The journey to self-acceptance and truthful expression as a queer person is a long and hard one, mainly because the world we live in has institutions and socialization processes that are discriminatory to the queer folk. The discrimination arises from ideas of what is moral and which gender ideologies to follow for which sex.

By virtue of being queer, the LGBT community sometimes deviates from these set societal rules and may lead to them experiencing verbal abuse through the use of various derogatory words and taunts. The magnitude of this verbal abuse should not be taken lightly, as it not only affects the individual emotionally but there are also painful historic events to it. It is important to know the homophobic slurs once used and their impact in order to avoid using them. Derogatory terms such as, ‘sodomite’ have biblical influences attached to them.

They are derived from scriptures and drove past arrests of queer people on the basis of immorality. Religion still has impact on laws and governments, and that hinders the advancement of LGBT rights. Laws on ‘sodomy’ are still present in many countries today and are used to target gay men. Utterances like, “He is fruity” and “That’s gay!” are often used to describe a man that is seen as effeminate. While these are not slurs, they are used in an attempt to emasculate queer men.

Words such as, ‘faggot’ have a painful history. It is a word that when uttered by non-queer folk, it was from a place of anger or potential harm and enforcing stigma. It was also weaponised against queer folk to legislate against them and make them endure discriminatory health services especially at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Africa and Botswana also have their own versions of slurs used against queer people. ‘Setabane’ is a word used in Southern African to show disrespect towards gay people.

Harmful and misogynistic phrases such as “banna ba ba ntshitseng banna ba bangwe Basadi” were also used in Botswana in the early 2000s. ‘Ditlhodi’ is also one of the words used; it is backed by religious and cultural disdain.

Conversations were had around these phrases to now use, “Batho ba ba ratanang ka bong.” Which also calls for us to discard ‘choma’ which in a way stems from misogyny. The use of harmful words also exists within the LGBT community.

It is undeniable that body-shaming, fem-shaming, and misogyny exist within queer spaces. Some words such as, ‘twink’ are simply descriptive but can be used to discriminate or shame people for how they look. There is also stigma against femininity which roots from misogyny, and it manifests itself as discriminating against any intersectionality of homosexuality and femininity. Other levels of intersectionality exist and also result in discrimination.

Without denying the mental and emotional effects of these slurs, it is important to know that some of these words have been reclaimed by the LGBT community and are now used as semblance of pride. However, they may still be harmful to others.

Words like, ‘Queer’ which emerged around the same time ‘sodomite’ was popular have been turned around online as an umbrella term for all non-straight and nonbinary identities. “We’re here, we’re queer” was a slogan used in marches at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Others also consider, ‘Homosexual’ as a slur because of the medical history attached to the word. It was used to categorise gay people as ill and needing medical assistance or, “conversion therapy.”.

However, now it is simply used to refer to people that are attracted to other men. One other queer slur that has been reclaimed is, “limp wristed”. All over social media today, you will see memes of limp wrists referring to gay people; and used as a joke.

There is now an online platform in Botswana called, ‘Setabane’ that in a sense reclaims the word and it is a platform used to increase queer representation. There are numerous other gay slurs which not only target gay men but are also aimed against the trans community. Some of these slurs have been reclaimed while others it would be insensitive to use, especially those used against trans people as there are high rates of violence against them and these are issues not to joke about. The mental and emotional trauma from these words needs to be addressed, personally and in advocacy. In the meantime, the plight to reclaim these words continues but we should all be careful how we address other people.