Re the Jerry Lewis "faggot" slur:
Lewis should have known better. TV footage shows that he knew he'd offended the moment the word came out of his mouth. But my concern here is for the confusing climate that some in the LGBT community have created around epithet usage. We can't have it both ways. We can't tell heterosexual Americans that it's okay to call us "queers," and then scream in protest when somebody calls us "faggots."
In my opinion, a massively mixed message is being sent about what we consider a slur. For many decades, we viewed "queer" and "faggot" as fighting words when uttered by homophobes. We've also bandied both words among ourselves, "in the family," and find them unoffensive - even amusing -- when used that way.
African Americans have the same challenge with the "n" word and other racist slurs. They bandy those words in the family too. But the black community is smarter than we are - they make it clear to the world that ALL the racist fighting words, including the "n" word, are off limits for non-African-American and "mainstream" usage.
In recent years some of us lengthened the time-honored acronym to LGBTQ. Some translate Q as "questioning," but most see it as "queer." The fact is, a number of influential community people have pushed to mainstream the word "queer." Publishers Weekly and other book-trade pubs now report on "queer literature." Mainstream academia now feels safe with "queer culture," "queer film," "queer music," "queer studies." There are queer youth organizations, queer sports alliances, etc. etc.
So I have an idea. Let's kick the acronym up a notch and make it LGBTQF. How does "faggot film festival" sound? "Faggot studies?" "Faggot football"? It doesn't sound so good, huh? I rest my case. And I suggest that we go back to holding the line on ALL the fighting words. In these incendiary times, where violent actions often follow violent words, it might be a smart strategy.
Copyright © 2007 by Patricia Nell Warren. All rights reserved.