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Dear Cis-Heterosexual Women, Stop Using ‘Sis’ to Replace the Word ‘Faggot’

Watching Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning was like staring down a rabbit hole, leading to an ideal world. In this world, gender expression is free. It isn’t only tolerated; it’s celebrated. However, such a world does not exist, at least not for me.

James Brown sang, “This is a man’s world,” with a very clear definition of who a man should be and who the world truly belongs to. I don’t belong in this world, nor does any other man who is queer, femme or gender fluid. Like my father always said before attacking my sexual and gender identity, “A real man does not behave, walk or talk like a bitch.” To my father, I’m not a ‘real’ man. I’m a bitch. A faggot. Someone who does not belong in his cis-heterosexual male-dominated world, which has no tolerance for free gender expression. I’m like the men in Paris is Burning. I should exist in a world where there is no line of demarcation between masculinity and femininity.

I didn’t grow up with any queer friends; nevertheless, I knew other queer people existed. I saw them on television shows like Will and Grace. They were always white, sassy and lived for gossip; they were also always surrounded by cis-heterosexual women. I had tons of cis-heterosexual girlfriends, too. And around them, I felt like I had permission to be who I wanted to be—someone who could let down that wall between masculinity and femininity, someone with the freedom of gender expression.

Cis-heterosexual women always seemed to accept my queerness. Therefore, I had the balls to be who I wanted to be around them. The more comfortable they became with my queerness, the more they took playful digs at my free gender expression, just like the queer, genderfluid men of Paris is Burning. They called me their “sis” and I had no issue with this. For me, a woman calling me “sis” meant rebelling against my father’s disdain towards my queerness and free gender expression; I felt like I was triumphantly stomping all over my father’s (and society’s) feckless definition of what a ‘real man’ is.

When queer men call one another “sis,” “bitch,” and “girl,” they don’t just use it as a term of endearment; they use it to reclaim and redefine their own gender identity and to dismantle society’s hard-nosed idea of what one’s manhood should be. However, my proximity to cis-heterosexual women also taught me that they, too, are guilty of weaponizing a man’s queerness, exposing that they, too, have an unbending idea of what one’s manhood should look like.

When Kim Kardashian and Tyson Beckford feuded over his misogynistic, body-shaming Instagram comments, she showed how easily cis-heterosexual women — especially those with proximity to queer men — can weaponize our queerness and free gender expression to attack a cis-heterosexual man’s sexual identity, which is often foolishly translated as an attack on his manhood.

When the notorious culture vulture called the misogynistic male model “sis,” she wasn’t using it as a term of endearment. She was using it as a gentle place-holder for the word “faggot.” The only reason she didn’t drop the F-bomb is because of the public relations nightmare that would ensue after using such a disgusting word. Therefore, “sis,” alongside the accusation that Beckford is gay, sufficed.

There were plenty of things Kim Kardashian could have said about Beckford; however, accusing him of being gay and calling him “sis” seemed like a low enough blow. This says a lot about how she views her gay best friends. There’s no way she can be accepting towards queer men if she’s using their queerness or gender fluidity to insult a straight man.

I wish this were an isolated issue, but it happens all too often. This reminds me of the time my straight best friend kept calling her ex-boyfriend “sis,” only to end up calling him a “faggot” — not because he’s gay, but because she wanted to hit him where it hurts most: his manhood.  

This reminds me of the argument Love and Hip-Hop star K Michelle and A1 got into about one another’s credibility as an artist. He told K Michelle that her music sucks, and she looked at him with a very concerned face and asked, “Are you reading me, sis?” After that, she continued to take jabs at his masculinity, calling him “Little Richard” — a term she has used to call other men gay.

Again, this seems like a classic case of “I really want to call you a fag, but I’ll use ‘sis’ instead.”

I’m not sure whether or not these women want to use “sis” to replace the derogatory word “faggot,” but I’m more than certain that cis-heterosexual women aren’t using “sis” in a friendly manner anymore. And if this is the case, I no longer wish to be called “sis” by any cis-heterosexual woman.

Image via Getty

Tags: Advice
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