The F-Word

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It’s been hurled at me since I was a boy. A word and term meant to evoke a certain flair, a certain style, a certain way of life. It was code for something else too, even if I was too young to understand. The word was ‘flamboyant’ and to this day people use it when describing me. It’s also another word for ‘gay’ even if it’s something I didn’t get until many years later.

For those in upstate New York, ‘flamboyant’ could mean anything from sequins and feather boas to one notch above your average crocs and cargo shorts combo. That’s a wide berth, one that is easily surpassed with just a modicum of decent taste and simple tailoring. I never minded the moniker, because it meant I was doing something right, something that set me apart from the herds of drab cattle that passed for fashionable in these parts. It was a nicer and more polite way of saying that I was different, which was a nicer and more polite way of saying one was gay.

Such codes were at play long before I arrived on the scene, and they were used by people at every stage of the sexual spectrum. They were a way of marking others – enemies or would-be-lovers, interested parties or plain-clothes police officers. The words were descriptive and a form of designation. Like most labels, they served a purpose that brought freedom and limitation at once. And like most terms that others used to describe me, they were accurate only to a certain point.

Today, I hear the ‘flamboyant’ descriptor mostly from other gay men, and it can carry a certain implicit snideness, particularly when coming from someone less than confident in their own identity. I hear a note of ridicule when someone who prides himself on appearing especially masculine calls me out for looking a little too flamboyant for his taste. It’s subtle, but it’s there. A note that indicates the name-caller has a problem with a guy acting too feminine, or too gay.

Luckily for me, I’ve never considered my ‘flamboyance’ any sort of indicator of who I am as a person. If it makes other people more comfortable to categorize me as such, that’s ok. They’ve already shown their hand when they went for such a dig in the first place. I’ll take my flamboyance, flaunt it, and flounce away in the finest f-off form you’ll ever find.

{This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of ‘Community’ published by the Pride Center of the Capital Region.}

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