What is a Fag Hag?

In literature and pop culture, women who enjoy the company of gay men are portrayed as overzealous, clingy, and despising straight men. These women are often referred to as fag hags:

fag-hag: heterosexual woman extensively in the company of gay men. Fag-hags fall into no single category: some are plain Janes who prefer the honest affection of homoerotic boy friends; others are on a determined crusade to show gay boys that normal coitus is not to be overlooked. A few are simply in love with homosexual men; others determine to their chagrin that their male friends are charming but not interested sexually. No matter how you cut it, fag-hag has an ugly ring to it.

– The Queen’s Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon (Rodgers, 1972).

Miss_Fag_Hag_Coney_Island_Mermaid_ParadeAlthough this term is not necessarily seen as a positive one, it is still widely used in the LGBT community. Obviously, no gay male likes being called a ‘fag,’ and no straight female like to be referred to as a ‘hag.’ Yet, some females take pride in the term while gay men have no problem using it to refer to their female friends. Why?

The gay male’s perspective: In situations where fag hag is used in an enduring way among friends, the term may be used to symbolically affirm a woman’s membership and acceptance among her gay male friends. Gay men may see the term as a way to share and express (humorously) the stigma of being gay in our society to a supportive female who is of no threat1. However in some cases, women who are “gay friendly” may not be called fag hags as many gay men reject this label.

The female’s perspective: Many females do not like being referred to as a fag hag due to the “hagginess” of the term. However, some women wear it as a badge of honor. This may be due to a female’s wanting to be included in a group a men who will accept her for who she is and won’t compare her to the “ideal” female beauty (like straight men do). But, many women disagree with the stereotypical portrayal of fag hags as outdated, noting that the “new” fag hag is a woman who seeks out friendships with gay men for inherent pleasure, not necessarily out of desperation for male attention2.

Although the term fag hag may sound like an insulting term, it is still widely used in and out of the gay community. By understanding its roots, we can ultimately learn why it is still a pervasive term in our society.

References:

1. Moon, D. (1995). Insult and inclusion: The term fag hag and the gay male “community”. Social Forces, 74, 487-510.

2. Thompson, D. (2004). Calling all fag hags: From identity politics to identification politics. Social Semiotics, 14, 37-48.

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