Slurs seem to be the hot topic of the day, and I hesitated when people initially asked for me to talk about the issue. Because they’re scary.
That’s really the whole point. Offensive words have been inseparable in my consciousness, still are in the minds of many, from getting your ass whooped. The funny thing is, the word that bothers me, personally, the most is “faggot.” Because it’s the first word I directly associated with my own physical suffering. Faggot is the first thing someone called me, specifically, before hitting me. As though that was their reason. As though they believed that was a good enough reason to hit me.
But they hurt me because of their own damn reasons. I was just a convenient target. And the word Faggot didn’t rough me up, or tear my clothes, or make me afraid to wear short shorts for over a decade. It was the fear that if anyone thought I was this concept that they liked to vent their frustration on, they could hurt me.
And then I ruminated on that, and denied who I was to protect myself, until I resented myself enough to start hurting myself. Because I was a worse bully of myself than they were.
And that is my deepest personal experience with slurs. And that is why I take it very, very seriously when somebody complains about a word offending them. But the word, itself, is just a symbol of something. Fear, in the minds of victims, or a scapegoat, for people who feel like they can yell at someone else. But the yelling doesn’t invalidate the pain. Nor does it validate it.
But if somebody says the word faggot on stage, it doesn’t actually hurt me. It reminds me that I was hurt once, it reminds me that I was so afraid of getting hurt that I denied myself ferociously (I actually came out as trans *before* admitting I was interested in men because I had heard more about homophobic sentiment than trans sentiment, because I didn’t want to be targeted myself, only to find out that any combination of variables would result in me being disliked by someone, somewhere, for something that isn’t even about them.
But using a slur isn’t “evil.” Saying words doesn’t kill people – if you yell anything loud enough, angrily enough, at a stranger, they will shudder. But when it becomes a symbol, well damn, that’s pretty awful isn’t it?
But as much as I shudder when I hear, in the middle of a show I enjoy, transgenderism being referred to in dehumanizing terms, *that* isn’t hurting me – fear of getting smacked around again is what’s making me miserable. And that’s why I take a break from a show if certain terms show up, make me miserable, make me sick to my stomach. And it’d be lovely if I were never reminded of something awful. But you know what’s worse than being called a name? Being scared by it. Screaming at myself in the bathroom because I’m terrified and alone. And the cure for that isn’t accusation, I don’t think.
I figure conversation works better. Now obviously, animated conversations are fun. Oh my can it be fun in some circumstances to have animated debates, or I’d wager nobody would voluntarily do so. And these conversations can teach people things. Even the worst conversations I’ve ever had, the most insipid moments of “What did they just say?!” were still informative.
Doesn’t mean I have to like a damn thing they said. I feel like I’d rather not be afraid all the time though, so I do things. And I shake it off. And then I can watch comedy again without flipping out. But I do get why offense is taken – offensive things can go beyond merely bothering someone to the point of insidious pain. And complaining is probably the best weapon we have against pain, so kvetch onward.
Kvetch about those douchebags who keep saying tranny and faggot and whatever other words are pissing you off. But there are other things we have to do as well, I’ve heard. And some of them I quite like. And among those things I quite like is dark and brutal comedy. Because funny is better than scary, and sometimes, just sometimes, that’s actually worth it. You know what’s scarier and more disturbing and fueled by more awful stereotypes than a lot of comedy? Cable news. That is some scary, scary stuff.
So kvetch on, but I still quite like Louis CK’s routine on the word “faggot.” And I might decide start watching Archer again. I might just skip the rerun of the episode that made me feel bad. Or kvetch again. Because both options work. And honestly, as much as many words may suck, being afraid of them sucks more. And being smacked around sucks too. So maybe we should stop scaring and hitting each other… oh wait, we are hitting each other less. Because we can talk about our problems and learn from each other, because we share our opinions and people figure things out if you give them a chance! And the street harassment, and the online death threats, and the horrible misconceptions of many people are terrifying.
More terrifying than seeing the words “faggot” and “tranny” in print, even. But I’m still allowed to hate those words, some days. But I’d rather not have anything mean yelled at me on the street. “Your shoes are awful” could just as easily ruin someone’s day in the right tone of voice as “Nobody loves you, faggot.” So make fun of that asshole with your friends later.
This was all serious and brooding again, but rest assured I’ll try and put more jokes in the next thing I post, don’t you worry.