Facebook, Hate Speech, and a Road to Queer Activism

You might call me the accidental pussy faggot. An independent performance curator and producer based in Brooklyn, I have presented hundreds of events over the past 7 years, most with a queer sensibility. However, I never imagined that a performance-driven party called PUSSY FAGGOT! would end up being one of my signature projects. I didn’t realize the term would resonate so strongly with so many people, but I suppose I could have guessed it would put me at odds with Facebook.

The party started as something of an inside joke. As the Festival Director for the 2009 HOT! Festival I wanted to pimp out my birthday as a fundraiser. The most viable venue for the event proved to be The Delancey Lounge on New York’s Lower East Side. Having thrown a weekly party there a couple years prior I was intimately familiar with the club, but I hadn’t set foot in the joint since the party came to an abrupt end during a fabled bar fight with my co-promoter. Curled up in a fetal position on the floor of the bar I was kicked, spat upon and called “pussy faggot!” The assault ended when cabaret star Justin Bond and transgender performance artist Glenn Marla intervened. My assailant protested, “But he threw a drink in my face!” to which the ever-unflappable Bond responded, “And you’ve kicked him three times. You’re even.”

Naming the benefit PUSSY FAGGOT! was a cheeky way of calling out the 800-pound elephant in the room. Since then the event has taken on a life of its own, becoming a periodic one night mini-festival of queer performance; I even presented an edition of the party in Manchester, England as part of the Queer Up North Festival in May. The response from participating artists, audiences and the media has been overwhelmingly supportive, doing much to remove the sting of that earlier attack.

A large part of my marketing strategy for the event has involved Facebook. To my surprise, I was able to create an event for the benefit called PUSSY FAGGOT!, and I even advertised successive editions of the party with a banner headline featuring the party name (paying nearly $200 to Facebook in the process). Then in April of this year, my event was removed without explanation. In August I was able to post the event without incident, but in November I hedged my bets and called the event “Hom(o) for the Holidays.” That event was pulled as was an event for the launch of our revamped website, www.pussyfaggot.net. Each time I received a warning me that I had violated Facebook’s Terms of Use. “Events that are hateful, threatening or obscene are not allowed,” read the generic messages. “We also take down events that attack an individual or group.”

Language evolves over time, and there are many precedents for reclaiming slurs, epithets and other words that have been used to verbally assault and demean people. These linguistic acts of defiance frequently help diminish the power these words have to hurt or inflict pain. The rehabilitation of the term for a female dog has progressed to the point that we have Bitch magazine and a singer/songwriter named Bitch (formerly of Bitch and Animal). This didn’t happen overnight. In 1990 performance artist Penny Arcade’s sex and censorship show “Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore!” had some feminists so incensed they tore down posters advertising the piece. Arcade’s provocative embrace of terms she had been called throughout her life were an affront to the standard-bearers of political correctness.

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    • Jo

      Thank you for sharing this post! I’m glad to see something about queer issues and experience on here.

      Did you attempt to get facebook to repost the listing?