“Fuck” is a word that only bats the eye of the super-conservative. It is embedded in our language today as a barely-scathing colloquialism. But, that is not the F-bomb I refer to in my title. I’m talking about the word “faggot.”
I come from Southern New Jersey. There, the word is commonplace. I’ve used it myself in the past – before I knew better; which is to say, before I became a more thoughtful human being. Granted, I am not always the most thoughtful person. But, if I hurt someone verbally it is based on their actions as an individual, or their overwhelmingly conscious stupidity. It is never based on their sexuality, race, or religion.
I understand that bigots exist. I understand they use words intended to hurt the targets of their hate. I also understand that we, as rational and unbiased people, often use these words as a means to an end: to remove the meaning of the words themselves, through irony and humor, in order to disarm the bigots of the world. Sometimes we use them privately with friends. Sometimes we say them, or use them in a public setting like Facebook, with an understanding that people will get that we are “just joking.” I admit there are times when the joke is obvious. But, there are also times when, no matter how obvious, the joke derails a more important agenda. Such is the internet: it absolves us of responsibility in a forum where responsibility should weigh heavier, because our voices reach further. In some cases, topics should be heeded and granted appropriate attention and recourse.
Today I posted on Facebook about the upcoming documentary “Bully” getting an R-rating from the MPAA. From what I can tell from the trailer, the footage is real and heartbreaking. (I will expand on this in a later article.) Some people reposted. Some “liked.” One person responded, asking if I was bullied. It was tongue-in-cheek (I think) and I responded in kind. Then the thread divulged into pointless accusations of poor grammar, accusations that I had “ninja edited” the comment labeled as being grammatically poor, until finally he commented, “Stop bullying me, faggot.” Considering the public setting of Facebook, and the number of gay friends I have that could have easily seen the comment, not to mention the shock I felt, I allowed myself to go along with the derailing of the original topic at hand in order to address him. I wrote, “It’s cool that you think that’s an appropriate word to use… in 2012.” Then I removed him from my Facebook contacts, and blocked him entirely.
My point-of-view is this: anyone who thinks it’s appropriate to use that word doesn’t have the capacity to learn otherwise. At least not today. At least not from a heterosexual. I toyed with asking him privately to remove the comment himself, and to educate him on the ramifications of using the word so casually, but wasn’t up to the crusade.
Was it brash and juvenile to block him from my Facebook? Before I can answer that, let me offer up a parallel to the situation: would he have so casually and publicly used the word nigger? Would he see that word as having the same effect? I personally couldn’t tell you if the word does or doesn't have the same effect, because I wasn’t born black or homosexual, and there exists no yardstick to measure the pain words can cause. While the similarities are obvious, I can only presume one way or the other. (Though, my instinct says the words sting similar.)
I can only say one thing for certain: when I read the line, “Stop bullying me, faggot,” even thinking he was joking, I felt just as embarrassed and shocked as when I hear someone so casually and without conscience use the word nigger. I found myself wanting no association with the person who spoke it.
So, was it brash and juvenile? If it was, I certainly don’t give a shit.