Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Is it ‘cos I is...?

Poof. Queer. Fruit. Homo. Arsebandit. Shirtlifter. Bender. Fag, fag, faggot. Batty boy. Ponce. Cock Jockey. Chutney ferret (!). Fudge packer. Pansy. Queen. Ring raider. Shit stabber. Uphill gardener. He goes shopping with his mum...

The list is virtually endless gentle reader, the names there are for us fairies be we never so cheerful as me. There always has to be a victim, somewhere, of course. By and large the old ways are still our favourite; Lord help you if you are brown. anti-Semitism is still close to the hearts of many. And do we really believe there's no such thing as women's work?

Nevertheless it seems that after reiterating the arguments for equality for a very long time it almost seems like gay men and women are the last ones left. It's difficult to come up with another group of people who face, in many countries, the death penalty for being who they are – either via the courts or extra-judicially; or who are faced with deliberate legal impediments (can't get married, can't have kids, differing ages of consent); or who are viewed with suspicion often by members of their own family.

Currently there is a bit of controversy smouldering away about the use of "gay" as a derogatory term – something "gay" is a bit crap, rubbish, shoddy. I had to pull up a friend the other day for using it quite thoughtlessly in the office. It is something that annoys me purely because it is such a throw-away term. People seem genuinely surprised that it can cause offence. I sometimes feel like saying to them: take out the world gay, put in the word black, and if you'd think twice about using that sentence then you need to be more careful generally.

Of course there are limits. "Gay" is used quite a bit by gay people or to gay people by their friends in a humorous, familiar context. A word reclaimed in that way can be an effective way of drawing its teeth; and anyway in this as in all things context is king. Also, the genuine and dangerous discrimination and harm gay people suffer around the world shouldn't get obscured in an argument about semantics. Fella and I have had our fair share of unpleasant experiences and we're not exactly winning prizes in the homophobia stakes. Still, the casual indifference, the idea that civil partnership will do gets to me.

Coming out was, and still is, for me the expression of realising it's OK to be gay – more than that, it's no reason to feel less than who I am: not second class so much as some kind of failure. Fortunately for me, for us, the world is slowly changing and compared to what it was like when I was a teenager it's much much better. And it will continue to improve. More gay politicians, more countries recognising relationships and dismantling the hurdles toward full and open participation in society, more (non-stereotyped) gay characters in soap operas and main stream movies. We're here, we're queer (ahem), and... we have quite a lot of money. Need I say more??


Antony said...

"I sometimes feel like saying to them: take out the world gay, put in the word black, and if you'd think twice about using that sentence then you need to be more careful generally."

Good idea. I might use that one.

I think it will get better here in the UK but I do worry about outside of the UK, homosexuality is still illegal and carries some of the consequences you've mentioned. I think the BIG change in the UK is the increase in gay and lesbians coming out.

Family and friends know them as who they are and then they come out and it changes attitudes as they think "hey I've known antony for years and he's ok and he's gay, so therefore that must be ok".


A x

Nik_TheGreek said...

well said my friend...

Wendy said...

I can totally understand how a once harmless term, has turned into such a derogatory term. I am half Jewish and cringe every time someone says, "I Jewed it down" implying that Jewish people are stingy etc...If there was a term/word that people used to describe both Homosexual men and women, what would you prefer? I know it is an individual taste, really..I get on anyone's case who uses slang terms in a harmful way. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.