And the words I used, faggot, queer, dyke, bitch, are words that have a history of oppression. And this is even without getting into other words such as the n-word. Which is why it is important for gender and sexual minorities to be able to “reclaim” words. And this means reclaiming them separate from cis straight people, even if they’re allies, and there is a reason for that.
Words need context, which also means words have power in those contexts. And the context of those words coming from cis straight people is oppression. It’s of people playing “smear the queer” and calling people “faggots” for being different and making fun of the tomboy girl for being a “dyke.” The context is suicides and murders and homelessness and discrimination. The context of cis straight people saying the words is horrifying.
So what is reclaiming? Why is a gender and/or sexual minority saying it any different? It takes away the power of the word. If you use the label “Dyke” for yourself as a joke or even as a proud label, where is the power now? After all, isn’t venom itself used to create anti-venom?
Now, when I say it needs to be reclaimed separate of straight cis allies, that isn’t to say I feel they can never say the words ever. But there is a huge difference between a friend that openly calls themselves a “faggot” for being gay being called faggot by close friends in a friendly environment and between two straight dudes calling each other “faggots” to make fun of each other. In the first it’s saying “I’m proud of who I am and friends can call me that, because that’s who I am” but the second is saying “Haha, I’m calling you gay, which is bad, and therefore an insult!”
We are the ones that have been oppressed by the words, and only we can take away their power. And we need to be sensitive to do so. If a friend is uncomfortable with the words faggot or dyke or queer, I won’t use them around that person. Because even reclaiming can only go so far so fast. It is a process, and it is socially determined.