We examined whether homophobic epithets (e.g., faggot) function as labels of deviance for homosexuals that contribute to their dehumanization and physical distance. Across two studies, participants were supraliminally (Study 1) and subliminally (Study 2) exposed to a homophobic epithet, a category label, or a generic insult. Participants were then asked to associate human‐related and animal‐related words to homosexuals and heterosexuals. Results showed that after exposure to a homophobic epithet, compared with a category label or a generic insult, participants associated less human‐related words with homosexuals, indicating dehumanization. In Study 2, we also assessed the effect of a homophobic epithet on physical distance from a target group member and found that homophobic epithets led to greater physical distancing of a gay man. These findings indicate that homophobic epithets foster dehumanization and avoidance of gay people, in ways that other insults or labels do not.