Taking Up Too Much Space?

My fiancée and I had a very interesting discussion the other night. Mira and I were talking about the space we occupy, and despite both the knowledge and belief that we are entitled to that space, sometimes, there is some guilt in occupying our own space. As if fully occupying our space, filled with its happiness and love and good fortune, we are taking away from those who are struggling.

I wrote a while back about attending the Trans 100 and listening to Tiq Milan talk about taking up space.

We are all entitled to space in this world, and we are fully allowed to occupy that space.

We have a right to exist, and we have a right to been seen, to have our voices heard, and to move through this world as everyone else does.

When others try to occupy our space, or even part of our space, it’s oppression and discrimination. They are trying to tell us that we are not important enough for our space, or that they are so important they need our space as well. When someone tries to silence our voice or speak for us, they’re occupying our space.

But what happens when we don’t feel entitled to our space in this world? What happens when our narrative feels akin to boasting?

My life is good now. It didn’t used to be. Those of you who know me know the struggles I’ve overcome. But that was then. The space I occupy now is different, stronger, and more confident. The life I live is happy, loving, and stable. But at times, almost (rather, quite) like a survivor’s guilt, I wonder if my story is too good to tell. Mira and I both struggle with this. Rather than talk about the good things happening to us, rather than rightfully occupy our space, we remain silent.

After all, I’m no braggart, and as an activist and an ally, I firmly believe it is my responsibility to lift those who are struggling, so their voices may be heard. If I speak out of turn, or if I talk over the voices of those I ally myself with, what kind of support is that?

So instead, we stifle our story, tamping it down so as not to distract from those who struggle. We lend sympathetic ears, and allow these stories to be told. After all, our happiness may push them further into their sorrow, right? If I talk about all the good things happening to me right now, that’s boasting, isn’t it? That’s telling those who are struggling that my story is more important, right? It’s taking away their space, right?

Oh my God…am I being oppressive?

Well, that escalated quickly…

I feel that people struggle with the concept of occupying space in this world. There are those who try to occupy too much, stepping on the toes of others and trying to push them out of their space. And then there are those who either don’t realize they’re allowed to take up space, or they don’t feel the space they have is deserved. There are also those who who remain in their space, but somehow feel their space is more important than others and insist they are the defining example of those like them.

My life has much privilege now – the privilege, essentially, of being a white, heterosexual male. I have white privilege, I have socioeconomic privilege, I have male privilege, I have heterosexual privilege…

Does my space shrink with the more privilege I have? I think the perception, the wrong perception, is that the space you’re entitled to increases with privilege. I don’t feel that is right. While there are no obvious, visible lines limiting the space we have, I think 1) it is our job to maintain limits in the space we occupy and 2) just as there is finite room on this earth, the amount of space available is finite, even if it isn’t a tangible thing.

Maintaining the limits of the space I occupy doesn’t mean I silence my voice. What it does mean is that it is my responsibility to be aware of those around me and the space they occupy. It means that sometimes my voice should remain quiet – this doesn’t mean that my voice is any less important. It simply means that it’s not my place to talk, and any opinions or thoughts I choose to share, should be considered with regard to those around me, and the stories they are telling. It means that in conversations concerning race and gender equity, I should do far more listening than talking.

Maintaining the limits of the space I occupy means that I have a duty to call others out, and then in, when they are overstepping the limits of their space and encroaching on the space of others. It means understanding the privilege I have, and not using that privilege to oppress, but to raise up those individuals who are struggling.

It also means that I don’t have to be guilty about fully occupying my space. My happiness doesn’t take away from others. It doesn’t occupy their space or prevent their voice from being heard.

When I talk of a finite space, it’s not finite in the sense that those coming into the world don’t get a space or those leaving this world take their space with them. I mean it is finite in the sense that our space is just that, our space. It is finite in the sense that there is space specifically for every individual on this earth, and that our space is all the same. No one is entitled to a bigger space than someone else, regardless of success or struggle, and your space doesn’t change in size depending on how much or how little privilege you have.

My story is part of the space I occupy. My beliefs, experiences, ideas – these are all rightfully mine and are contained within my space. But should they stay there? Should I silence my voice out of guilt because someone else is struggling? Should I silence my voice because my voice is happy?

My story, while both happy and sad, triumphant and tragic, deserves to be heard as much as any other story. Comparing the importance of individual experiences is a very dangerous path to go down. It pits the marginalized against one another, as if bleeding at the hands of someone else is somehow worse (or better?) than bleeding because of my own hand.

No. My voice should never be silenced. The space I occupy has been created for me, and quite frankly, it is my duty to occupy that space. If I don’t occupy it, then I’m failing those who are struggling, in a sense. If I don’t occupy my space, all of it, then someone else will, and I don’t have the ability to choose who that individual will be.

It is my duty to occupy that space in that my story of struggle and success could help someone else realize that as much of a cliché “It gets better” is, there is truth in the phrase. My narrative is relatable. It is as relatable as the other narratives that exist.

My voice may give others the strength to speak. So then, is it fair for me to silence myself and crawl into a remote corner of the space I’m supposed to occupy because someone else will be struggling more? No, it’s no more fair than if I were to try to silence the voice of others so I may be better heard.

It’s just as important for someone to be able to relate in the struggles of someone else as it is to reinforce that hope for the future.

To those who wish to occupy my space – it is mine, I am entitled to it, and I refuse to let you silence me.

To those who feel they do not deserve the space they occupy – stand firm, stand strong; your space was made for you, occupy it with the knowledge that it is important because you are in it.

To those who wish to blanket your story over mine – understand that all voices must be heard, and my story is just as important, even if it is for different reasons.

Go out in the world. Take up the space you are entitled to. Help others to occupy their own space. And don’t feel shame or guilt in doing so.

 

 

 

An open letter to the LGBT community:

We’ve been in the news a lot lately, especially regarding DieselTec and business owner Brian Klawiter. Now, I’m not necessarily inclined to believe the ‘death threats’ and graffiti weren’t self-organized in an attempt to keep their name in the news and to keep the publicity rolling in.

But, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is our further actions with him and any other businesses that engage in this extreme form of discrimination.

I implore you, as members of the LGBT community in West Michigan, to stop engaging this business, this man, in any and all forms of communication. Clearly nothing we say or do will change his mind into supporting us and our fight for equality. He is a lost cause. And frankly, he offers a very specialized service that most of us will never use.

As I said, I don’t believe the death threats are real, and I’m seriously inclined to believe the graffiti was self-inflicted. However, if it wasn’t, and if the death threats are real, and did indeed come from our community – please, stop. Stooping to his level and destroying property does nothing more than provide fuel for these people to further spew their hatred. Acting in this way not only gives us a bad reputation, but can make it harder to get city officials and members of the community to back us and give us the equal rights we deserve.

We can’t bully people into accepting us. I understand the frustration and anger that fills you when someone says such hate-filled things. Trust me, I understand that desire to lash out and show these people that we will not run in fear, and that we will not back down. But reacting with threats and vandalism isn’t the way to do this.

I understand the want to react in kind when someone calls us evil, or says we’re sinning, or says we’re below them. Stand up for yourselves, stand up for our community, but don’t drop to the level of behavior of our detractors. That is not the path to equality.

Let this story die. Let this man flounder his way in his hate-filled life. His business is either going to go away or it’s going to continue forward. But don’t let him define our progress or our actions.

If you want to fight back, get involved in the community at large. Volunteer, announce your pride and show the community we are not unlike them and we are claiming our space in the world. Get involved in local politics – show up at city hall meetings, talk to the lawmakers in your community. Protesting outside of a business will not get us equal rights. Laws and city ordinances will. Make our voices heard in the most productive way.

And remember the more space we give this man and others like him, the less space we have for ourselves.

Oppressor or Activist? Turns out, I’ve been both…and more.

I am an oppressor. I am an accomplice. I am an ally. I am an activist.

I have kept silent while others have made jokes about someone’s weight. I’ve felt my blood boil as someone made a racist remark, or said something derogatory about the trans community, but I kept my mouth shut.

Why? The reasons are endless – maybe some part of me thought it was true, or I didn’t feel like getting into an argument that day, or I knew if I spoke up, it wouldn’t do any good. The reasons don’t matter, though.resist_oppression_communism_will_prevail_india_revolution_operation_green_hunt_cpimaoist

Sometimes someone will make a comment about the weight of someone we both know, making a joke or some off-handed remark, I laugh along with them, while I should have, could have, said something, not in defense of their object of fun, but in response to the inappropriateness of the comment. Instead, I commented as well, not wanting to seem “weird” or “awkward” by going against the norm.

I am an oppressor.

black-tape-mouth-shut-no-speaking-700x45_660If I’m at work, where the majority of my co-workers are heterosexual and all of them, save me, are cisgender, I keep my mouth shut about many things. I haven’t officially come out at work, and so when I talk about being trans, or the trans community, I speak in hushed tones, not making eye contact, keeping my head down, as if the words I’m saying are something I should be ashamed of. When people use the word ‘tranny’, I cringe internally, but respond with “Yeah, I don’t see the big deal…” My silence is as dangerous as the loud voices of the bigots and discriminators.

I am an accomplice.

I am not proud of these situations. Because I should have stepped in and said it was wrong. I should have made it abundantly clear that their attitudes and opinions were their own to have, and solely their own to have. I didn’t. And I regret that.tumblr_m5ixrhNjhD1rpy84ao1_500

I went with Mira to a Lady Parts Justice rally. I was there to support her, but now because of the inspiring acts of the women that spoke and performed, I’ve been inspired, and I really want to speak at the next rally, to the importance of allies in the fight against the patriarchy telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.  Because if we do not stand alongside women, if we do not stop the regulation over their bodies by men who claim to know what’s best but essentially just want to dominate and put women “in their place”, then we all are subject to the repercussions of such a loss.

I am an ally.

During the last lame duck session in Michigan, there was a movement to change the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA for short), to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. There was another splinter group that thought it best to only include sexual orientation, and come back to revise the law later to encompass gender identity and expression. Years ago, I would have totally been all for the ‘half a pizza’ argument.

activistNot anymore, and not just because I’m now a part of the LGBT that has historically ended up without any slice of pizza, but because it’s simply wrong. And because of this, I went to a few ELCRA rallies, I went to TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance), and I want to speak out against the injustices faced by the trans community, a community I am a part of, and one that I fully embrace.

I am an activist.

I play all of these roles at varying times. When I identified as a lesbian and I fought for equality – I was an activist for the L and G, and an oppressor to the T. The B wasn’t even a concern, because in my head, they were simply confused. That has all obviously changed, for the better. I don’t want to ever play the role of the oppressor, and I think it’s even worse to play the role of the accomplice. Having the knowledge I do from my brilliant and insightful girlfriend, Mira, and my other activist friends, I’m learning when to recognize oppressive behaviors and attitudes in which I act as an accomplice.

Self awareness is just as important as self confidence. Being aware of my actions and words is just as important as saying them in the first place. I’m still going to screw up. But I will be aware of my missteps, and I will not silence my voice. If I am not empowering, I am oppressing, and I am contributing to the reason why equality has not yet been achieved.

If I don’t use the power I have from the privileges I have to raise up both the marginalized groups I belong to and those I do not belong to, then I am failing not only as an ally, but as an activist.

Everyone has some kind of privilege. It may not be obvious at first, but you know that saying – “There’s always someone worse off than you” – it’s true, and those who are “worse off” are most likely part of a marginalized group you do not belong to. If you have a place to live – then you can be an ally for the homeless, and use your privilege of stability of a roof over your head to help advocate for housing the homeless and providing them with an opportunity to achieve the same level of safety and stability you have.

If you are cisgender, you can ally yourself with the trans community, and use the power of being cisgender (and yes, you do have power, because you have privilege) in circles to support the trans community when the trans community is not represented.

I’m working on being an ally. I want to be a better ally. I feel I have the tools and the knowledge and the support to be a better ally.

Because it’s not always about my story.

How about you?

1bbb565

This is Me.

I’ve written before about the idea of transitioning, and how, in hindsight, I’ve always felt far more masculine. I’ve also written about how my family catered to this, buying me “boy’s” toys and letting me play baseball and football with the guys in the neighborhood.

I'm the one with the long hair. 7 years old and I'm in a sweater vest. Hindsight - 20/20
I’m the one with the long hair. 7 years old and I’m in a sweater vest. Hindsight – 20/20

But I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about it. As it turns out, those feelings of wanting to explore that side of me run deeper than I realized. I’ve been trying out different pronouns and Mira commented on it the other night. Although she has been totally supportive of my identity exploration, she was a bit surprised that I went from her/she pronouns right to he/him and bypassed they/them/their altogether, while being less sure about moving in the direction of identifying as a trans man.

And that, along with thoughts bouncing around in my own head, has led me to realize a few things.

Lately, I’ve been trying on he/him/his pronouns. Basically, I’ve been telling people to use what feels comfortable to them, because I’m not entirely sure where I am on all of this. Some people refer to me as he and some people still use she.

She feels comfortable to me, and he…well, I’m still getting used to it. It sounds foreign to my ears. It has this strange sense of familiarity…like I’m experiencing deja vu.

But there’s a part of me that is almost…forcing me to feel uncomfortable with it. And then it dawned on me. For 34 years, I’ve been a girl, and then a woman. At least that’s how society has viewed it. Or at least the majority of people in my world. Until recently.

When I started talking about how I’ve always wanted facial hair and a muscular body, the responses I get are always extremely affirming. Like there isn’t a question that that’s who I’m supposed to be.

Yet I still have this feeling that it’s not right. Again…34 years a woman, by societal standards. I’ve spent my life being conditioned to believe that I am a woman, nothing more, nothing less. So when I hear “he” in reference to me, of course it will sound foreign to me. Because he is who I am becoming. He was the kid who played football with the other guys. He was the kid who was socially awkward because he would much rather have had the advantages that the other guys did in school. He was the one who wanted to be able to talk about his crushes on girls.

The feeling is a nagging one, not of guilt or shame, but more of whether or not I’m being silly. Remember, I grew up in a Conservative household. Gender was always very clear. Man. Woman. Woman was the submissive to Man, despite the fact that when my parents got married, they changed the vows from “man and wife” to “husband and wife”. My idea of gender was always a bit confused.

My mom would buy me G.I. Joe, Micro Machines, baseballs, footballs, basketballs…she told me she’d never make me wear a skirt if I didn’t want to, yet I had to wear a dress under my graduation gown in my senior year.

I’ve never wanted feminine things. And I was taught that that’s okay. But growing up around a family that had such strong anti-gay views, where any talk of the trans* community resulted in someone (usually mom) making a comment about ‘shemales’, made it difficult to explore any aspect of that for me.

I don’t stand in the mirror and hate my body. And this voice, this nagging voice, when I look at myself and see that bit of beard, or that adam’s apple, or those muscles in my shoulder or a flat chest…I hear

drag
Me. In drag. The facial hair is a little rough, but not bad for a first attempt.

“You’re not really a trans man, you’re just being fanciful.”

“Just keep being a butch lesbian. It’s so close to what you want anyway, and you can always be a drag king to make up for the rest…”

“Are you sure about all of this? You don’t have real dysphoria.”

And I wonder. That doubt creeps up, and I wonder if…

I wonder if…

In high school, my debate teacher taught us that the Negative side in debate, if they were good, could “what if” the debate all the way to nuclear war.

So I wonder if

And with that comes what if I get fired because I come out as trans at work and it freaks people out and what if I lose friends and what if it’s all wrong and I’m not really trans and what if I can’t handle this and what if what if what if…

1813aqov5wc2jjpg

But, I have always prided myself on the fact that I’m me. I’m Teri, and I’ve always been Teri, and I will always be Teri. It’s just now that Teri wants the facial hair he’s always desired, and to have the muscles he’s always been able to envision.

I think more that it’s not “he” that sounds unfamiliar, but the idea that a new chapter in my life is unfolding before me…it’s exciting and scary, and it’s amazing and terrifying. But that won’t stop me. I have beautiful friends and family around me to support me.

And I think when I start hearing “him” I’ll know that he is me, and to some degree, always has been.

1798176_1500702236848616_6619805958796031955_n

Damn it feels good to be a butch

Though if my closet looked like this, I might not ever come out…

I came out of the closet years ago. But recently (read: in the shower just now) I realized that what’s still in the closet is just as important as the act of me coming out of it.

I identify as a butch lesbian. I didn’t when I first came out, mostly because I didn’t even realize there were such things as femmes and butches. But once I got use to life as a lesbian, I quickly found myself. Fedoras, ties, vests – that was much more my style than hip-huggers and sheer blouses. And just as quickly, I labeled myself as a butch and went on my merry butch way.

No, that's not Guido 'The Fish' Pisano, that was me, circa 2002
No, that’s not Guido ‘The Fish’ Pisano, that was me, circa 2002

But something that took me a lot longer to realize was that while being a lesbian merely meant I was sexually attracted to women over men, being butch meant I had all of these “rules” – some unspoken – that I was now bound to. It was as if by placing that fedora on my head, I had suddenly taken some sort of vow to uphold the butchiness of butches everywhere.

Butches can be so cruel to one another. If you ever happen to be at a bar, and there’s a group of butches there, watch them. Our* behavior, when we travel in packs, much resembles the hazing of frat brothers. Butches lift up shirts to

*sigh* Type 'Butch card' in Google, and this was the best I could find...
*sigh* Type ‘Butch card’ in Google, and this was the best I could find…

compare abs, they compare notes on how many femmes they’ve slept with, they hold beer chugging contests while playing pool and get far too competitive over a game where you knock balls into holes. They ridicule one another and tease each other mercilessly if someone appears less than manly.

I couldn’t keep up. I’m not mean in nature and I think it’s perfectly okay if, as a butch lesbian, I cry at movies or if I don’t hold Melissa Ferrick’s ‘Drive’ as my personal anthem. My partner is a trans*woman, and I love her dearly, as much as the day I held the door open for her six months ago. None of these things make me less of a butch, nor should a lack of something ever be allowed to define me.

Now that I got that off my unbinded chest…

Being butch is actually a bit complicated. We fall into this gray area that is filled with a similar type of discrimination not unlike the kind that the trans* community faces. I’m misgendered often, and get strange looks when I use the women’s restroom in public. And it becomes this struggle as to when I say something and when I just let it slide. Being misgendered doesn’t bring me down. It used to. But I realize that when I wear nothing but men’s clothing, there may be times when people mistake me for a guy. I don’t have hips, my hair is short, I don’t really ever do anything dainty (think: bull in china shop), and I’m rather stocky.

imagesI have boobs. Not a large, shelf-like chest where I can store my wallet, but not immeasureable mosquito bites, either. I’m kind of fond of them, most of the time. Other times I want them gone, and would love to have a flat chest, and muscular abs. I look at pictures of guys, and sometimes wonder what I would look like if my body were like that. I do like having my lady bits though. Again, most of the time. There are certain aspects about vaginas that are both wonderful and terrifying at the same time, but that’s a story for another post. Sometimes I wish I were more masculine in appearance than what I am. Sometimes I don’t. And I’m okay with vacillating between the two.

I also get to experience a bit of male privilege. I don’t get things ‘mansplained’ to me, and it’s assumed that I have knowledge of cars (including car buying), general construction and house maintenance skills, and grilling skills, among other things. I’ve found that butch women can often get away with ogling other women, as well as the privilege of bypassing all the ridiculous standards that other women are held to regarding physical appearance. A butch with a beer belly? No problem! A muscular butch? That’s hot too!

My closet, in it's current state. As you can see, I'm nowhere to be found.
My closet, in it’s current state. As you can see, I’m nowhere to be found.

There’s other benefits too. Buying men’s clothing saves me money because men’s clothing seems to last longer than women’s clothing does. But the downfall to that is men’s clothing generally isn’t designed to fit around boobs. And it’s a little difficult finding jeans in the right size sometimes. T-shirts don’t always fit right, and that button on the dress shirt that is right between my boobs always seems to pull a bit tight.

That's one happy butch, even if her girlfriend calls her fauxhawk a Kewpie Doll haircut
That’s one happy butch, even if her girlfriend calls her fauxhawk a Kewpie Doll haircut

It’s all good though. Things could be far worse for me. As it is, I’ve got the love of a beautiful woman who makes me happy. I’ve got a great job, doing work that I love. I’m getting more involved in the LGBT community here in my hometown.

I’ll continue being the butch that I am, even if it doesn’t fit the preconceived notions of what a butch is ‘supposed to be’. And I’ll keep filling the space that I once occupied in my closet with men’s clothing.

After all, I’m best at being me, so why deviate from that now?

 

*when I say ‘our’ I mean in general. I’ve never partaken in those ridiculous antics.

And here’s an added, extra bonus!!

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

 

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.