Homophobic Slurs: Silence Only Gives Ignorance A Free Pass

As pro-marriage equality legislation sweeps the American landscape, many of us are right to celebrate this wave of progressive legal action taken on by U.S. lawmakers. The steps being made in this respect are very positive, but as we boldly celebrate, some of us are becoming complacent in a fight that is long from over. Just a couple of days ago I was reminded of this when I was made aware that a few people in my life are still being subjected to homophobic slurs and ridicule … they are adults, it is 2014, and the “friends” present when these things happen just step back with cowardice rather than step up with courage.

When I speak on the power of words, I identify four very particular homophobic slurs. I use the literal meanings of these words to demonstrate why their pejorative use makes the user look like a complete and total ass. If any of these are currently in your vocabulary, I urge you to pay close attention to what you are about to read.

Faggot
Faggots are small sticks used to start fires, just like kindling. For many years, this word has also been used in reference to cigarettes. When someone is called a faggot, they are being told that they deserve to burn. There was a time in our history when homosexual people were indeed burned at the stake, and the use of this vile word only re-enforces a belief that it should once again be an accepted practice.

Queer
The word queer means peculiar, not gay. Queer can apply to any number of things not considered “ordinary” or “normal.” People who identify outside of the societal conventions, and therefore queer, should be proud of that. The people I know who identify as queer do so largely because they reject the idea that they must be defined by any specific term. They are uniquely individual, they do not adhere do social constructs of sexual normativity, and they are most comfortable identifying with a term that best reflects that. The word queer is a term of individuality worthy of celebration, but instead has been made offensive by people grossly ignorant of its meaning.

Fruit
Seriously? I have no idea how or when the word fruit became a slur against LGBTQ people. My only guess is that somebody equated the stereotype of homosexual men as somehow “effeminate” with the graceful and sweet nature of fruit, and decided that they would use it as a slur to indicate weakness. Whatever the origin, those who shout “fruit!” out of their car windows only demonstrate their own simple-mindedness. It’s just a stupid and non-sensical thing to call somebdy.

Homo
Ummm, okay. Homo is a taxonomic classification. We all belong to the genus Homo. Our species is called Homo sapiens. So, when you call someone a homo … what’s your point exactly?

I have written before about the origin and meaning of the word homophobia. It was coined in 1972 by Psychotherapist George Weinberg, and he defined it as an irrational state of mind causing one to hold prejudice against people who are homosexual. I agree with this definition, and I extend it to prejudice against all LGBTQ people (ie: transphobia). To hold prejudice based upon sexual orientation, gender identity, etc, at a time when all available information points against the reasons for said prejudice, is inherently irrational. This is true regardless of the reason, whether it be religious or otherwise, and the use of the slurs discussed above – words that have nothing to do with homosexuality or gender identity – further reveal an irrational mind. Nobody can literally be a faggot, queer, or fruit, and we are all members of the genus homo. To use these words in reference to human beings in 2014 makes one look, as I said earlier, like an ass.

My friends do not ask to be ridiculed and demeaned by people ignorant of their own language, but it happens anyway. Progress is only achieved when it is fought for. The progress that has begun will continue as long as we continue to fight for it. If you are present when homophobic slurs are hurled at somebody, don’t stay silent. Stand up, say something. Silence only gives ignorance a free pass.

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