Wednesday, April 09, 2008

things we say

Language warning. The following screeching contains a very few words of questionable offensiveness. Read it anyway. Be a damn grown up.

My poor little blog seems to be slowly dying from neglect. I'm not intentionally neglecting the thing, but trying to write has not gotten any easier lately. If anything, my willingness to write has stayed the same, sort of, while my desire to post what I come up with continues to decline.

What you haven't gotten nearly enough of from me lately is a nice healthy rant. I've kept my ire entirely to myself for far too long. While I was off being unhappy, I was still finding targets for anger, but they don't nearly affect me lately as much as other issues I can't stop over-pondering. So what has been bothering me?

I've thought lately about words. Certainly I've considered words before, but lately I've noticed more of an ability for words to have impact, often an impact that the speaker has never considered, and there is often no way to explain, no way to make someone understand that how you hear their words is far removed from how those words sound to them.

One word, cocksucker, and a phrase, that's so gay, have stuck out in my mind lately. There are plenty of variations on these two, but these two are enough to start my little conversation. The suggestion is that enjoying fellatio as a giver or being gay are inherently demeaning to one's manhood, so it follows that they are great words to use to insult people. Cocksucker/gay=undesirable trait

What really bothers me with these words are the inability to explain to people in a way they understand why it might bother me or others to hear them used in this manner. I've only been able to explain to one person, and though she isn't black, when I compared her use of the word gay as a negative adjective to someone using the word nigger, she seemed to at least get for a moment why it might not be okay. She's a good friend and not someone who would intentionally be hurtful, but she also couldn't accept that in might bother me that she would use gay in such a way.

So how do you make the average person understand? What compares, in each individual world, to gay or to a racial epithet? What word has enough power to offend? I can't really think of any. While many women abhor the words cunt or bitch, they don't quite seem to have the same power for as many people. The bother is more a personal issue on an individual level.

The only tool I really have when confronting this is to turn it around, to make the situation lighter through disagreement, yet people often don't get it unless they also know that I'm gay. And while I might have made a show of announcing it in certain locales, not everyone reads the blog, and I don't wear my "Hello, my name is Gay" convention sticker everyday.

So I disagree. I hear the tired phrase and tell the speaker why they are wrong, why the situation or the thing is in fact not gay. "Andre champagne is the gayest? No sir. In fact it isn't gay at all. It's of low quality and has a poor taste and is in fact not even champagne. Andre may well be quite heterosexual," to use a conversation that took place recently. But all that gets is a laugh at the perceived joke or a blank stare of not understanding.

I do have friends, including the young lady mentioned above, who are quite able to use the word gay as a description and in a non negative fashion. These are people who are quite accepting of me and quite unconcerned with the homosexuality of their friends. They're the best kind of people, and I'm slowly building a network of friends for whom gayness is no more or less important than any other aspect of who you are. When you know that someone doesn't look down on the sucking of a cock you don't mind hearing it so much, and when those same people can just as easily describe the same situation as comparable to licking cunts it seems more easy to hear it.

So where have I arrived with all this? What great lesson have I learned? Not a fucking thing. All I know is that it used make me pause when I almost caught myself suggesting something was gay, and now it bothers me on some level to hear it, and I'm quite willing to point it out and to deny someone the chance to use it with impunity. I will in fact call you on it and at least try to make you see. Does it always work, or more accurately, will it ever work?

Feel free to comment about this with your own thoughts. I'd really like to hear what others think. Feel free to remind me of words I've used that make me a hypocrite.