You can hurl any word you want at me until you’re blue in the face, and I can guarantee you that the only energy that will be wasted will be the energy you used to say those words. Yes, words can be hurtful and can be piercing if said by someone you love and care about, but the words people say can only impact us if we allow them to. Words such as “faggot” and “queer” have lost their derogatory meanings to me, because I don’t want to give another person the power to hurt me when their words are only a reflection of their own bigotry or ignorance. I remember walking down the hallway near the president of my campus’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school, an organization I was involved with and eventually was a leader of, when someone began calling him a Jesus freak and other anti-Christian words to try and break his spirit. After each word though, the guy only thanked his attacker. To him, those words were a badge of honor, not to be taken in the hurtful tone they were intended.
I’ve always been a strong advocate for anti-bullying measures, and I always will be. Bullying is a pandemic in our country and we do need to work on making a better world for our children. In a perfect world, we would all be loving and positive towards each other, but that perfect world does not and will never exist. In conjunction with combating bullying, we must also teach people that words only harm us when we allow them to. If we weaken the hurtful words people can hurl at us, we weaken their ability to bully us. Because it doesn’t bother me for others to call me names, it doesn’t mean I find it OK, or that I will respect that person because they call me those names.
I’m in the school of thought that if a person belongs to a certain group, they have free reign to use the words that describe them, whether they are pejoratives or accurate reflections of who they are. It doesn’t bother me for another gay person to call be a fag or queer. It doesn’t even bother me when my straight friends call me those words, as long as they don’t cross the line of using it in a derogatory way.
In recent weeks, RuPaul and his show, RuPaul’s Drag Race were in hot water for having a segment called “She Mail.’ Season Three contestant and transgendered model, Carmen Carrera threw a fuss about the name of the segment, which caused LOGO to discontinue the use of the name for that particular segment. I find it rather questionable why Carrera is just now throwing a fuss about the phrase when it has been in use for six seasons now, and she didn’t seem to have a problem with it when she was on the show that shot her to fame. Her advocacy for the discontinuation of the segment’s name created a firestorm between her, LOGO TV and RuPaul. After we thought the fight was over, RuPaul added fuel to the fire by announcing that he uses the word “tranny,” a pejorative describing a transgendered person. There were calls for RuPaul’s show to be canceled, despite the show being LOGO’s flagship, and the only real reason the network attracts viewers to the channel.
Defending his stance, RuPaul stated that he could use the word “tranny,” because he’s been called one himself and because he is a drag queen. I won’t argue with his logic, because if he feels he has the right to use the word, then who am I to say he isn’t? He also doesn’t use the word in the negative connotation some believe it has. If people are that offended by his use of the word, then they may be a bit too high-strung. I understand some people’s uneasiness with using such words and if they don’t like the word, then that is their prerogative. I think when we get too caught up in political correctness and fight amongst ourselves, we lose focus of the bigger picture, especially in the LGBTQ community. We can continue to fight on whether we should say this or that, or we can use that energy to deal with things that do matter such as getting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed in the U.S. Congress and in all 50 states, getting marriage equality recognized everywhere, and showing people that we are no different than anyone else. When we get lost in our own battles that shouldn’t matter, we are taking our eyes off of what should truly matter, and that’s equality.