Wednesday, October 01, 2008
FAGS Are Hitting Community College Campuses
Student Groups Adopt In-Your-Face Name, Reject “LGBT”
by LEO E. LAURENCE
Copyright © 2008 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved
FAGS are coming out on community college campuses, creating a nightmare for some adminis-trators.
FAGS is the new name of the former LGBT student union organizations at San Diego City and Mesa community colleges, and stands for the Fellowship of Associated Gay Students and straight allies.
The name change was first introduced by Jason Frye, 28, a student at both schools. He lives with longtime Gay activist Jay Murley, who is thrilled by the heated controversy the name change is causing on local campuses.
FAGS is also active at MiraCosta and Miramar colleges, and is expected to spread to other commu-nity colleges, like Southwestern in the Chula Vista area.
At City, the Gay organization had for years been the GLBT Student Union (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender). But about 10 years ago, a faculty advisor, on her own authority, changed it to the LGBT, putting the word Lesbian first in the acronym.
Last semester, Frye and others changed the name again to FAGS and straight allies, partly for the shock value and party to “reclaim the word FAGS,” much as younger Gays have changed the word “Queer” into a positive word by using it frequently to describe themselves.
“The alphabet soup (of the L-G-B-T acronym) is passive,” said Frye. “We had about 60 register for membership in FAGS, about half for the meat market. In about 2 weeks, the membership went down to 15-20, and we now have a core group of 7-10,” Frye said in an interview.
“We wanted (a name) with an edge, that was attention-grabbing, fun and to take back the word,” he added.
“The difficulty is that some students ask: ‘Can you do that? I think it’s offensive.’”
The name change hit the City College campus big-time. Most of the September 9 issue of the of-ficial campus newspaper, City Times, was devoted to the issue. There was a front-page story on FAGS, a Vox Populi (Man-on-the-Street interviews with photos) and a half-page editorial.
“So much to ponder, so many questions to ask. I will definitely be attending the first club meeting. I’ll salute them on this. They (FAGS) sure know how to raise one’s curiosity,” wrote the City Times Features Editor Luis Bahena.
“The FAGS mission is to promote awareness of Gay issues, open minds, promote safer sex, and fight for the equality of (Gay) marriage rights,” wrote City Times managing editor Nailah Edmundson in a long front-page article. “And to fight for the right to use the (FAGS) name,” Frye added.
Some administrators at City College do not like the name FAGS, including Student Services Assis-tant Michele Montanez.
“I think the acronym (FAGS) is not appropriate for an educational institution because it is hate language,” Montanez said in an interview.
She also did not think the word ”queer” is a positive word. Years ago, many young Gays and Lesbians began using the word “Queer” to describe themselves in a positive manner, to convert the word with a negative implication into a positive word. (Generally, people using the term “Queer” in a positive manner capitalize it, and use the lower-case “queer” to describe use of the word as a hate term.)
“I do not think ‘queer’ is a positive word,” Montanez said, clearly uncomfortable being inter-viewed on the subject.
“I don’t think the First Amendment applies to hate language,” the City College administrator added.
In constitutional law, if a word like “fag” or “queer” is used in a hostile manner against a Gay person, it is not protected under the First Amendment. But, when it is used as a word of positive self-description, the constitutional protection does apply.
When discussing the word FAGS with Montanez, Frye said the administrator didn’t like the fact that the letter L for Lesbian was not included in the FAG organizational name, like it is in the LGBT acronym.
“This has galvanized the use of the word even more,” Frye added.
“More people are offended by the (administration’s) censorship, than by the word itself,” Frye reported.
“It feels like people are trying to make a big stink for different reasons,” said Glen Echon, 22, of North Park. “In reality, (the City College administration) just wants to keep giving us a hard time. They are really uncomfortable with it.”
“Sure, it’s a known fact that many words have double standards,” Bahena wrote in his editorial. “Words that can be hurtful are often at times okay with peer groups and circles. Among my friends and in my home, the use of bad and offensive words is used on a daily basis. Our favorite being ‘bitch.’ We don’t mean to offend anyone, and one might gasp at our nonchalance; but as I said, it’s used among my circle of friends. …
“I had to applaud the gents that had the balls to make such a (organizational name) change. And such a statement, too!,” he wrote.
“How ironic that those who have been called fag in the past in the context of hate, have turned that (word) around and empowered their group and themselves as FAGS. It almost feels as if they’re saying, ‘Yeah, we’re here, we’re Queer, deal with it.’”
The “final” decision (short of a lawsuit) on the use of the name FAGS at City College rests with Equal Employment Opportunity Site Compliance Officer Mary Coleman, according to the City Times. She did not return a phone call for an interview at press time.
For comment, contact Leo E. Laurence at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (619) 757-4909. Contact FAGS at email@example.com
Photo caption: the anonymous members of Mesa FAGS and participants for our Spring 2008 for National Day of Silence Commemoration (Picture taken by F.A.G.S. President Jason Frye)