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.

The Agenda of Paranoia

Disney-logoDisney’s at it again. It’s already bad enough that they host the Gay Days, but now their movies are starting to promote the gay agenda in them as well.

Thanks to the ‘Well-Behaved Mormon Woman’, we can now see what Disney’s program really is all about. She breaks down Disney’s blockbuster, Frozen, and shows us what the story is really about.

Brace yourselves. This is a *big* deal.

It’s about…same-sex marriage…*gasp*

I know, I know. I was floored too. But wow, her logic is completely undeniable. Here’s the link to her post:

http://wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com/2014/02/movie-frozen-gay-homosexual-agenda.html#.UwUrAWJdUsA

Now, of course, I’ll break it down accordingly and respond to her responses with my own responses.

She looks like she has an agenda
She looks like she has an agenda

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched the movie, and I doubt that I will. But I cannot allow myself to go on in life without a response.

Ultimately, this Mormon woman (now before you yell at me about stereotyping, let me just say – she started it) has broken down what she sees as the main themes of the story, along with their homosexual aspects.

For those of you who don’t want to bother reading her ridiculous correlations between the movie Frozen and the ‘gay agenda’ (whatever that is – I used to have an itinerary…does that count?) I’ll start off by posting her ‘Sidebar’ and addressing that:

Sidebar: Let me be very clear about one thing, I am not anti-gay nor am I here to judge homosexuals not worthy of their rightful and respectful place among society. However, I draw the line at the idea of redefining traditional marriage to include homosexual relationships, as equal. Meaning, that as a Christian, I believe that acting on same-sex attraction is contrary to God’s will, and therefore SSM should not be legalized. Because I hold this value and voice it freely, does not mean that I am trying to force it on anyone – anymore than those who feel opposite and advocate for their position intend to force SSM on me, personally – both have the right [to freely advocate an oppositional position] and should not be demonized, regardless of where society takes us, as a whole.

So right off the bat, the Mormon woman is saying – ‘it’s okay….but’ – that whole idea that if you pre-define yourself as being accepting, the bullshit that comes out of your mouth next is also acceptable. That’s like saying that the fact that some gay people work at the same place you do makes you eligible to be the Grand Marshall in the Pride Parade.

She claims not to judge homosexuals, but then goes on through her entire post to judge Disney based on her assumption of an animated movie about a little girl. So apparently she doesn’t judge homosexuals, but everyone else is fair game…

Basically she’s prefacing her entire post by saying “Yes, I know my opinion is going to probably piss some people off, but its okay, because those same people piss me off too. And although I don’t judge anyone, because I’m religious and all, I don’t believe in equality.”

She could have just said, “This is my damn blog, and I’ll write about whatever the hell I want to.” (or ‘heck’. After all, she is ‘well-behaved’.)

She goes on:

Elsa has a great power that she has been taught by her parents from the time she was a child, is not publicly acceptable and that she must fear its expression, at all cost, thus hide it from people, even her own sister who could be hurt by it – even killed. Shame is at the core of Elsa’s feelings about her magical powers: same-sex attraction.

As Elsa’s power increases, her parents’ urge her to learn how to control it, as it would be perceived as evil to others, but Elsa can’t; it’s impossible. Her parents’ make the decision to close the castle to the public, and lock Elsa in her room so that her power won’t be discovered. Not even her sister is allowed to see and play with Elsa: demonetization of homosexuals by society.

Elsa is devastatingly lonely and depressed being forced to live a life of isolation, believing her powers to be evil. Her sister, kept from the truth, and affected by the inflicted secrecy also becomes victim to the dysfunction of her family and experiences equal isolation and confusion: not “coming out” and being who you are meant to be (acting on the power) is harmful to the person, family and society. 

Okay. First off, this woman apparently sees same-sex attraction as some kind of ‘power’. That’s some crazy shit right there. I wonder if I could join the X-Men? I could be known as Dyke – and wear flannel shirts and combat boots, have a rainbow mohawk, and drive a tricked out U-Haul truck.

And as far as I knew, society in general wasn’t demonizing homosexuality anymore. I thought it was mostly the Conservatives and crazy religious people who called themselves ‘Christians’ who hated us.

download
Look at that strong jawline…

Sidebar: If you’re going to go off on a crazy diatribe about the ‘gay agenda’ make sure you get your terms right. Demonetization is actually the stopping of using a particular metal to make coins, or the act of withdrawing units of money from circulation. I know Susan B. Anthony looks rather masculine, but I’m sure you meant demonizing

I’m also not exactly sure how ‘being who you are meant to be’ is a bad thing. I mean, isn’t that sort of like your calling? And aren’t men of the cloth generally called by a high power? Could you imagine if they didn’t ‘come out’? Why, there’d be no one to lead you! Yes of course! Embracing who you are is bad! It’s the root of all evil, isn’t it?

She continues in this manner, even bringing up the fact that the main character is destined to be a ‘queen’, telling her readers to interpret that however they want. *wink, wink* I mean, it’s so unnatural to think that a princess could become a queen.

The ridiculous thing is that this sort of thinking can be applied to any movie. The X-Men? They even have a separate school for these social misfits. And the men wear spandex! You can’t get much gayer than that.

Sharon271
She’s just a little too hot for me

Silent Hill – there’s a whole friggin’ church who dislikes people who are ‘different’ than them – so much so they’ll burn them at the cross (The lesbian-looking police officer, no less).

The Goonies, Spiderman, Batman – hell, any superhero movie (esp. Hellboy)…In fact, any movie in which the hero had a great obstacle to overcome, something he or she struggled with, or some great power the hero had to recognize, could be picked apart to represent the ‘gay agenda’. Any movie that showed the outcast winning over her peers or having to do some soul searching or commit some great sacrifice could be considered part of the ‘gay agenda’.

The utter bullshit of her entire post though, is the fact that every piece of convoluted logic she uses to show that Frozen is pushing some ulterior motive to further homosexuality, can be used to describe the plight of anyone that has faced adversity in their lives. If the hero was in a wheelchair, would this ‘well-behaved’ woman be raging about how Disney is pushing the ‘handicapped agenda’? If the hero was an elf, is Disney pushing the ‘little people agenda’?

You see, Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, homosexuals don’t have any ‘agenda’, except, perhaps those who would normally have agendas – Chairmen, politicians…and apparently some crazy religious people.

What bothers me is this woman, who claims to be religious, is upset by the fact that the story is telling kids to be who they are, and that the problem isn’t about who they are, but how everyone else perceives them. So ultimately – the problem isn’t you, it’s everyone else. So in essence, this woman is saying that if you don’t fit within someone’s set of norms and values, you should change yourself or hide parts of yourself so that you are acceptable by everyone else and can be neatly packaged with these norms and values.

She tries to make it about same sex marriage. But in the end, all I can draw from this post is that a certain woman should be treated for paranoia, and a deep seated hate for anyone different than her.

men unicorns fantasy art freddie mercury rainbows cromartie high school rainbow unicorn 1600x900_www.wallpaperno.com_42
Yes. That’s Freddie Mercury. And yes, he is being carried by a unicorn. Your argument is invalid.

Sticks and Stones…

As promised, here’s the follow up to the previous post, Casual Homophobia.

Homophobic language didn’t always exist in society. In fact, many of the words we view as derogatory didn’t start out that way.

This post will address the following terms: gay, faggot/fag, queer, and dyke – as these are the terms most often used in a pejorative context.

GAY – Happy_smiley_face

The ultimate origin of the word ‘gay’ is unknown, but seems to come from the Old French word gai, meaning joyful, happy; pleasant, agreeably charming. The earliest documentation of the word comes from the 12th Century as a surname.

In the early 14th Century, gay was defined as ‘stately and beautiful; splendid and showily dressed’ – still an adjective, and not a noun. Certainly there was no negative connotation to the word at this point. In fact, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that the word gay was used to suggest immorality. Geoffrey Chaucer, lauded as the Father of English 23Literature, wrote in The Canterbury Tales in 1630:

But in our bed he was so fresh and gay,
And ther-with-al so wel coude he me glose,
Whan that he wolde han my bele chose,
That thogh he hadde me bet on every boon,
He coude winne agayn my love anoon.
Which, when translated, reads:
He was an animal in bed, though, and knew how to turn me on so much when he wanted my vagina that even if he beat every bone in my body, he could win my love again in no time at all.
This trend towards a negative connotation to the word gay continued, and in the 1890s, was used to suggest promiscuity. Brothels were referred to as gay bath houses. However, the word was still not used to specifically cat-sexydescribe homosexual men. It most likely got a boost in that direction during the same time period. The term gay cat was used by transients to describe a young or new hobo. The Gay Cat was often singled out and beaten, and many times, would become a slave of sorts to older, more experienced hobos, like a personal assistant. And while none of the older transients would come out and say so, it was known that being in that position, sexual acts were often part of the deal. These Gay Cats became a subculture, and apparently, homosexuality was a norm for the group.
Then, in the late 1940’s, ‘gay’ showed up as a slang term for homosexuality in psychological writings. However, it was still not easily distinguishable from older meanings of the word. From Rorschach Research Exchange and Journal of Projective Techniques, written in 1947:
After discharge A.Z. lived for some time at home. He was not happy at the farm and went to a Western city where he associated with a homosexual crowd, being “gay,” and wearing female clothes and makeup. He always wished others would make advances to him.
As you can see, the term ‘gay’ as used in the above example could either refer to the fact that the man was homosexual, or that he dressed in a flamboyant and showy fashion.
In the mid-20th Century, the term was applied to homosexuality, as in gay being deviant from the norm (homosexuality) and straight applied to heterosexuality – as in following the normal course of nature. 
However, the Dictionary of American Slang claims the word was used by homosexuals among themselves since at least 1920, lending to the password nature of the speak-easies during Prohibition. The term wasn’t openly used as a noun to reference homosexual males until 1971, but had been used prior to that as an adjective to describe the effeminate behavior of homosexual men. It was at this time that the term ‘gay’ began its journey into becoming a pejorative word. The use as an insult increased in the 1980’s (especially with the rise of AIDS and its stigma) and especially in the late 1990’s.
However, it wasn’t until 2000 that the term took on the slang meaning of ‘bad; inferior or undesirable’.
faggotFAGGOT
Initially, this word appeared in the late 13th Century, again derived from an Old French word, fagot, meaning a bundle of twigs bound up. This word quickly took on negative connotation in 1914 when it was applied to male homosexuals. The reference came from Jackson and Hellyer – A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang, With Some Examples of Common Usage. The shortened term ‘fag’ didn’t appear until 1921. The application of this term to gay men could have come from a contemptuous term for a woman, especially an old, homely woman. The reference is to the bundle of sticks – something awkward that has to be carried – like that of a worthless woman. This term came from a slang for baggage, referencing the woman, and was from the 1590’s. 
There is a bit of an Urban Legend behind the use of the term. It’s been said that the term became widely used to 1121reference homosexual males when Christianity was burning heretics at the stake. Heretics that recanted were required to wear an embroidered faggot on their sleeve, reminding them of who they were. It’s akin to the scarlet letter. However, the term was used mainly in England, where the preferred method of punishing homosexuals for violating the law was hanging. There is no evidence to back up the claim that faggot was applied to gay males in this fashion.
Now the term is primarily used in a pejorative sense in North America, especially by protest groups, most notably the Westboro Baptist Church, as an epithet to cause shock and garner attention.
Queer1QUEER
Initially appearing in 1922 in a derogatory sense to describe homosexual men, the word queer dates back to the 1500’s, when it meant ‘strange or peculiar’.  The term has never really taken the same kind of pejorative stronghold as ‘faggot’ and ‘gay’ have, however. This doesn’t mean it has lost its derogatory nature. It is now applied to those individuals who don’t necessarily classify themselves under the LGBT identities.
images (13)DYKE
Again, us lesbians are sort of left behind. Originally, the term ‘dyke’ shows from 1896 as vulgar slang for the vulva. Its application to lesbians are not clear, but could be from the term bulldyker – a term that appeared in 1920’s novels connected to the Harlem Renaissance. For example, in Claude McKay’s 1928 novel, Home to Harlem he writes:
Claude McKay
There’s evidence that the term may have come from the word morphodite, a dialect variant of hermaphrodite – a term that was once used to reference homosexuals. The word dyke originally referred to a specific type of lesbian – those with more masculine qualities, and today the word has a large spectrum for application to various types of lesbians based on appearance and demeanor.
What I find incredibly interesting is that these words didn’t really fall under the classification of pejorative language until after the United States was established. A country that was once called a ‘Melting Pot’ was also the least tolerant of many forms of diversity. And it seems to have continued that way, even today. I mean, it wasn’t until 2000 that someone suddenly decided that gay was synonymous with stupid. And with the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness did nothing but further the derogatory nature of these words.
And why? Why was it necessary to associate these words with homosexuality, especially in a negative fashion? Was it an attempt to contain that which was misunderstood? Even so, why do we perpetuate the negativity with these words today?
I don’t know that we’ll ever truly be able to answer those questions. At least not satisfactorily. But, from here on out, I’m going to be far more aware of the words others use around me, and I will hold them accountable for their words.

Casual Homophobia

While the LGBT community has made leaps and bounds increasing tolerance and acceptance, homophobia is still clearly evident in our society. We are used to seeing the hate-laced diatribes of members of the Religious Right hell-bent on putting all homosexuals on an island, and then blowing that island up. We hear the ignorant remarks from politicians, celebrities, corporate officers, and citizens as they try to condemn us to eternal damnation or convince us that we’re second class citizens.

But what we’re missing (or at least I missed it) is another, quieter form of homophobia – Casual Homophobia. It’s a term I hadn’t heard of until today. And it’s running rampant through social media, especially among the younger generation.

Initially, I was going to just discuss the origins of some of the pejorative language, like faggot and dyke. I still plan on doing that, because it’s important to know how these terms came about, and when they became derogatory. However, in doing research for the post, I ran across a website with some incredibly sad statistics. It’s run by The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies And Services, within the University of Alberta.

No Homophobes

The site looks for the use of faggot, dyke, ‘no homo’, and ‘so gay’ in Tweets posted on Twitter. That was the current count just for today, at about 5:27 pm. Over twenty five thousand tweets contained the word faggot or fag. You can see for yourself how quickly the numbers climb by clicking on the picture. From there, you can also see the use of the tweets as they roll in.

thats-so-gay-sound-machine-2So what is casual homophobia? It’s using phrases like ‘That’s so gay!’ in an incredibly passive manner, not paying attention to what that phrase actually implies. It’s the act of complacency we partake in when we don’t call people out for saying ‘that’s so gay!’ regardless of how innocuous the statement may seem. The website defines casual homophobia as language we use that may not be intended to be hurtful to any one particular person or group of people, but is ultimately rooted in a derogatory nature.

As the site says, we’ve addressed racist language. Terms like nigger are considered highly volatile language and are classified under hate speech. We’ve worked at addressing sexist language as well. Rather than say ‘mankind’ we’re far more likely to use the all-inclusive ‘humanity’.

But little to nothing has been done to address homophobic and transphobic language. As members and supports of morgan-freeman-on-homophobiathe LGBT community, that falls upon us. We need to make a big stink about this. Because this is a situation where sticks, stones, and words can hurt. The impact of the term dyke may face no real consequence with me personally, but it could seriously affect someone struggling with their sexual identity. It could keep them from being who they really are, and in extreme cases, push them over the edge to suicide.

Embracing these terms is not enough. Sure, it might be fine if a gay man and his group of friends call each other faggot or fairy in a playful manner. Yeah, it may make the impact of the word sting a bit less. But it doesn’t lessen the impact of the word faggot when someone else uses it to try and demean someone else.

Dykes_on_Bikes_logoI’m not saying that groups like Dykes on Bikes are in the wrong. They’re proud of who they are, and make a show of it by taking the word and flinging it back at protesters. But for that teenage boy who feels completely alone in this world because the other teenagers around him call each other fags, embracing the term isn’t going to help him feel accepted.

Letting people know it’s not okay to equate gay with stupid or wrong – that’s what needs to 4436265052_Homophobia_xlargebe done. Telling your friends that the word fag is not acceptable – put a stop to it. Of course we have freedom of speech, but that only falls to the constraints that government cannot restrict or restrain speech (certain exceptions apply, even then). We also have the right to live our lives without fear that death could be a justifiable reaction for who we are.

I ask you to visit this website. Take a look at the tweets. Think about what casual homophobia means. Then do something about it.

I’ll be writing an origin of homophobic language in the next post.