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Corbett, K. (2001). Faggot = Loser. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2:3-28.

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(2001). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2(1):3-28

Faggot = Loser

Ken Corbett, Ph.D.

This essay investigates the projectile force and projective work0 of the designation faggot by examining a clinical moment during which a child patient called me a “faggot.” Particular attention is paid to the defensive function that “faggot” played in this boy's effort to disavow smallness and losing. I use his specific dilemma to consider the more general boyhood quest to be big and winning. Focusing on the ways in which boys defend against the anxiety generated by the big—small divide, I argue for the clinical engagement of these defenses, including aggressive protest, bravado, and phallic narcissistic preoccupation. I propose engaging boys in the difficult process of thirdness as a psychic venue that offers a context of growth within which to cathect boys' anxiety and aggression. Such cathexis stands in contrast to the manner in which boys' narcissistic preoccupations and aggression are simultaneously prized and neglected through the “boys will be boys” approach to masculinity. Boys' aggression, which so often conceals their anxiety about losing, is neither adequately contained nor engaged. They are left to adopt a brittle bravado and to relate through control and domination. One routine form of bravado and domination is the contemptuous use of the word faggot. I conclude with some speculative thoughts about how the anxiety of loss that is initially managed through the diffuse projection of “faggot” might develop into a more specific form of hatred: homophobia.

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