The Bitch, Bitch, Bitch


The Word Gay
June 3, 2010, 2:40 am
Filed under: Auntie K's Words of Wisdom Wednesdays, General Bitching

My boyfriend gets called “gay” a lot.

Being that he is my boyfriend, and I am a woman, he is either a very good faker (at one thing or another), or I am so manly that nobody can tell the difference.

In any event, it’s not delivered in the way you’d expect. While high school kids are renowned for throwing the word “gay” around more often than Oklahoma passes abortion legislation, among the people I know it’s a little different.  Using it as a catch-all term for “stupid” is something that, like a collection of Linkin Park CDs and a profound love for InuYasha, is best left to your Junior High years (and vehemently denied thereafter).

The word still gets used, though, for purposes other than specifically intended. Many folks I know (including myself) have used the word to describe things that seem, well, kind of gay – sassy dancing, scrupulous taste in fashion, and anything to do with Lady Gaga. It’s just a word, and it’s not like it’s hate speech, so what’s the problem?

Before I answer that question, we have to step off the Privilege Bus.

No, not that one.

What is the privilege bus, you may ask? It’s a big, lumbering invisible vehicle that dictates our lives in America. If you are:

  • White
  • Male
  • Able-bodied
  • Heterosexual
  • Christian
  • Middle to Upper Class
  • Perform your gender to your society’s expectations
  • And many more!

Congratulations! You’re riding the privilege bus. If you’re on the privilege bus, that means you have more power in society, and because you have more power, you are responsible by association for the people who are oppressed, or at the very least, for not using your privilege to help stop it!  The funny thing about the privilege bus is that nobody really wants to admit that they’re riding it, ESPECIALLY if it’s recently run over somebody else. Am I drawing this metaphor too thin? Maybe. Do I give a shit? Not really.

Anyway, the point here is that most of the aforementioned offenders are people with considerable privilege. Their privilege does not come solely because they are wealthy, or male, or heterosexual (many of them are not any of those things), but because they are able to live their lifestyles unaffected by oppression. In our small, moderately wealthy town, things are pretty homogeneous – even if you are a gay person, you have the privilege of being born in a highly progressive time, in a comparatively accepting place. You are young, and you know little of what it is like to experience the struggles gay people before you have faced. You have the privilege to throw around the word “gay” in a similar way that young rappers might throw around the n-word, because you have not felt the extent of the damage it can carry.

This is not your fault! You had no choice in the circumstances of your conception, and to be blamed for your privilege is just as absurd as blaming someone for their lack of privilege. However, your making an effort to recognize the privilege you have and how it gives you a biased perspective is essential in trying to get anything done with any group that is oppressed/underprivileged.

So back to calling dudes gay!

The big deal about this is that, while there’s probably no ill-will intended from the accusation – “effeminate,” a more appropriate term, is so clinical-sounding and doesn’t have that campy curtness of blurting out “gay!” that makes ribbing your friends for their behavior oh-so-much fun – it reinforces a stereotype, and attaches a negative connotation to “gay” that is even more subconscious and pervasive than just using it as a stand-in for “stupid. ”

An example:

Boyfriend and I were lying beside one another in the obnoxious cloud of amorous bliss that follows us everywhere we go, gazing into each other’s eyes and sighing.  Boyfriend began discussing the clothing choices of an acquaintence.

“Honestly, those hawaiian shirts are awful,” he sighed, “they don’t even fit him well.”

“You are super gay right now.”

Boyfriend’s face turned sour.

See, ladies and gents, this is a hairy issue – calling something gay shouldn’t be an insult, so why am I defending the act of being offended when somebody calls you gay? Lordy! It’s a three-letter-word, can’t we all just go back to talking about Darfur or something important?

Here’s the thing – calling somebody “gay” pejoratively for not performing their gender correctly is just like telling someone “you throw like a girl” for not performing their gender correctly. Even if the recipient of said insult is not offended, or even if they’ve worked it out that maybe it’s better that they throw like a girl because all the girls they know are awesome at softball, or any number of other scenarios where the insult is rendered ineffective, the deliverer of the insult, however mild, is still being a bigoted dickbag!

Because, see, it is an insult! Even if you are a gay person, you’re still forced to live under this big power-tripping dick-waving patriarchal society we’ve got going here, and it’s insidiously engraved into your brain.  If you’re using The Gay Stereotype™  as your definition of “gay,” you’re following along with aforementioned dick-wavers and doing a major disservice to anyone who identifies as gay.

The Gay Stereotype™ is deviant, and deviance is bad, so you must police it. Because your friend with a rogueish beard and an overabundance of chest hair likes baking cakes and carries a monogrammed kerchief at all times, he should probably be called gay, because baking and sewing and happily cuddling other men is non-gender compliant which means he is gay which means he is bad. Even if you love these very things about Beardface! And think his cakes are delicious, or have more than once benefited from his kerchief-carrying!

It’s super fucked-up, y’all.

The worst part about this issue is that taking it seriously makes you a total square. Liek, Omigawd, what’s the Bee-Eff-Dee? I’m gay, so I can call other people gay!

NO

CUT THAT SHIT OUT

You’re participating in your own goddamn oppression and I’m going to hit you o’er the head with a kitchen appliance. Not all gay people act the same! You know this! Why do your words reflect the opposite?

The only time it’s appropriate to call someone gay for their behavior is if you walk in on them having sex with someone of the same gender – and even then they still might argue with you!

The result of this, as I have observed, is people who are fully, clearly and admittedly sexually attracted to the same gender not wanting to identify as “gay.” If you are a gay person or give half a shit about gay people, this should be alarming!

So my only request is that instead of dismissively calling someone “gay,” or even “effeminate,” or, shit, I dunno, “fay” if you have a thing for terms from the 1950s (LORD KNOWS I DO!), you take a moment to examine whatever is causing you to want to say that thing you’re about to say, be it discomfort, disdain, or appreciation, and make sure you’re using the best word to express your sentiments and maintain your integrity as a righteous human bean.

When I called Boyfriend “super gay,” it was because I find his atypical behaviors adorable, wonderful and part of what makes him so uniquely able to give me a gigantic lady-boner. I probably should have said THAT instead of “super gay,” but then we wouldn’t have this wonderful diatribe I just went on, would we?

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