The Flaming Homo

This semester I’ve come across some challenges with a professor. I’m trying not to let his rudeness deter me from learning in his class (because I learn a lot) but am instead trying be grateful for the knowledge and insights I have gained from him.

I have enjoyed taking two courses with him and felt comfortable talking about my sexual-orientation and religion with him in class. In a time where I was just beginning to speak up about having a girlfriend, it was relieving when a professor grandly supported it. He has portrayed himself as a supporter of the LGBT community and a feminist, so what he has been spouting in lectures the past few weeks has been frustrating, offensive and contradictory to his support.

Thursday’s lecture was spent listening to and discussing Allen Ginsberg’s music and poetry (that is some weird stuff). My professor likes to give us background on all the authors we read, which I enjoy a lot, but he described openly-gay Ginsberg as “flaming gay” and “gay as a three dollar bill.”

My reaction had to be obvious! My eyes popped, my mouth fell open… My whole expression exuded holy crap.

These phrases are all too common in our culture, I mean “queer as a three dollar bill” was how Patrick (a gay character from The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie/book) described his boyfriend, Brad.

This does not make them acceptable.

As a girl who is dating a girl I find these phrases incredibly offensive and unnecessary. They are not loving descriptions of the LGBT community, because they further ostracize us and scream DIFFERENT in our faces.

The terms flaming homo or gay as a three dollar bill come off as humorous, but this laughable quality only masks the social inequalities reinforced within them.

I googled both, and here are the urban dictionary descriptions:
-          Flaming Homo – “A type of homosexual that is easily detected by a person with little to moderate "gay-dar". The male form is typically extroverted and has an obsession with fashion. The female form it typically stoic and has an obsession with physical prominence.

-          Gay as a Three Dollar Bill – “A euphenism for homosexual, generally a male homosexual. Compare to "Light in the Loafers", Limp Wristed", "Panty Waist", or "Candy Ass"

Also: “Alternative term for a flaming homosexual; something or someone who shouldn't exist.” 

None of those descriptions are very laughable to me or ideal descriptions of a homosexual.

Let’s talk about the flaming homo. This is a person who anyone can tell is gay! What does this suggest? That certain attributes only exist within gays and lesbians: a certain walk, a certain fashion sense, a certain way of talking. When my professor said this description he did a dance that looked like an angry monkey. I can personally tell you that isn’t a dance of the gays. I walk no different than anyone else you’ve passed on the street. I switch between dressing in floral tank tops and skinny jeans and hoodies and shorts. I’ve had a pixie cut and I’ve had hair down to my butt. I used to do hard workouts and now I do yoga. My voice is not deep, my shoulders are not broad. I am not the social description of masculine or butch nor feminine or girly. Not all masculine and butch women are lesbians. Not all fashionable and limber men are gay. Not all gay men like cardigans, bow ties and Prada. Not all lesbians like plaid and short hair.

Homosexuals and heterosexuals are not born with different attributes.

Individuals have different attributes, but race, gender, and sexuality do not determine your personality, likes/dislikes or behavior.

There is no such thing as your flaming homo!

By declaring someone as a flaming homo you are telling them that they are so obviously different that it’s comedic. Not comedic as in they are trying to entertain you, but that their being is so ridiculous to you that it’s laughable.

Queer as a three dollar bill is just another way to label us as “different” and “wrong.” There is no such thing as a three dollar bill, so this (just as urban dictionary says) proclaims that we have no place in this society. We are not the ever present one dollar bill, the handy five dollar bill, the normal ten dollar bill, the old-age twenty dollar bill, or the bountiful fifty dollar bill! We are the dollar bill that doesn’t exist. You’re telling us we don’t fit in and we don’t exist.  

Patrick using this expression in Perks of Being a Wallflower is not a way of reclaiming the phrase. It is a way for society to make this phrase seem harmless and entertaining through media. If a gay person says it, then it’s okay to say it, right?


I’ve heard plenty of gay people replace the word “stupid” with the word “gay.” That is not reclaiming the word and remaking the definition, but further masking the effect and power it has over our culture.

The fact that a professor used these descriptions in a class of young adults is disgusting, but no more disgusting that it being said in a popular movie.

I used to use these terms with as much laughter as the next, so I know how innocent they seem. They’re not innocent.

Throwing around flaming homo, gay as a three dollar bill, gay, fag, etc. only reinforces the balance that society currently holds.

An unequal balance, a heteronormative balance, a patriarchal balance.

You may say I have no place in society with these words, but these phrases should have no place in society (especially the classroom!) anymore. 



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