American Asylum
Because being gay and progressive in America can make you feel like you're in a nuthouse.

A word is just a word.

I dislike the historical usage of the word “fag.” Anyone should. Nobody should ever use the word as a pejorative, and in a similar vein, I would like for any negative variation of the phrase “that’s so gay” to disappear forever. But I’m not, and never have been, the type who thinks that telling people “SHHH! DON’T SAY THAT WORD” counts as a way of combating hatred. It’s a nice gesture, but being a pedant about a single word is ultimately going to do as much to combat hateful attitudes as joining a Facebook group will do to stop genocide.

My point, ’cause I don’t feel like writing an essay, is this: Context matters. A lot. In fact, it’s everything.

Can you figure out what I mean by that statement? It’s not so much that I think a subculture can “reclaim” a word from its terrible historical place in the lexicon if enough people within the culture throw it around casually, it’s that I think people should always use their brains. That’s all. “Fag” will never be the language of polite society even if you use it as a term of endearment (and why can’t you? Remember: context and intent are everything), but those seeking to combat hatred need to do more than just try and erase a word. Prohibition didn’t work with booze, it doesn’t work with pot, and it won’t work with the English language, either.

One Response to “A word is just a word.”

  1. The saddest part of the whole thing is that when words begin to be used hatefully without anyone much caring, soon the object of those hateful words can be attacked without the anyone much caring, Nazi Germany to wit. Even here in the U.S., all too often I feel glad if it is just words one has to dodge.


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