Editorial – thinking before you speak

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In a modern era that we all would like to believe has made leaps in social justice, young people are still throwing around homophobic slurs with little to no awareness.

Even here in the haven of gay empathy, San Francisco, a singer by the name of Michelle Shocked let loose an anti-gay rant at a recent show. She reportedly said “I live in fear that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry.” Adding in, “God hates fags.”

At the peak of her career in the ’80s and ’90s, she was considered a gay icon. Shocked was ambiguous about her sexuality from the start and has referred to herself as a lesbian many times. So her tirade was unexpected to say the least. She explains herself by saying the whole message was misconstrued and that she was actually imitating the types of people who say and act in the way she demonstrated.

However with word flying fast throughout the internet of Shocked’s outburst, it was hard for people to believe her story. The words she said spoke volumes more than any message she was trying to convey. Whether she believed she was being an ally to the LGBTQ community or if she was legitimately expressing her own anger, she fell short of the point she meant to make.

What instead happened is that offense was taken. People who speak the way Shocked did that night misunderstand what kind of hurtful and cruel messages words can carry. The use of “gay” in a context to mean anything undesirable or stupid can do more than express distaste. It changes the connotation in a drastic way; this is a word people use to identify themselves with. When it’s constantly used to demean, it’s difficult for people in the queer community to come out or to even feel comfortable with themselves.

Words, as harmless as they seem to be, allow people to be oppressed. And if the people who use the phrases “that’s so gay” or “no homo” could understand the culture they’re perpetuating, maybe they would stop. There are hundreds of words in the dictionary one could use to express themselves and using any of them could instantly make a message clearer and more profound.

If you were one of the people who joined in on the Facebook profile picture change to support same sex marriage, it’s great you’re trying to help the cause but it doesn’t make you an ally. What makes you an ally is stopping any kind of injustice you see. If it’s a friend using homophobic slurs, use your influence to confront him or her on it. Whatever you can do to stand up for people who have little voice of their own is using your privilege to stand up for people without.

Recognizing that the “meaningless” jokes your friends or even you might make as injustice to others might be a hard thing to come to terms with but being conscious of how words affect people is important. It’s a pressing issue to people identifying themselves in the LGBTQ umbrella that they be treated equally to straight individuals. The perpetuation of homophobic slurs keeps the public believing that they can degrade queer people because it comes so naturally in everyday speech.

So next time you hear yourself or anyone else use slurs, remember that in order to support LGBTQ rights you need to help be a part of the solution. Stopping what you can of ignorance is essential to spreading awareness. Don’t wait for someone else to change things when you can start supporting others right now.