Wednesday, May 28

Arguing with Myself: Sticks and Stones

A Case for Compassionate Speech
*trigger warning – discussion of homophobic / transphobic slurs*
I want to say first that I am only going to talk about a small handful of terms used in regards to the LGBT community. I know that there are so many more that need discussion (both within this community and in our broader culture), but those are not my stories to tell, or iniquities to contend with. For some well stated arguments about some other terms that need addressing in our broader culture please check out Tanis Miller’s post on able-ism and AAfterwit’s post regarding the discussion of racist terminology. 
. . .
‘The first amendment gives me freedom of speech. If that dyke doesn’t like it, she can f@#%ing blow me . . .’  
‘I didn’t know tranny was considered offensive . . .’
‘I’m gay and I don’t have a problem with it. Why can’t that faggot take a joke?’
In the past few months there have been a number of incidents involving people in the public eye 
(or at least on public social media) making statements including terms that offended others. The public response to this tends to be outrage, sometimes at the person who made the statement, and often at anyone who takes that person to task for saying it.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that each of us has the right to voice our own opinions as we see fit. And the government agrees, since the First Amendment only protects from government action on grounds of speech.
This post is not about them.
I do believe that those who do not know (their reaction to being informed is usually to apologize when informed of an overstep) should be taken at their apology and allowed he chance to do better.
This post isn’t about this group either.
One of my wife’s friends (from before transition) commented on an anti-bullying article I had posted to face book about how “as a Mormon” he liked to open with a ‘mormon joke’ as a way of starting a discussion about the church. The problem being, most of those kind of jokes don’t have the same type of cultural stigma attached to them that slurs do. Someone is far less likely to be victimized, often violently by another for being openly Mormon. Religion has an element of choice that being part of the QUILTBAG spectrum doesn’t.
The line at where humor becomes derogatory speech is easier to define when the person using it is from outside that community.
It becomes much more difficult when it is a member of that group who has chosen to ‘reclaim’ that term as a source of empowerment. 
Here’s the thing, if you fit into this last group please understand that not everyone is in the same place in their journey that you are. That word may have lost its power for you, but others have not gotten to that place yet.  For them, every syllable is an act of violence against their soul, a way that people have tried to shame them into living someone else’s beliefs.
Words can re-open scars and propel people back into the darkness they are only just winning free of.
People don’t want your voice silenced, your truth stifled.
We all need to speak with more compassion, lest we cause more pain to those already hurting and scarred. For some, a small, unthinking comment can be incredibly destructive. So many have had wounds inflicted by those who should have treated them with love and kindness.  
Please don’t use your victory over the hurtful terms in your life blind you to how much potential they have to hurt others.
- Vixi



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