Warning: I use some naughty words in this post.
Occasionally I see comments on social media that remind me of naive days as an eight-year-old, when insults could reflect the attitudes of a seventies sitcom.
This was back in the days when kids (and some parents) weren’t educated on what it meant to be gay – calling each other a “gay lord” was the insult of choice, second only to calling a girl a “fat bitch”.
But we are older now. We know this is wrong – we would be horrified and tell our kids so if we heard them speak the way we did on the playground.
Or so I thought.
Language is power; Martin Luther King had a dream, Harvey Milk gave us hope, a teenage Malala Yousafzai wrote words so eloquent they scared grown men. All three of these peaceful orators inspired the world – and drew such fearful opposition, they risked – or lost – their lives in the pursuit of fairness.
We live in a world where people are still killed because of the sexuality or the skin colour they are born with; sometimes both. Even in countries where steps are being made towards celebrating and championing the one publicly marginalised LGBTQ+ community, homophobic manifests itself in the most common of places; offices, public transport, street corners. It is highly likely that someone in the Western world, who has not been born with white skin, or is openly not straight, has had some level of verbal abuse thrown their way.
Certain words have been used to portray groups of people as “other” and, as language is an ever-evolving thing, these words can change, while communities can also reclaim words as their own.
Compassion is a simple thing – we can choose to feel it, to bestow it upon others, or we can decisively ignore any inclination towards it. Recently, I’ve seen people online decide that being compassionate would impact too greatly on their rights. “It is a slippery slope”, they say, “to give up words that meant so much to us growing up”.
I have the ability – nay, the right – to say whatever I like, but I also have the responsibility – particularly given the public platform I am lucky to have – to be the change I want to see in the world. The change I want is for all people to experience equality – to not face the stinging slap of a derogatory word meant to hurt someone due to a characteristic that is categorically not a flaw, but is treated by some as if it is.
While you have the right to say what you want, the choices are there; your friend being a dickhead doesn’t make them gay; it makes them a dickhead. Therefore, why not just call them a dickhead? (And besides, it’s hardly fair to tar the gay community with the brush that is your annoying friend.)
When I’m streaming and find myself in a spot of bother, the f-bombs come flying out of my mouth. But I’m directing the aggressive language at myself, or at the game I’m playing. It can be funny – but I’m not tearing anyone down at the same time.
Bringing things back to compassion; people make mistakes – just like my generation did on the playground way back when. I don’t believe people should be hunted, or lose their jobs, or suddenly find the world at their Twitter handle if they do use these words. And besides, these moments are usually followed by a public apology where the issue is highlighted, hopefully making more people aware that their favourite derogatory term maybe isn’t worth holding onto anymore.
At the end of the day, you still have the right to call me anything you want, but when I’m being a dickhead, call me one.