There is a word in the English language that can hurt me more than anything else you could say. Maybe it’s a mistake for me to make this known but, here we go all the same.
You could call me a bastard and I wouldn’t really care all that much. I know what the word bastard means, and I know I am not one. And if you want to call me a bastard to tell me I’m being a jerk, I will react with the knowledge that what you’ve done is minimized your own intelligence by using a word that doesn’t apply to more harshly convey something that may or may not apply. Bastard? OK. Whatever. Moving on.
You could call me an ass hole, but given that once again, I have a vocabulary, and I know what an ass hole is, it seems pretty clear that I am not an ass hole. Neener neener. I don’t care.
Dick? Dick head? Fucker? The list is never ending it seems. All you’re really doing is showing me and the world that your vocabulary is limited and you’re not really very smart. The emotion behind it is hurtful and I probably will be somewhat effected by that, but the words? They just don’t matter to me.
No, there is one word (and one derivative) in this language of ours that will cut me to the core. That word is “Fag” (or “faggot”). That word cuts deep and leaves me bleeding for days. It hurts me because a) its true (unless you’re British, in which case, no, I am not a cigarette), but more importantly, b) its always used in a hateful, demeaning way, like being a “fag” is a horrible thing.
My brother once used the word in a conversation, not referring to me, in what he claimed to have been a joking manner. I told him that word was offensive to me and I didn’t want it used in my presence. He said, fine and apologized and we moved on.
My mother used that word once, with a tone of disgust, when we were riding the 38 Geary bus through San Francisco and a guy got on the bus that she perceived to be gay (I don’t think he was, and in theory, I should know). I told her I found that word offensive and I didn’t want it used in my presence and she said, “Tough.”
When used in this way it’s a hateful, ugly word and I can not accept the “we’re taking it back as our own” philosophy. That F word is simply never an appropriate, acceptable word (unless you’re British and you’re referring to cigarettes and even then you better be clear).
Sidebar: I now have the Robbie Williams Strong stuck in my head, the first line being “My breath smells of a thousand fags.” When he performed it live in studio of my favorite radio show he had to stop there to explain to the Yankees that “Fags” were cigarettes in England.
I’ve just read an article on Edge on the Net about LGBT middle school kids facing more harassment than older kids and adults. Without much effort, reading the article took me right back to my own middle school days and I realized I absolutely knew, first hand, how true this is.
The article says:
Part of the problem, the article said, was a perception that kids that young cannot possibly know whether they are gay or not, leading adults to look the other way when anti-gay slurs are tossed around.But part of the problem, too, is that emotions run high at that age, and stigma can cut deep.
It never ceases to amaze me how closed-minded, straight adults think when it comes to these things. On some levels its true that “kids that young cannot possibly know whether they are gay or not” in that kids that young are still figuring themselves and the world around them out, but I believe if you talk to most out gay people, myself included, they will tell you that they did know at a very young age, even if they didn’t know they knew. I couldn’t face it and as such couldn’t bring myself to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else, but some part of me knew it to be true.
And this is where the perception part comes in. I may not have been old enough to know I was gay, but the kids in my class perceived it. They assumed it. And they responded to it. Even when I was too young to understand what I was feeling and how my actions might betray my true self, my peers saw it, and they were relentless!
For me to be a grade school, middle school, even early high school kid and have the people at my schools call me “fag” and push me around and threaten me (and have none of the adults in the school – or my family) do anything about it, when I was convinced that I was not gay, was terribly painful. How much worse must it be for a kid who has an inkling that he might be gay and those around him shame him for it!
Aside from the two instances at the beginning of this post, I haven’t heard that word used in my presence since high school. I realized as I read the article that it doesn’t matter. The absence of the word hasn’t made it hurt any less, hasn’t made me despise the word any less.
What is it going to take to change our society? What is it going to take for “tolerance” to be more than just a buzz word? What is it going to take for “acceptance” to be something we do and not just something we talk about? What is it going to take? It’s time!