The problem is, I don’t have the right words…..
A. Ozzie Guillen calls Chicago Sun Times Columnist and all around hated guy, Jay Marriotti “a fag”. Mariotti is not gay. Subsequent hubub pegs Guillen as a homophobe.
B. More recently, Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington calls costar TR Knight (whom is queer) a “faggot”.
C. A liberal blogger calls a bunch of non-queer republicans “closet queens and refers to SC politician Lindsey Graham gay, and goes ahead and spouts the ol’ gay = child molester myth.
Three scenarios, three different issues:
A. Guillen used the popular albeit inappropriate slang ‘fag’ to describe a hated individual.
B. Washington used the term ‘faggot’ in a perhaps ‘heat of the moment’ attack on a gay costar.
C. The blogger above also used a calculated method to snark the sexuality of political enemies.
I’m not going to get into a debate about the merits of each. Particularly, the Guillen incident is one where I’m likely to disagree. You remember….my ‘fag’ v. ‘faggot’ stuff.
What I really want to point out, is that homophobic people are not a homogeneous group. There is very little in common between these 3 incidents – in the people involved, in the situations, and in the load of the language used. So with literally dozens of different kinds of situations, do we only have one word for these folks?
Case and point, there’s a spectrum that’s been created here – between offensive to fairly benign, what the intent of the statement was, and how exactly the individual had arrived at the incident.
The problem is, these are 3 scenarios that I see on a fairly regular basis. Because I have queer friends, I like to call people out on that stuff – but in the more benign forms (such as the first and last scenario) I really don’t have an effective way of doing so.
A close friend of mine and I were at a bar over Xmas. He had left his guiness on the table while he went to talk to some woman (Note: I used “woman” instead of “girl”). I drank his guiness. When he came back to the table he chuckled and called me a “homo”.
Now, this friend knows I’m not gay. I know I’m not gay. But he used the word anyway as an insult. Now, I didn’t like that, because I felt it was mildly homophobic. However, in the case of this particular friend, I can be rest assured that he’s not a homophobe.
So I mentioned it to him that it bugged me. The conversation stalled, because I knew it would be patently wrong to call the guy out for being a homophobe, it would be patently ineffective to use the lawerly “You’re not a homophobe, but you said something homophobic”. That wouldn’t exactly foster the kind of discussion I’m looking for either.
Calling this friend a ‘homophobe’ for what he said would be akin to me describing 50 degree weather as “fucking freezing”. The problem that I have: ‘homophobe’ is just too strong of a word for the situation.
I realized that there is a vast tapestry of situations in which something that would be dubbed ‘homophobic’ and despite the variety of situations, I’ve only one word in the vocabulary for all of them, and it’s too extreme a word to use for a lot of those situations. Homophobe has become a catch all and when I apply it to situations where it doesn’t fit – I feel like I’m not getting my point across and I feel like the word itself loses some of it’s teeth.
To go ahead an paint the picture a little bit bigger: one of the reasons I feel that racial dialog in this country has turned into a quagmire of virtually 0 progress, is because of the word ‘racist’. It has, at times, been over used, abused, and misapplied through no fault of anyone – rather the fault of a distinct lack of alternate words that can be used.
As you’re probably well aware, my side of the aisle is now obsessed with the issue of illegal immigration. Surf around a bit…..”whyyy cant these people come here and speak American?”. Now, if you’re anything like me your first response is to say “racist” and go about your day. However, I think there’s a pretty good argument to say that it’s not racism that’s going on in those folk’s head. It is manifesting itself as racism (consequently, making their statements no less racist) and just using the term ‘racist’ to describe them is heavily ineffective for the situation and ultimately continues to devalue the word ‘racist’. Instead I opt for the word ‘ignorant’ which gets us back to the ultimate issue.
So, the questions for the Blenders: What other words/phrases/etc can I use to confront an individual on homophobic behavior without abusing the term homophobic and without mincing words to the point where the conversation is ineffective?