I'll admit it. I am fascinated by the way we communicate with one another- what we say, how we say it, and what we really mean. I've delved into it here before, from the language of gender (I still get angry emails calling me a "gender anarchist") to words that irk me (it must be a "homosexual" thing).
It has all led me to wonder if our community has lost the war over language- or at least waved the white flag of surrender (to quote the brilliant linguist Governor Palin in her VP debate).
Even when we speak to one another, such as in forums like Bilerico, we can't seem to shake the labels thrust upon us by the right. We use their language for us to define what we aren't rather than defining what we are.
Let's look at my pet peeve word- "Homosexual." My last post about the word caused quite a debate that I learned a lot from and found very interesting. It's a great example of the impact of language.
While "homosexual" is an accepted clinical/scientific term, its very basis is from the Catholic Church (who coined the term when trying to name the sin they wanted to condemn). Even if you look beyond that origin, its very basis is sexual in nature. We are being defined by who we have sex with, something I would argue is a small part of being gay- much like sex is a small part of being heterosexual.
It ignores the complexity of who we are- attraction, coupling, families, etc. It boils us down to what part goes where. And while sexuality is a part of the LGBT identity, it is not the total.
At the recent LGBT blogger summit in DC, one of our speakers talked about changing the dialogue and language we use when writing and speaking about our movement. I have to agree that too often we seem to be on the defensive and reacting to the language used by the fundamentalists. We force ourselves into a defensive stance, rather than take a more proactive, positive approach.
It all goes back to Frank Kameny's "Gay is Good" movement in the early days of LGBT activism. He argued that until we can break loose of the "LGBT is evil" argument and take control of the language and arguments, we will never really move forward.
So I have to wonder how we can do that. How can we break years of conditioning and repression to literally change the conversation? How can we reclaim the lost art of language for our community and help further all of the diverse goals towards equality we have?
I don't have the answers. I'm not sure any of us do. But perhaps if we can start the conversation and bounce ideas around among ourselves, we can help spark the change in dialogue we desperately need.