I was a Teenage Fag Hag
Dan Savage, who I have a completely non-sexual crush on, recently podcasted about “fag hags,” prompting me to think about my own experience as a hag. It’s weird to hear a stranger talk about these near-universal experiences and feel like something precious and painful about my adolescence has been exposed as common and rather pedestrian.
Fag hag is a term I’ve never felt comfortable with, but I am going to use it in the way that Dan Savage used it in his podcast – a straight (or orientation-unknown) woman who gets into an intense, quasi-romantic, co-dependent relationship with a gay man.
I was a fag hag, although I wouldn’t have termed it that way at the time. I had a very intimate, completely non-sexual, relationship with a boy in high-school who was “straight” (read: closeted) when I met him, “bi” (read: semi-closeted) when he dumped me, and gay shortly afterward. He broke my heart and made my last year of high-school complete misery ,although, to be fair, most of high-school was pretty miserable anyway. It was a strange, painful time for me, and probably for him as well, and it was even stranger to hear a sex-advice columnist talk about it as if he knew me.
Why does fag-haggery happen? Well, being a teenager is tough. It’s easy for young gay men who either aren’t out or aren’t completely out and young women who are unsure of their sexuality to use each other to fulfill emotional needs while being completely sexually safe. I didn’t need to worry that he would try anything, and he could have someone to talk to about boys.
Unfortunately, although the gay boy is not going to fall for the girl there is no guarantee that the opposite won’t happen, and so when the guy does come out and start developing romantic relationships, the change in relationship can feel like a break-up to the girl. In my case, it definitely was a break-up. He severed all ties, started blaming me for all his problems, isolated me from our mutual friends, and broke my heart again. Can I say one more time how much being a teenager sucks?
Yes, I was in love with him. Yes, that was totally unfair to him. Similarly, his abandonment of me and the friendship we had built up over the years was a harsh betrayal and unfair to me. Still, not untypical. Who knows what would have happened if he had tried to let me down easy. Maybe I would not have let go. Then again, maybe I could have gotten through adolescence with a little less self-loathing.
So, fags: be nice to your hags. Hags: be fair to your fags. Both of you: grow up by the end of high-school and have adult relationships with people, regardless of sexuality.
Teenagers: it gets better, I promise.