Tolerating Intolerance – When is enough too much?

Recently, Newt Gingrich commented on his show, Crossfire, that gay people should essentially, be tolerant and accepting of the intolerance of others, specifically those who vocalize their anti-gay opinions.Derrick Ward

This is all in regards to the now famous (or should it be infamous?) Michael Sams kiss after he got the call telling him he was drafted into the NFL, and the repercussions of two NFL players who voiced their opinions on the matter. Dolphins safety Don Jones was fined and suspended by his team for his anti-gay tweets and former NFL player Derrick Ward claims to have received death threats for his ‘no bueno’ tweet.

Gingrich said “You guys talk about how you want to be inclusive, except of course, if somebody tweets this, then having a death threat or ‘let’s send them off to sensitivity training,'” and that “that’s repression, that’s not inclusive.”

He goes on: “Shouldn’t we also be teaching people who are gay to be open and understanding of people who — ?” and at this point is cut off by the panelists responding to his statements.

People who what, Newt? People who spew hatred and intolerance beyond that of “I don’t like gays”? People who refuse to recognize the LGBTQIA+ community as more than second class citizens? People who refuse to recognize the LGBTQIA+ community as human beings?

Well, I’ve got news for you, friend, the LGBTQIA+ community has been tolerating intolerance for ages. You had just turned 27 years old when Stonewall occurred. I’m sure you’re aware of the Stonewall riots – when the LGBT community had finally had enough of tolerating intolerance and rioted back against the police? Remember? That was 45 years ago. Then there was the time when homosexuality was persecuted through public executions by the Spanish against the Aztecs in the 1500’s. Before that, there was the persecution and intolerance of homosexuality in China in 600 BCE, the time when homosexuality was listed as a mental illness with the American Psychological Association – which, by the way, didn’t end until the 1970’s and has still been coded under the 302.0 set of codes in the DSM despite the fact it’s no longer considered a mental illness.

So you see, Newt? We’ve been tolerating intolerance since the beginning of time, truthfully. When is enough too much? When does tolerance stop being tolerance and become oppression? We’ve been told we’re going to burn in Hell, we’ve been beaten, killed, sexually assaulted, denied basic rights, and imprisoned because of who we are. How much of that should we be subject to tolerate?

As far as the death threats go – no, I don’t agree with that. Just like I don’t agree with ‘Slushie Woman’ here in my hometown.Violence begets violence and rarely solves anything. And if two people are shouting at each other, there’s no one left to listen. But more importantly, these people – the ones that send out death threats or resort to acts of intimidation or violence – they’re the extremes, but they also represent the growing unrest of tolerating intolerance.

I remember being told that if I didn’t have anything nice to say about someone, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. These NFL players are celebrities. They’re in the spotlight. So they need to be conscious of what they say, because what they say will receive publicity and if it’s homophobic or racist or otherwise inflammatory, what they say WILL receive a probably less than cordial response.

Newt, what is it you expect the LGBTQIA+ community to do? Sit idly by with our mouths shut while others continue to preach hatred and intolerance? Again, there’s a vast difference between someone saying “I hate gay people” and “I think all gays should be put to death”.

It’s important to pick our battles, but it’s also important to make our voices heard in the ugly face of intolerance.

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

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I just can’t think of the right word….

I’ve written a couple of times about casual homophobia – language and phrases we use that others could easily find offensive – words like ‘dyke’ and ‘faggot’ and phrases like ‘no homo’.

Well, a group of students on Duke University’s campus joined together to form Think Before You Talk, a group raising awareness about this exact thing. Their group addresses other language too, not just homophobic words, but words like ‘retard’ and ‘slut’ and phrases like ‘man up’ and ‘don’t be a pussy’.

Their campaign, You Don’t Say, and the group itself, quite frankly, are coming under a lot of fire for the message their promoting.

This is obviously a horrible message to promote...
This is obviously a horrible message to promote…

If you take a moment to peruse either Facebook page (the links are provided above), or click on this link, you’ll find people responding with comments claiming censorship and calling the students the ‘Thought Police’.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, isn’t the name of the group ‘Think Before you Talk’, not ‘Think Before You Talk Or Else’?

These students aren’t forcing anyone to stop using these words. They’re bringing awareness to the impact those words and phrases might have on other people. According to this site, there’s over 1,025,000 words in the English language.

So why can’t we use one of those other words instead of calling someone a bitch? Why can’t we stop saying ‘that’s so gay’? No thesaurus you pick up will suggest the word ‘gay’ in place of ‘stupid’. There’s no reason to equate gender with strength or inferiority. And why is suggesting this ideology regarded as censorship?

Honestly, when I hear someone say something is retarded or gay, I question their level of intelligence. I question their ability to form complete, well thought out sentences, and I certainly question their capability of carrying their end of a conversation, regardless of the topic.

I don’t want to make assumptions, but I wonder how some of these people would feel if heterosexual had the same connotation as homosexual does, or if ‘straight’ were somehow synonymous with ‘stupid’? And again, with all the words in the English language, why is it even necessary to use these ones in the first place?

Yes, I understand that in some countries, these words have different meanings (the only one I can truly think of is the word ‘fag’). But unless you are from the United Kingdom or have spent a great deal of time there, that’s really no excuse for using the term, especially when you’re referring to a gay man. These words are said with hatred behind them, or they’ve become so casually used that we’ve forgotten the potential impact of using these words.

I spent a summer working at a camp for kids and adults with mental and physical impairments. At some point in time, I’m sure these people and their families heard the term ‘retarded’ used in conjunction with a medical diagnosis. And I’m sure, at other times, they heard the term used in an attempt to make them feel less than human. I was guilty of using this term in a derogatory manner, when I was a kid and didn’t fully understand the impact my words had on someone else.

Contrary to popular belief, Betty White did not originally say this. Comedian Sheng Wang did...
Contrary to popular belief, Betty White did not originally say this. Comedian Sheng Wang did…

Is it really necessary to tell someone to stop being a pussy? Referring to a woman’s genitalia as a sign of weakness is actually pretty ludicrous. Especially when you take a moment to consider what a woman’s vagina is capable of.

That doesn't look very tough to me...
That doesn’t look very tough to me…

And why are testicles considered a sign of strength? If they’re so strong, why does America’s Funniest Home Videos receive so many videos of groin shots?

This is not about censorship. It’s not about the Thought Police. It’s about being aware of what you’re saying, and who you’re saying it to. It really isn’t that hard to come up with other things to say than calling someone or something ‘retarded’ or a ‘bitch’.

You won’t be charged with a crime if you call someone a pussy. Though, if you do use that sort of language to actively intimidate someone, you might be charged with a hate crime, and that’s perfectly okay by me. This isn’t a ‘soon we won’t be able to say anything without upsetting someone’ situation. These words have been given a negative connotation. If you want to call your vagina a pussy, that’s fine, but you certainly don’t need to call someone else that.

In the end, it’s about affording everyone the dignity they deserve. Demeaning, cruel language can be just as hurtful as physical intimidation. Whether you mean it in a harmful nature or not doesn’t matter. Telling someone they’re a pussy, even if you mean it in a ‘I’m just messing with you, man’ nature, can have a seriously negative impact on that person. In essence, it’s a form of censorship, as it can keep someone from speaking their opinion, or disagreeing with something they feel is wrong.

I can’t stop you from saying those words. No one should. You should just stop saying them all on your own. They’re unnecessary, derogatory, and hurtful. And there’s at least one hundred other ways to say what you actually mean.