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When are we going to fight back against the language bigots?

Yeah…time for a good old-fashioned rant.

I’m so tired of looking for “just the right word” only to come up against one more way in which evil bad mean and nasty bigots have corrupted the use of a perfectly good word.

Obvious case in point: gay, fairy, queer. These are really good, useful words…and they’ve been stolen from us by people seeking ways to label and deride fellow human beings who are frequently not happy (thanks to said bigots), few or whom have ever sprouted a pair of gossamer wings or tossed sparklie dust (Note: I said few. Some homosexuals get as much of a kick out of cosplay as the rest of us.) and are no more “odd”  than any other human being.

TV commercials trying to get kids to quit using “gay” as a derogatory adjective help but that doesn’t begin to address the issue. “Gay” has a perfectly good meaning that has nothing to do with sexual preference, and I want it back.

But it’s awkward, people say, to use such a formal term as “homosexual.” Gee…how many times a day do we refer to “heterosexual” people. Make it awkward. Let it be awkward. Don’t use it, cuz it doesn’t make any difference!

So…what do we call these people who prefer a same sex relationship? Uh…how about their name? How about “that guy” or “that gal”. If you need something generic?

Let’s get the sound “hoe” back to meaning a tool you use to dig in the dirt.

Quit calling people names!!! Be nice! Is that really so hard?

What brought this up this morning? Why am I in rant mode? In the beginning of Harmonies, Wesley refers to Anevai (in viewpoint) as a witch. It’s meant as an endearment, which s/b clear from the rest of the viewpoint sequence, but it doesn’t really make a lot of sense, so I was looking for an alternative. OK…she’s a Native American, AmerInd, by the terms in the book…with which I also ran up against problems when trying to write it originally…so I thought…a Native American  term for woman. I went on the internet to see if there was something other than the obvious “squaw”…and found a whole big controversy over the use of that term.

Probably I should have known about this, but it was all coming to a head about the time I tucked in to write, so it must have flown right over my oblivious head, but I mean…sheesh. It’s a perfectly good word, used in the suffix for many a beautiful Algonkian word dealing various kinds of women. Very positive. And it’s been corrupted by head-up-their-rears bigots looking to hurt people by using their own terminology as epithets. (I won’t post links. Just Google “squaw controversy) Consequently PC Native Americans have fought to eliminate the word from Native American languages and change the names of landmarks and national parks that include the term “Squaw.”

What we should be doing is fighting back. Teaching people to understand and celebrate the word as it was meant to be used, not deride it and eliminate it.

There must be some way to fight back, to reclaim language from both the bigots and the PCs. Any suggestions?

Sheesh…I have to go drain a pond and work on taxes. Fill me in when you all figure it out, OK?

17 comments to When are we going to fight back against the language bigots?

  • So, what do you call a man named Gaylord? What should you call a woman named Gay? Sheesh, it’s a name……

    So, anyway, besides having your cathartic rant, how are you doing?

  • dhawktx

    You CAN be too PC. And you are also correct… it doesn’t matter WHAT a person’s sexual orientation is. I always say, as long as they’re not trying to get into MY pants or convert me to THEIR Kink, I don’t care what other folks do to get their jollies. I’ve known too many supposedly ‘normal’ folks whose idea of entertainment was much less savory than good ole enjoying each other’s selves. Remember, Ted Bundy was, on the outside at least, the kind of fellow any Dad would like to see his daughter bring home to meet the ‘Rents.

  • BW 2013-03-18

    Thank you. That was a much better rant than I would’ve come up with today.

    And “taxes” is a dirty word! That one will get my rant on too.

    “Squaw” — As near as I can tell, it was made offensive later on and wasn’t originally any more offensive than any other word. “She’s my woman” or “He’s my man” are about the same thing, and they’re as English as it gets. Same with the word “brave” for a man or boy, a brave warrior/hunter. — But these days, that’s not always a popular opinion. — I have at least one, maybe two or more, ancestors who were Indians in Texas/Oklahoma and Virginia, possibly Cherokee. There are things both noble and shameful back in the past. I’d rather we were honest about both, instead of so busy trying to paint over it all so it’s all pretty, neat and tidy. How are we going to get better if we won’t acknowledge what’s wrong and make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes? Pretending bad things never happened denies the truth and ignores the people who were hurt by it.

    Gay, etc. You know, I’d love it if it was just as fine to love a guy as a girl, if I, as a guy, could go up to any guy just like any guy can go up to any girl, give her a nice compliment, and ask her to dance, have a drink or a bite to eat, or just tell her she’s sweet and ask her out. Yet I cannot simply go up to a guy in the same way and do that. Ask the wrong guy, and he or his friends make trouble.

    Notice if I, as a grown man, say “boy” in the same context we all say, “girl,” someone will assume the wrong thing, too. And never mind that there are plenty of men and women who look at younger men and women. See how I had to specify that too, instead of “boys and girls,” there?

    Even as a boy, you’re taking a big risk to ask a boy you like if he likes you, or if he’d like to do any of the fooling around that kids do. It’s how kids learn about it, boys and girls or the same sex, whether we like to admit it or not. That too, is not a popular opinion. … And if you’re the boy who’d like to ask his buddy and who can’t quite put a reason on just why he’d like it if his buddy really likes him too, well, maybe you see where that’s going. Those boys do have some idea that there are people who like the same sex, but they usually don’t think it applies to them, because they’re usually brought up that they’re not supposed to be like that. Church, school, seemingly the whole world, give that message.

    That is changing. Some folks aren’t so hateful anymore. … But there are still too many headlines of some nice, smiling student who made good grades, who got bullied once too often, at home or school or church or all three, and couldn’t take it anymore. What a tremendous waste, for a society to collectively kill any of its kids, just because someone *said* they liked the same sex. — Why, oh why, can’t it be just fine for someone, kid or adult, to *like* and *love* another human being who just happens to have the same kind of parts?

    Because most people mostly like the opposite sex, and because who you like and what you like are so built-in, so hard-wired, that it seems “natural,” most people can’t imagine having feelings of love, friendship, attraction, affection, romance, or yes, sex, for someone of the same sex. Yet if that’s so, why is it, pray tell, that everyone wants time for “just the guys” or “just the girls,” because “it’s a guy thing” or “a girl thing”? I’m not saying friendship is the same as sexual love. It’s not. (They can shade into each other, but we all know why we use different words for the two ideas.) What I am saying, is that we can have some sort of strong feelings, most of us, towards the same sex, even going so far as to try that out, when we’re younger, some of us. But for some people, it’s not “just a phase” or immaturity, and it’s as natural for some people to love the same sex as it is for others to love the opposite sex. Only, in our culture, we’re brought up that it is somehow not OK.

    But then, isn’t there something bigger going on, with a culture that’s so fearful of wrongdoing that someone can’t even hug another person, for fear someone, somewhere wants to do something bad, forbidden? (Boys are brought up that way especially.) And I’m not making it up about the hugging. Some schools have “No Public Displays of Affection” policies, including that a teacher can’t hug a kid. When did we all get so afraid that someone *might* do wrong, that we are willing to forbid normal, healthy affection for each other?

    Why can’t we just stop and insist on what’s really right, and be nice to one another? Would that really be so hard, to accept each other?

    Would it be so awful, if a boy or girl (or man or woman) is gay?

    No, but too many people think so, and those of us who *are* gay have to unlearn it all, even to accept ourselves and be OK with someone else.

    I think, too, that because there’s so much pressure against it, that too often, gay kids grow up without all those normal, healthy, commonplace opportunities to learn together what it is to become a couple, to make that work, let alone the actual physical expressions of it, how we show affection, or y’know, the stuff that is just fine in boy-girl love scenes, but not fine if it’s boy-boy or girl-girl. So gay kids grow up socially and sexually not as mature, because they just plain haven’t had the chance to figure all the usual stuff out, the way their straight friends have been doing since they first starting getting curious about it all. I honestly think that’s where a lot of problems come from. If you actively prevent what’s instinctive long enough, it has to find its way out somehow.

    Those words for gay folks? Sure, they are hurtful. I don’t like ’em.

    But… If you have no words for it, how are you going to know what it is you’re feeling, or that there might be anyone else who feels that way too, and wants to feel it with you?

    Yes, it is not helpful if those words are all negative, hurtful, “bad things,” and “wrong,” and all the rest.

    No, it is not helpful to put a label on it and pretend that it’s only one or the other, that, for instance, someone might like both, even a little bit. Or that you have to pick one and forever live with it, a scarlet letter. Tough break, if you discover you liked one friend, but otherwise you prefer girls (or boys).

    (I am using mostly “guy” examples, because, well, I’m a guy, and it’s repetitive enough as it is.)

    But we have to have a way to refer to love, and a way to distinguish same-sex and opposite-sex love. We have different words for sex versus romantic love, for family-love, for friendship-love, for all sorts of things. There needs to be some way to refer to same-sex or opposite-sex love, without making it sound like you threw the dictionary at it or want to insult it.

    Gay is as good a term as any. It’s less loaded with negatives than, say, that bundle-of-sticks word. Some people prefer the word queer. But I’d rather be “very happy” than “too strange or weird.”

    And I grew up hearing “queer” and “queer-bait” as insults, along with “fag” or “faggot,” before I had any idea what those really meant. I only knew they meant something bad, a boy wasn’t supposed to be like that, because all the other boys (saying those words) said so. And I was the kid with his nose always in a book, reading way above grade level, even back in elementary, when I first starting hearing those words. Funny thing, too. I hadn’t done a darn thing yet. All the other kids seemed to know, but not me.

    When I first began getting the idea of how I felt, I still didn’t quite get it. There were clues. Some of them very specific, can’t-miss clues. … I thought I was just “a late bloomer” and not so popular. (I had friends at school, but not often beyond school.) (I mostly thought it was because I was handicapped and a brain. It took a really long time to soak in that I really did like guys, that it wasn’t just some vague thing, some phase.) — But it was the 70’s and 80’s in Texas in the big city, and I was a good church-going kid, conservative parents. Not exactly a lot of obvious role models or other chances for a boy to learn about himself. (And there was a not-so-good experience with a classmate and a negative from a best friend, that probably went a long way toward preventing me, too.)

    I don’t like the bad words, the ones that hurt, that separate, for whatever reason someone might be different.

    Yet we also need some way to talk about what makes us different, to know we’re not so alone or different that no one could even think it or feel it.

    One last thought on it:

    I see a hole in how we educate ourselves, in how kids are raised and how kids and teens and adults can educate themselves.

    If we are truly accepting, then same-sex or opposite-sex would make no more difference than eye color or hair color. (I’d say skin color, but people don’t accept that one really either yet.)

    If we were truly accepting, it would not be any issue if two boys are openly friendly/affectionate, hugging, holding hands, or anything that best friends might do — or that a boyfriend and girlfriend might do. In fact, it might not always be so clear, the exact nature of the relationship, friends or a couple, but that wouldn’t be a problem, if we were truly accepting of it. Sure, the kids might get teased gently, but people would be happy for them, as friends or as a couple. (By the way, shouldn’t a couple *be* friends too? It seems to be a requirement, for a long-lasting relationship.)

    But about education: Kids need education about their bodies. Adults may say they shouldn’t be doing that, but no matter what morality we put on it, boys and girls are going to explore. It happens. It’s natural. It’s how every single one of us got here. We didn’t just appear out of thin air. Two people had sex, in order for us to be born.

    What does that have to do with same-sex? Or opposite-sex?

    Kids need to know about themselves. About all of it. The biology, the hygiene, the psychology. Kids need to know what to do, how to stay healthy, how to avoid/prevent problems — and that if they do get in trouble somehow, they still have someone who loves them and will help, instead of judging them.

    This also means, about the same-sex stuff, that kids need to be told about that. How is a boy or girl supposed to know what to do, if all he or she has ever heard is that it’s wrong, bad, etc.? What happens if, say, your buddy asks you to try something? What if you do try? What then? What happens? What if you don’t want to, but you don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings? What if, and we hope not, someone tries something without asking, or tries to convince you or your buddy? What if your buddy has trouble and needs to talk to you? Is it so “wrong” that you won’t listen?

    Parents and schools tend not to teach kids enough about their own bodies or what to do with someone of the opposite sex. They tend to ignore the possibility of same-sex behavior altogether. The message isn’t spoken, but it’s clear: That’s so forbidden and unacceptable, we’re not going to teach you about it or let you think about it or talk about it.

    Even in today’s more progressive times, it’s not common at all for parents or schools to cover (or uncover?) that particular set of possibilities.

    I’ve heard it discussed among gay people. “Oh, but if a parent says that, the kid’s going to think his parents think he’s gay. It sends the wrong message.” — No, I disagree. I think it’s reasonable and responsible to go over what sorts of things are possible, to teach kids, so they know right up front that it is just as OK to deal with that, and to talk to mom and dad and whoever, about it if they need to. And that, if they have a friend who needs their understanding, that friend is welcome. Or heck, if they discover they really *do* like their friend “like that,” then hey, they’ve already learned it’s OK, they at least have one safe place to be themselves.

    I grew up not understanding what was going on with me, despite what was going on with me. I grew up not accepting it, despite feeling it. It took a lot to be able to admit to anyone, or to begin to accept myself. — I am not so outspoken in person, but I have told some friends. I’m “out” online. I’m out to some friends in person. Anyone else, however long they’ve known me, if they haven’t figured it out, then I’m not sure they want to, and so I haven’t said. (I know at least one anti-aunt and a few others who do not accept it, and I haven’t told them.) But… that’s their problem. I figure if I’m open about it, to some or most, then no one can try to use it against me. “Omigawd, Ben’s Gay!” (Yes, I heard the “Ben Gay” joke growing up.)

    I don’t have all the answers. I wish I did. I’ve got lots of questions.

    I haven’t met Mr. Right yet either. That biological clock keeps ticking. — I am not the only one, either. It would be really nice to have someone to be with at night, or for that matter, who’d put up with each other at the breakfast table or supper table, or any of the other real-world little stuff and big stuff out there. Yet I’ve never had that. (At least I have had the “hey, do you wanna…” a couple of times, enough to know yes, I do wanna, with someone nice. — And if you’d asked my high school or college self, or he’d heard that response, he’d probably have been shocked… and then gone home and wondered about why it shocked him. (There was a phase of the college-age self who thought if he was “good enough,” just maybe he’d pray it away. Please note, it doesn’t. If you “abstain” or “just don’t think about it,” you can’t help but think about it, and it happens anyway, awake or asleep.) Yet even that college-age self wanted a relationship, physical and otherwise, he just felt guilty about wanting it.

    Yep, this is both a rant and a tell-all. — But that is me at this point in life. If I were “more mature” (I’m 47, how much more mature do you want?) maybe I’d be better about it. Or maybe I’m OK as is. — Still working on it.

    So, I suppose my answer is, heck no, I don’t like all that hateful, mean-and-ugly name-calling. It hurts and divides for no reason, it makes us all less than we can be, and sometimes, it ruins lives or kills them.

    But we still have to have some ways to talk about it, and we *need* to be able to talk about it, get it out in the open, and deal with it. And it’s high time we accepted that people are different in all kinds of ways, whether we like it or not, and learn to live with them…and quit being so nasty to them.

    If we can accept people like that (or like this or like that other) then just maybe we can find a way to live together without poisoning our nice little oasis of a blue-green planet in the middle of a vast, empty nothingness star-desert.

    I might settle for it being OK for two boys or girls to be just as gay as they want to be, just as much as the boy-girl couple over there, wherever. I might settle for it, if it’s OK for a boy to ask another boy, just as much as it is for a boy to ask a girl, whatever it is he wants to say.

    Well, I’d still want all the other too.

    But I sure understand your rant, and I’m cheering for it. — I want a world where it’s OK to be different, where some nut doesn’t want to paint over it and pretend it’s not there, or some other nut doesn’t want to spew hatred all over and exclude and ignore folks who are just trying to live here too.

    Really great post, Jane. Thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart.

  • WOL

    John Lennon pretty much said it all in the lyrics to his song, “Imagine.” More wars, more crimes, more hate, and more ruined lives have been perpetrated in the name of religion than any other one thing we humans do.

  • Ben, that was a pretty powerful reply. Lots of guts to come forth to say how you feel, and damn the consequences. Jane told us at our little confab in the kitchen while people were in the living room with CJ, that she has gotten more letters from kids who have said her books have helped them accept their own sexuality and to come out of the closet (her words, not mine).
    I had a roommate in college way back in 1972/1973 who was gay. He never made a pass at any of us, and I didn’t get all upset when he’d bring his boyfriends over. I guess I was a bleeding heart liberal at the time. Well, I’m no longer as liberal as I was, BUT I’ve been most of the way around the world, and I’ve found that regardless of where I was, people in those countries were pretty much the same as everywhere else. They want to live their lives in peace, and not in fear. I was outraged when I saw the picture of the young man in California just recently who was beaten up because he’s gay. The jerk who did it went to the kid’s cousin’s house (or was it HIS cousin’s) and bragged about it. How about the young man who was tied to a fence and left to die because he was gay?
    I think people use the names because it dehumanizes those people who are different from us. You hear people call East Asians “gooks”, or Pacific Islanders “fish heads”, or Arabs “towel heads”. It lowers the humanity of the target people, so that it’s easier to justify not liking them. You’re not human, therefore, you don’t deserve to be treated like a human.
    Anyway, I’ve been just as guilty as other people in using the wrong words. But I try each day to be a little more sensitive to other peoples’ feelings. I don’t mean going all “PC”, because I believe that “political correctness” has been a terrible setback to honest, open communications. You don’t have to be totally blunt when you are being honest with someone, but you also don’t want to be mealy-mouthed. If you can come to the proper way of saying it, there is much less chance of misunderstanding. If you’re worried about what people are going to think about you, rather than what your point happens to be, then you can’t communicate very well.
    If people have a problem with you being gay, straight, bi-, trans, whatever, always remember that it’s THEIR problem, not yours. If you’re happy in who you are, it’s nobody else’s business whether you’re one of the above. It’s why I have such a hard time accepting politicians who want to pass a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I thought marriage was a legal and social arrangement for the purpose of mutual emotional care, as well as for the purpose of raising children. Just because a child has two “moms” or two “dads” doesn’t seem to me to be a hindrance in their development. From what I understand, those parents are more than happy to let their children grow up to be whatever the child wants to be, and as long as the child is happy, that is what is important, not whether the child is gay or straight. BTW, if the Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between one man and one woman, how would it define the marriage of a man and a woman who had undergone a sex-change operation to become a woman? Is it any business of the State (governments in general)? I don’t think so.
    A lot of my friends would be somewhat surprised at my attitudes toward GLBT issues, in that I’m mostly Republican in political alignment, my attitudes are somewhat to the right of middle-of-the-road, but I don’t see why I need to stick my nose into someone else’s private lives. What goes on between two consenting adults in the privacy of their own domain is nobody’s business but theirs. I could say I know several gay people, and they could say they also have known several narrow-minded straight people (I remember hearing a ventriloquist use a similar line, but it was black people and white people).

  • BCS: Powerfully and beautifully said. It took a lot of courage and personal insight. Thank you for saying some things I could never say with the same verisimilitude. I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner. Been a crazy day.

    I completely agree that of all the choices we’ve been given, I prefer gay as well, but there’s a reason why you never see it in any of my books…or any other word distinguishing one kind of sexual relationship over another. It was a conscious decision, when Wesley refused to keep his hands off Stephen, to make gender a non-issue and just let the relationship develop outside the pressure of some arbitrary social stricture. (I love SF)

    I really wanted readers, no matter what their sexual preference, to just go along for the ride the way they go along for the FTL ride.

    Rats…too tired to write a proper reply, but…again, thanks.

    Joe: you, too!
    “I think people use the names because it dehumanizes those people who are different from us.”
    Absolutely! And worse, they choose words (or bastardizations of words) from the target people’s own language, so they’re mocking the culture and whole world of the target. It sucks and it’s just plain wrong. Grrrr….

  • Greenwyvern

    @BlueCatShip – Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve always had gay friends and it’s never been an issue to me. Even categories like ‘gay’, ‘straight’, ‘bi’ seem too rigid. I think there is a whole complex spectrum, and where you are on it can vary with time and circumstances.

  • Greenwyvern

    @joekc6nlx – They say that as people get older they tend to become more conservative, but I’ve I’m the opposite. As I get older I become more liberal.

    Of course, by the standards of most Western countries, the US Democratic party would be considered center-right and Republicans would be considered extreme hardline right-wing. Fox news would be recognized as a blatant propaganda station almost anywhere else.

  • Hanneke

    Good for you, Jane and BCS and the rest!
    It’s very good to be reminded, among all the loudly vocal bigotry we often hear from Americans, that there are also a lot of very nice and human people in the USA, who allow everyone else their own humanity as well.
    I know there’s bigotry and intolerance here as well, and sometimes it seems to be getting worse instead of better. Still, there’s a lot more tolerance in Holland in general than there seems to be in the USA, if the things I read are an indication.

    Also, regarding BCS’ points about education, we at least don’t believe that acting like an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand will make whatever-you-don’t-want-to-see go away! I’ve often wondered how intelligent people could believe that, or at least act as if they do – not teaching kids about their bodies and sexuality shortly before some of them start experimenting doesn’t mean human nature won’t be human nature – it just means more teenage mothers and more (sometimes illegal and unsafe) abortions.
    This is a statistical fact: here where early abortions are legal but kids all get a fairly broad sexual education (including the same-sex possibilities, though some Christian schools have had to be forced by law to mention this) at about 10-11 years and contraception is widely available (without doctors having to notify parents, and such other roadblocks to free and discrete use of the pill; and with condom-vending-machines in a lot of public toilets so people don’t have to ask a sales-lady) – there is a very much lower rate of teenage pregnancies and abortions than in USA states where kids can’t be taught such things in school for fear of encouraging them to experiment.
    Conclusion: no amount of taboo-ing the subject or promotion of abstinence till marriage will stop the experimenting, so it’s best to teach the kids how to be responsible about it, instead of risking teenage pregnancies – still this sensible conclusion is apparently considered anathema by a lot of quite vocal Americans, which I find quite incomprehensible.

    As for the name-calling: I agree it’s awful that people call other people horrid names – as Joe said, usually to distance themselves and be able to look down on others, or deny their humanity and basic human rights. I also see that it’s often ordinary and useful words, which get a pejorative association from the way they are used, which is a bother for someone wanting to use them in their original connotation.
    Sometimes, the community so attacked can take back the name and make it something to be proud of instead. I think this may be happening with the word ‘gay’. The English example I found for this is ‘nerd’, which used to be a denigrating designation for people good at studying, and after the success of several digital millionaires has become something of a ‘Geuzennaam’, something studious young men are proud to call themselves.

    The Dutch word Geuzennaam is translated as ‘sobriquet’, but I don’t think that has quite the same connotations. It’s an old and well-known name and phenomenon here, dating from shortly after 1556, when Dutch partisan lower gentry petitioned the Spanish overlady for a few less oppresive dictates and were called ‘gueux’ (French for beggars) for their trouble. Shortly after that, the Dutch partisans started calling themselves that (dutchified to ‘Geus’ and plural ‘Geuzen’), and did so all during the 80-years war with Spain that followed. As the ‘Geuzen’ were instrumental in winning Dutch freedom from Spain in the 17th century, the idea of taking your enemy’s pejorative words for your group and making them your own banner to be proud of became the well-established tradition of the ‘Geuzennaam’ (naam = name).

    If that is happening with ‘gay’, it doesn’t solve the problem of what to use instead for its original meaning, though there are a few semi-synonyms (sp?) like happy, cheerful, blythe (very old-fashioned?), ecstatic (over the top?), enjoying oneself… at least it’s not the only available word for this type of emotion, and as BCS said, it’s not a bad emotion to be associated with.

    I have no idea how that works out for squaw, as I can’t think of any other sort-of-synonym than ‘native woman’ or ‘native wife’, which at least states that the person one is referring to was born in the place one is talking about, to people who had lived in this place for generations. Still, even that word has an extra set of connotations that the native people are not originally part of Western(-European) civilisation – if an American moved to Holland and married me, I don’t think I’d be referred to as his native wife, though that would in principle be correct! Squaw is a more precise definition, in that the native people she belongs to has to be a North-American indian people, not an African or Asian people or somewhere else like that; and I can’t think of another synonym that’s as precise.
    Only the people in the community that is denigrated by use of a word can take it for their own as ‘Geuzennaam’, and I have no idea if native americans would ever consider taking back their perfectly good words from the bigots, but from what you say it doesn’t seem likely. If they do, there will always be a transitional period in which it’s perfectly OK for someone within the community to use it, but it’s considered derogatory if someone outside the community uses it. That means it’ll be a long time before it can be freely used again, without the negative emotions, if it ever is.
    As you say, quite a pity the bigots can do that to perfectly good words.

  • Pence

    Yep. And ‘queer is another word that has had its meaning narrowed. My mother used the word quite ofter – meaning odd or peculiar in a totally general sense. Does the narrowing of word meanings reflect the narrow mindedness of so much of society at large?

  • TabbyCat

    About the word “squaw” — a rock formation in our area, known as “Squaw Butte” for probably a century and a half, must be renamed. We are told that the word “squaw” signifies an Indian woman who is a prostitute. If this is so, I’m horrified that we have casually used it this long! On the other hand, I never before heard of this definition, and I don’t know who made the complaint to begin with, someone in the name of PC or one of the Indian reservations in the area.
    Husband being a sports nut, I think of the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians and their logos, which various groups have criticized, and I wonder if, being about half Irish, I ought to be offended by the little cartoon-stereotype Irishman used by Notre Dame. . . never thought of it before.

    And about sexual orientation, it seems to me that the important thing is love. Who you love doesn’t matter. I can’t imagine why anyone should consider it their business to comment or to interfere or to denigrate; I can only assume their own lives are so empty that they have nothing better to do.

    (By the way, I loved the Dance of the Rings trilogy, but Ring of Destiny is probably my least favorite of the three; I was so irritated with Mikhyel trying to throw away something as precious as love because it did not come in the “right” form.)

  • Pence: queer is another word I feel we’ve been cheated out of! It’s a great word, used properly. 😀

    Re Squaw Butte: That’s kind of my point. That’s happening all over and I think in many cases those historical names have very positive connotations. In the original Native American use of the word, squaw a very positive word meaning woman, and as a suffix to other words for specific types of women. Bigots stole the word from the Native American’s and twisted it into something ugly. I think English speakers, out of respect to the Native Americans, should give the word back to them and restore the original meaning and come down hard on anyone who uses it in a negative way.

    That negativity really is the key for me. Language shifts and elements of other cultures become part of ours. I think of the whole PC anti Indians’ logo (and probably the Notre Dame Irishman) as a bit overreactive myself. Those are pretty harmless charicatures. I mean…c’mon. Most importantly, they have positive connotations for those using the symbols. People are proud to be fighting Irish or Indians fans. What’s so awful about that?


    Re: the Ring books: Poor Khyel. You’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty big curve to throw a fella who’s got trust issues and a pretty dicey self image, thanks to his father. (And he does come around. I think he and Dancer in Alizant are just adorable.) His self image was pretty warped as a kid and his attraction to Dancer at first represents everything he’s questioned about himself. His (over)reaction is rooted in (a) shock. I mean…he just didn’t have any idea Dancer was anything other than a pretty young woman and suddenly he’s presented with something he didn’t even know was physically possible, (b) his expectations based on what he thought was true cb) the fact that to his way of thinking, a fairly significant piece of information had been kept from him which made him question everything else about Dancer and their relationship. (He’s not the most trusting guy and it’s his job to be suspicious.)

    When he makes the big breakup, that’s because Dancer has pushed him too fast and demanded something of him that rouses what he considers his darkest side.

    Once I decided to make Dancer a ‘tweener, I used the situation to imply what I consider a travesty of deception in our own society, and something that I think has contributed to gender-related bigotry and ignorance in the latter part of the 20th C. i.e. the socially silent “repair” of what the Ring-folk refer to as ‘tweeners. This became standard practice in the 1960’s and has given the children of the late 20th century a very false notion of absolute where it comes to the question of gender…not to mention screwing up a number of kids whose hormones and hardwiring no longer had a body to fit. For all their good intentions, I think the medical community has done a great disservice to the children they “fixed” and the world at large.

  • I have heard that “squaw” meant prostitute, but I’m thinking that it was given that meaning by white men who did not see a marriage ceremony in a Native American tribe as existing. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or even if it didn’t, it’s their customs, and it is wrong for anyone to try to press their customs on another people.
    Geisha is not a prostitute, they are very skilled ladies who can sing, dance, play the various musical instruments, carry on an intelligent conversation with a man (or say nothing at all), but they are first and foremost, entertainers like we would hire an organist to play at a party, or a band, or just as someone to be a companion for a while. That doesn’t imply that they are prostitutes, and I think again, Western thinking has intruded into an area that it doesn’t truly understand. These ladies were paid to entertain, not to have sex with the men (although it’s possible that it did happen, it was probably NOT a highly-skilled geisha, but rather, a geisha who could not attract enough legitimate business on her own).
    If you read some Victorian-era English literature, they refer to “Queer Street”, and IIRC, it meant someone was not all together in the head, but please correct me if I’m wrong. A “fagot” (one “g”) is a bundle of sticks gathered for firewood. The one that gets me sometimes, and I don’t get upset about it because I know the context in which it’s used, is what we colloquially call the “N-word”. Read Mark Twain, you’ll see it all through Huckleberry Finn. There have been “uprisings” in the past to have that word removed from the books, or to have the book banned outright. How stupid can that be? Clemens wrote that way because 1) it was a common word and I don’t believe it came from white people to begin with. I believe it was a mispronunciation of the word “Negro”, or else it was not heard the way it was spoken. And 2) when you use a word like that to demonstrate the way people treated black people in those times, it can either be to educate the reader so they understand that the word is derogatory and it should not be used (smart) or to educate the reader that it can be used (racist). I know that Richard Pryor used the word extensively, and again, he did it for a purpose, even while white people were laughing at his jokes, he was NOT doing it to amuse. However, don’t let him EVER hear a white person use that word, he’d be up in arms. So, Hanneke, I agree that if the targeted group takes the word for their own, it can lose a lot of negative impact, unless it’s used by a different group to dehumanize the targeted group. (Aside here, the word “niggard” means a “miser”, a “piker”, a “skinflint”, but don’t get caught using it in polite conversation.)
    I think some of the most pitiful people in this country are the Ku Klux Klan. Where else would you find a bunch of people dressing up in bedsheets, putting on cone-shaped head and face masks, and marching around like a bunch of kids at Hallowe’en? Except that they aren’t playing trick-or-treat. These people are seriously misguided about so-called “white supremacy”. I wonder what the population of white people is in the world. Then, let’s add in 2 billion Chinese, a billion or so people in India, whatever the population of various non-white races of Asia, Australia, and Africa, plus South America, and I think we white folks are pretty low on the totem pole for total population.
    As for what we should call GLBT folks – how about we call them people? How about we use their names that they were given at birth (or adoption) and leave off with the idiotic labels that only show our own ignorance. If they’re happy in being who they are, then what business is it of mine whether they are in same-sex relationships or opposite-sex relationships? I hated Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the U.S. Armed Forces, because it was used to tell the target group that they could stay in the military, but they had to refrain from that type of sexual behavior until they got out of the military. I see – so the general or admiral who issues that order then goes home to his wife, or off to a girlfriend, or a mistress, and engages in sexual behavior, but that’s all right, because it’s “acceptable” behavior. The prejudices of the “turn off your sexuality like a light switch” were rampant then, and when “DADT” FINALLY went away, I thought that maybe the military would be better. There are still some of the “old guard” who think it’s wrong, that it is a serious moral decay in our military (tell THAT to the Spartans), and that no good could ever come from it. I hope they’re proven wrong.

  • Thanks, folks. I’ve been busy with real life stuff, and when I got back to this, I was a little surprised at the praise. (Nothing like having self-image problems but an ego too, lol.)

    I tend to express myself in writing more than in person, though I can talk if I get going. Maybe you’ve noticed a tendency to stand on the soapbox. Darn idealism. 😉

    It strikes me that some people, especially today’s teens, are somewhat better about it, generally. But we live with so very many people who are still determined not to accept gay people, being gay. It truly bothers me that it’s such an issue for so many.

    Then again, I’d like to deal with it better myself. Of course it’s important to me.

    That notion of being between, half, not quite one or the other, or an outsider in some way, is very true, at least at times; whatever things we might be “between” or “half of.” Usually, we ourselves don’t feel that way, but other people make us feel that way, displaced, somehow.

    Being “between sexes/genders,” in whatever way that might be, however much of it is physical or psychological, well, I think there’s probably something physical to that too, though what or how, I don’t know. (And even if so, I don’t want a “cure” or a “preventive.” I just want to love and be loved.)

    I guess because I’m handicapped, physically “differently abled” than most people, and because I’m gay, my orientation’s different, whatever causes it — I can sympathize with people who are born intersex.

    My eyes (and behavior) are just a little bit different than other people’s. It’s not immediately noticeable unless you see my reading distance or some other clue and put two and two together. I don’t “feel” different until there’s something I can’t do as well as others, and that…bugs the crud out of me when it won’t budge. But there’s a difference, and for some people, especially growing up, it was a big deal.

    My being gay isn’t (at least to me) obvious and visible. Whether anyone else can really tell for sure, I don’t know. So much of that is just talk, though there’s a kernel of truth to it. We do know, somehow. So it was cause for great puzzlement and insecurity, growing up. What made me different? I wondered, since I didn’t look different there. But surely something was different, somehow, something invisible, hidden, about my body and mind. Why? I didn’t know and there weren’t any good answers. It was a problem more so than my eyesight, which I could put a finger on for cause.

    So for anyone intersex, it must feel something like that. I do get what it’s like to be subtly but plainly built differently than others, and from my orientation, being “not like others” there must be hard to deal with. Even though it’s visible, there’s a cause you can identify, it’s still such a private, personal, and deep, basic part of who we are and how we feel.

    It’s odd: I deal much better with my vision impairment / handicap than I did with my sexual orientation. The one was something everyone knew and talked about, including me. So it wasn’t such a big deal, even if, at times, it was a big deal. The other was something private, very internal, secret, not talked about. Not by anyone I knew, and very seldom seen in any way positive or acceptable. People (other kids, but sometimes adults) might talk about it (jokes and insults, rarely nice things) but mostly it was hush-hush. Anyone close to me hardly ever dared mention anything about it, that I can remember. (I don’t know if it’s any better if it’s talked about or acted on, if it’s negative.) So perhaps that’s where some of the difference between the two “ways of being different” comes from.

    I don’t really have any conclusions there, I’m just mulling it over, putting it out there on the table.

  • BCS, you are loved, by me, even though I have never met you. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • One of the things I love about our readers is the way they couple thoughtfulness with the courage to articulate things that matter. Thank you BCS and Joe. And I echo onna. 😉

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