my opinion, gay people are the only people given a pass to use that word casually because we've fucking earned it. But I'm open to other interpretations.

[Image via Getty]