Trolls, baiters, hecklers, and drama queens

We’re all drama queens sometimes: little things that go wrong feel like complete disasters, someone reacts differently than we expect to something and we start to wonder if it indicates a bigger problem, or we can’t stop talking about this bad thing we’re either in the middle of or just got out of.

I’ve had a few friends who were like that all the time. When I first met them, I thought, well, they’re having a bit of bad luck right now, and maybe they’re more emotional about it than I would be, but I’m not the one having the problem. Plus, I don’t know everyone else involved, so maybe it really is this bad. But as time went on and I got to know more of the other people involved, it became clear that they were always blowing any and every problem way out of proportion to the actual difficulty involved.

One wonders why one would remain friends with someone like that. In the case of the ones that I still consider friends many years later, part of it was because they were very witty, and always made jokes about the trouble they were going through. You might even say a better term for them would be comedy queens. It also helped that one lived a thousand miles away.

One time, on a fannish online forum, I wound up saying to a friend who was also on the forum something to the effect of, “Stop being a drama queen!”

And I was jumped on by some people for being a homophobe, since the friend I had called a drama queen was a gay man.

I foolishly responded by pointing out three facts: 1) I am also a gay man, 2) the guy in question was a friend in real life who often referred to himself as a drama queen, and 3) it was a joke.

Which unleashed a storm of righteous fury. Just because I was gay didn’t mean I couldn’t be homophobic. It doesn’t matter how he took it, what matters is that strangers who read the post out of context would be offended. Everyone ought to be offended anyway, because the phrase itself is deeply offensive.

The last point spawned the most interesting discussion. I remember picking up the term “drama queen” from mostly gay and lesbian friends in the mid-80s, where it was usually being applied to some gay men by other gay men sometimes derisively, sometimes teasingly. It fit right in with several other slang terms we slung about: opera queen, snow queen, clean queen, gym queen, and of course, size queen. The application of a female gendered term, “queen” to a man puts us solidly into societal sexist issues. Many a thesis (and some entire academic careers) have been spent exploring the prejudice, the perpetuation of class and power structures, and so on, inherent to using such words as insults in that way. And specifically applying feminine terms as insults to gay men—or masculine terms to lesbians—tangles us up even further in those sexual politics.

However, there is something to be said for taking words back. It was Queer Nation’s entire raison d’être! Take an insult that people have been flinging at you your entire life, wear it as a badge of honor, and rub the bullies’ faces in it. Such as one of the few times I was ever as clever as some movies and series portray all gay men as, when a guy angrily called me a bastard, and I replied, “My parents were married, and to each other, thank you very much. The word you’re looking for is ‘b*tch.’ And don’t forget it!”

Explaining all of that didn’t help, of course. There was one person who kept insisting, again and again, that I had said that all gay men are effeminate, and that all gay men are always melodramatically making mountains out of molehills. No matter how many times I, or the guy I had originally told to stop being a drama queen, explained that I had clearly applied the term to him, and only him, and only to the specific conversation, this guy kept insisting that his interpretation was the most logical inference of the term “drama queen.”

“We must put an end to the rhetoric that there’s something wrong with being an effeminate man!”

Once he used that phrase, I realized what the problem was. Any argument that begins with “put an end to the rhetoric of…” is a lost cause. Only a very specific sort of troll uses that argument. I call it the paranoid troll, as is, “Oh, my god! You’re talking about me, aren’t you? I know you are! You’re always talking about me!” The paranoid troll is not interested in discussing the topic at hand. They are not interested in what you meant by what you said, because they leapt to the conclusion of what you meant long ago, and no amount of evidence is ever going to change their mind. In fact, every piece of evidence you bring forward will be distorted into confirmation of their original thesis.

There’s nothing to be gained attempting to communicate with them. The only solution, as with all trolls, is to ignore them. Don’t let yourself get sucked into their drama.

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