“What Did You Just Call Me?”

Guest Writer: R. L. NORMAN

      A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening, I was with a couple of good friends on the subway train, on route to Dupont Circle here in D.C. Even though it was a chilly night in June, we decided to hang out at a neighborhood bar, the Fireplace. It’s the place we go to drink, meet and greet men.

      As we exited the train, I accidentally bumped into this guy as he was trying to get on. I turned and apologized, even though I thought no one was at fault, considering both the train and platform were crowded.

     “I’m sorry.” I said. “Excuse me.”

     The man looked dead at me. After hesitating, he said, “Hmmm, Faggot.”

      Honey, I was about to take off my earrings and beat that ass! However, my friends held me back. Then I looked down at my outfit of tight blue jeans and a sweat shirt that read “Sleeps Well With Others. “ You see, I figured he should have called me a whore before he called me a faggot! Go figure.

      As we left the metro and walked down P Street, one of my friends pointed to a guy walking across the street.

      Sarcastically, he said, “Look at that faggot.”

      As I looked at the guy, I will admit he was a little flamboyant and dressed in wild colors. And, he was switching like a woman as he proudly walked down the street with the air of confidence that some of us lack– but wish we had.

      He was a real man in his own right.  And that got me to thinking.

      Faggot, sissy, queen, butch queen, lipstick queen, bull dagger are some of the names we call each other within the gay community. These are the names that we call people who are different from us. These are the derogatory names that we call our fellow gay brothers and sisters. The same names that we would get upset over if a straight person called us that.

      Yes, let a so-called “non-gay” person call us one of those names–such as that guy calling me a faggot–and we’re ready to fight!   But then, we turn around and hurl those same so-called slurs toward our fellow brothers and sisters.

      But if you think about it, that’s just like the word “nigger.”  We can call each other that and think nothing of it. We say it to each other as a term of endearment to an extent. But let a non-black person say that and we are ready to fight.

      There are a lot of people who think that we shouldn’t call each other nigger because of the origin of the word. As we all know, that word goes back to the days of slavery. But here we are today, using it as a positive word. Honey, go figure.

      But why do we NOT use the words faggot or queen as a positive? Why do we feel the need to down our own gay brothers or sisters?  Why do we call each other those names and think it’s okay? Why do we judge each other? Aren’t we being judged enough by the so-called straight community?

      We in the gay community have enough problems to deal with without putting each other down.

     So, I think people should not judge someone for being more womanly or manly than ourselves. We should always accept our gay brothers and sisters for who they are; a strong confident man or woman. Not a faggot, sissy, queen, butch queen, lipstick queen, or bull dagger. If we use the word “nigger” as a term of endearment, we should do the exact same with the aforementioned words. Most of those people you are calling those names have more self-confidence in themselves than most of us have. They are just being themselves just like you are.

     Actually, you should be careful. First of all, someone may be calling you the same name that you just called someone for being gay and different. And secondly, the person that you called a name may be more of a man than you ever were–and more man than you’ll ever be.

     He might even make you assume the position. Face down, ass up.

     Honey, think about it.

R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.” Currently, R. L. is finishing the sequel. As well, he performs “Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.” All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home,; by email at:; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram: rlnorman1.


  1. Cyan

    I am a straight woman, and your words are so true. I have many “gay” friends who use these words jokingly. It makes me upset when I hear young black men using the “N” word. Words hurt, they hurt deep. We all need to think before we use words that could hurt others. Thank you for bringing this to the light of us all.

  2. Gary

    I think that your point about a group appropriating a word that has been used against (your example being “nigger’) is important and powerful. I don’t like the gay terms of put down you mentioned (also, ‘queer’), but I especially don’t like them when gay guys use them to put down other gay guys.

  3. Jay Jay

    HONEY LET ME TELL YOU. . . . . . .I find it amazing how a situation occurs and it provokes thoughts of name calling and what it means. Very well put R.L. Norman. Basically, your thoughts regarding name calling is definitely an AH-HA moment. In other words, I agree, concur and believe that name calling is not about what a person calls you but its what you answer to. NOW CHECK THAT HONEY! LOL

    1. H P

      Let’s not forget that the freedoms of equality started with sissy’s queers and faggots at a little place called STONEWALL Where were the boy boys. Men in high-heels kicked and scratched and went to jail for freedoms we have now.

  4. Kenny Stephens

    As older black man in gay community. I used the word faggot, sissy or drag queen, while hang out with friend. We be laugh and joke calling every other in good way. Non-gay person called us those word, true we get ready to throw down. We have to remember there is time and place for everything. Today world is not the same at 20 years ago. I all have to show each other RESPECT, like the Queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.

  5. Gilmore

    People call other people out their name to give them power. To put one self a slept
    It’s a all to common reflex to call another out of their name. Just because it’s
    Common or excepting does not mean it’s right. A nickname is ment to be, “funny, sexie, cute, endearing, degrading and sometimes hurtful.”. The names we call each other is a reflection of ourselves – remember, “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU”
    However, my name is on my Birth Certificate, and only I have the right to let you call me something different.
    Thanks to R L Norman for making us take a look at ourselves.

  6. P. Daniel Mitchell

    Today I had a conversation with a straight young man about his best friend, who is openly gay. Your article mirrored our exact conversation. He could not conceived that “gay” people would call each other such names in a hurtful manner. Especially in the black community. He went on to say; and I agree, being a black male is hard enough in this society but there is a double “whammy” if you are a black gay male. He believes, “TO LIVE AND LET LIVE” So, before we (starting with me) form any HURTFUL words in our mouths, lets think, would I want anyone to call me those names. R. L. Norman, you hit the NAIL on the HEAD.

  7. Reggie

    The article is very thought provoking. We should continue to have discussions about derogatory words. My question(s): Who created these words and how are they given “POWER”??? Why is a person offended when he/she is called a “clown” by some educators or parents but not when he/she is called “silly” ? Ummm… silly is accepted over being a “clown”? Why is “stupid and dumb” losing acceptance but mentally challenged is becoming acceptable? There are many words that hurt people. These words are used to demean a person’s self-worth, position or both. We use “bitch” and “nigger” as terms of endearment. It took my son to convince me that I was giving these words too much energy and “POWER” (especially,when he and his friends used them). An “ah-ha” moment occurred, I was giving away my mind, spirit and “POWER” to words that did not define me. Now, when I am surrounded by people using expletives or those folks who revert to “name-calling” I am no longer affected. A big smile is evidenced on my face…WHY? I no longer give them what they want “POWER” over me.

  8. Ben

    This was a great thought provoking read. I hate how those words can break our spirit yet we’re so quick to use them towards one another. This really makes one think about the power words have over us. Excellent write!

  9. DJ Storm

    Interesting piece, it also tells alot about ourselves and the hate (even though some may claim it as a term of “endearment?”) that can spew out of our mouths, question is “Will We Ever Learn not to use those derogatory words against anyone regardless of race, creed or religious association and sexual preference, only time will tell..

  10. Kent Rogers

    Very well put we do put others down when we should up lift them as well as our selves. Times are getting better but we have not arrive just yet there is still work. Love your column. Keep it up.

  11. Danthony

    In today’s world, simple at home manners that we have or should have learnt is not as commonplace as we may take for granted. Bascially, the root of our insensitive remarks at others stem from our insecurities. Always remember that respect for others and you will always open doors.

  12. Rayceen Pendarvis

    Their are 2 ways we can look at these words such Faggot, Dike, or the N WORD they were once used by folks that hated us and would harm or kills us!! Some would say we are taking the words back and no allowing them to have that kind of emotional power over us, By using in our community does it take away the pain others feel when they hear it but it should open the door to begin an honest dialogue so I leave with this it not what they call you but what you answer to!!! Love RAYCEEN

  13. Ee-Zee H.

    “…he was switching like a woman as he proudly walked down the street with the air of confidence that some of us lack– but wish we had.” <–THIS.

    MY opinion is that there is NEVER a good time to use the word, especially as gay men. This whole idea of reclaiming hateful words and "taking back power" is nonsense. Before anyone asks – Yes, I feel the same way about the N word.

  14. Toya

    You hit the nail right on the head with this one. We all knew the childhood rhyme about sticks and stones and words doesn’t apply in the real world. Words can hurt when hurled incorrectly but there is strength in using them to uplift rather than downgrade. We have to be mindful of how we talk about each other and to each other. There are so many other words we can use to express ourselves. Let’s leave the slurs of the past in the closet and speak love. The F-word, the S-word and the D-word are played out. It’s time we moved on and your post outlines the reasons why so well.

  15. Ernest McCarley

    Another funny and thought provoking read my friend . Keep doing your thing . Can wait to see the stage play . I will be front and center .. Or perhaps lean my talents . Have your people call my people . ? Best Wishes! E

  16. Tremayne

    We can never control what others say and/or think, but we are absolutely have control of how we respond and react. I’m a firm believer it’s not what people call you, but what you answer to. I refuse to be burden down by others negativity. I hold fast to what I believe about myself.


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