Vanity Fair has apologised after a gay writer used the word ‘fags’ in an article about Glee.

Brett Berk, a columnist for the magazine, wrote an article about a recent episode on the Vanity Fair website.

He wrote: “Nice singing. But how can having girls in the audience make these cartwheeling, foam-party fags straight-sexy?”

Berk, who describes himself as Vanity Fair’s “fun and faggy editor”, was roundly criticised for the comment, with gay rights groups, bloggers and commentators weighing in.

Yesterday, he apologised but said he was a “tireless agitator” for gay rights.

He said: “I would like to apologise sincerely to anyone I offended. . . As an openly gay writer writing in an overtly overblown style, my intent in using the word in this offhanded way was to continue my consistent efforts to confront and challenge stereotype, to unpack the way in which language works, and to deconstruct the clever gender politics at play in the scene I described. . .

“Anyone with even a whiff of familiarity with my writing will know that I am, and have long been, a tireless agitator, here at VF.com and elsewhere, for gay rights, as well as a huge supporter of everything Glee has accomplished in advancing a meaningful dialogue about homosexuality in our popular culture – and in our youth culture in particular.”

Vanity Fair said: “With so many genuine homophobes stirring up trouble these days, the gay community doesn’t need any [agitation] from an ally like Vanityfair.com, so we are eager to set the record straight about the use of the word ‘f**s’ in Brett Berk’s latest ‘Gay Guide to Glee’ column.

“Brett, who has repeatedly referred to himself as VF.com’s ‘fun and f**gy editor’ (a title the editors have declined to endorse), writes from a humorous and explicitly gay perspective, and his invocation of this complicated word was meant to critique the notion that the gay characters of Glee should feel obliged to ‘play straight’ on stage.

“That said, we recognise that the column caused genuine offence to many readers, and we apologise unreservedly to them.”

Last year, Newsweek writer Ramin Setoodeh, who is gay, found himself in a similar storm after arguing that gay actors cannot play straight roles.