June 8, 2011

I'm a Faggot.

When I grew up and the term "faggot" was thrown around as per the usual banter on the playground in an attempt to shame someone into giving us the swing, we really didn't know the weight that it carried.  To us, heterosexuality was still a mystery, let alone any deviant adaptations of it.  While we may have known of men being with other men romantically from off-handed comments from our parents, we had no idea how that related to our tiny lives.  What we did know is that "fag" translated to "sissy", "coward", and "weak".

And for years it still did.  From sports to bar fights to commentary on our favourite politicians, "fag" resonated in our vernacular.  Until we all realized what we might actually be saying. Until we realized that "fags" had been killed, hurt, emotionally destroyed, and pushed to suicide due to people taking that one little word and creating an agenda of hate with it. Until it stopped being okay to use it.  Not because of how we meant it, but because we were no longer in control of how it was interpreted.  We were not talking our own language on the playground anymore. We were in clubs, encouraging others to look at someone we didn't know and validate their hate and fear of them. We were in the homes of homosexuals who had not come out yet and strangling their courage to.  We were at work with power struggles between freedom and control that we didn't even know we were in the middle of.  We had to be careful.  The word made you a bigot before your actions even could.

So, the issue remains: am I allowed to use terms like "faggot" even though I don't mean it to be derogatory toward homosexuals?

Because yes, it IS just a word.  And no, it has no inherent meaning.  It has a different meaning for many people with many histories.  Some violent, some terrifying, some lonely, some destructive, some mildly insulting.  I mean, even when I called someone a 'fag' on the playground, I wasn't being KIND. It was meant to break down. To devalue. To gain power over someone. 
Some even argue that a "fag" is a cigarette in some cultures.  When Mike Sobel so obviously called that woman a "dyke" on national television, some people defended it by saying that a dyke can also be a levee.  Because a reasonable person would be crazy to think that he was calling that woman a lesbian and not a trench.  Just as they have, I too have hidden behind semantics trying desperately to keep ownership of something I didn't even really care that much about.  "You can't take my words away just because you're sensitive!"  And that is why the "Can you or Can't you" arguments become so circular.  By the end of it, you can end up talking about how to regulate water levels. The real things are not understood.

I have decided to approach it with myself a bit differently.
There is no yes/no, right/wrong, can/can't resolution from what I have seen.  But there is a pretty easy way for me to approach it and settle it within myself.

I can only control the intention of my statements and my actions when I use words like "fag", "retard", etc.  And I do still use them, on occasion, in the same way I used to as a child. Not because I have so many gay friends that it makes it okay, or because I have historically been an advocate of people with developmental disabilities.  You can't stockpile get-out-of-jail-free cards for hurting people around you (see: "I'm not racist, but").  I use them out of habit.  I use them because they are the first words I go to to describe what I wish to draw attention to.  And that is part of the problem. Since I can't control the interpretation and ultimately the outcome of my actions, I have to extrapolate based on what I have experienced in the past. And, no, I am not always taken with the grain of salt that I am offering.

If my funny hockey joke made three people laugh but made one man feel hurt and alienated, then only I can decided if I "should" be saying it.  Is it more important to me, as an individual, to be thought of as funny, or kind?  Is it more respectable for me to be someone that creates an environment where everyone is allowed to laugh, or only a select few?  And lastly, am I not able to communicate my humour or my ideas without using one or two terms that I KNOW may make people around me, some I adore, feel the sting of bigotry only to think to themselves 'she doesn't mean it that way...'.  People I love shouldn't have to defend my character to themselves.  I should not ever have to put them in that position over something so trivial. And refusing to address this issue within myself is much more cowardly than anyone sucking any dick anywhere.

Dan Savage has this video where he addresses this subject from people who have been living under the fear of being a homosexual in a heterosexual world. But as someone who has lived in them both, I  think I would rather concentrate on the type of world I want to create and my place within it, and let the language speak for itself.

6 comments:

PJ Fournier said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Words change meanings all the time. I personally love to say, "go grab that faggot and throw it on the fire", because in one of the original meanings the word faggot meant a bundle of wood, and i get a laugh when people are offended.

Bee said...

There is a difference between people being offended and people being hurt.
I don't necessarily keep track of the people who choose to become offended by my behaviour, but I take serious steps to ensure that people I love are not hurt by it.

Anonymous said...

LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes! I am linking this because it is perfect and just in time for Pride month!
Thank you!!!!!

mikelepage said...

"Because a reasonable person would be crazy to think that he was calling that woman a lesbian and not a trench."

You have won one (1) internet for "comment of the week". Well done!