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Set aside (some) childish things.

So Freddy called me out last night on my use of gay/ghey. We're loosely scheduled to have a talk about it.

In growing up, apparently, and being a grown up, it's important to learn when to admit one has been wrong. To "own it, claim it, and let it go". It's been a tough lesson for me, so prideful & shame-filled.

So let's try it.

In this particular case, that Wanda Sykes PSA got me thinking. Partly because, for lack of any reason not to, I generally respect Wanda Sykes and also because it had a point. It can be hurtful. You should think before you speak. It's like the war against cliché's except, less cute/amusing. (The PSA also made me laugh. That always helps.)

Maybe that's why I'm so willing to back down on my own self-righteous pride. I was already half (re)thinking about it by the time Freddy called me out on it.

Generally, I don't declare things (negatively) "gay"--or as I usually spell it in writing, "ghey"--at least I don't think I do. In all likelihood I've habituated it to the point of doing it unthinkingly. Goddamned brain-thing.

try at least to employ that sort of usage as a joke. I usually make some exaggerated facial expression and change in vocal inflections. As mentioned, I usually write it out as "ghey" more often more like "gheeeeeey". I tell myself I'm making fun of the way people use "gay" negatively. __________

At least, that's what I think I'm doing. Somewhere in there I think I lost track of the joke and made a habit out of it. Began to use it more like the people I had intended to make fun of.

I mostly stand by the instances where I am joking, where I know I'm definitely joking and (try to) make that readily over-apparent. Would I hang on to that to the death? Nah, but I see less reason to worry about that than the much more indefensible habituation I've mentioned.

(I moved down a long, theory-heavy tangent about my stance on free speech to avoid too much tl;dr'ing. Much as it may interest people, I'd rather have more people read through the actual core of this post, as well. In short: I believe very strongly in employing discussion instead of prohibition/censorship.)

With phrases like "that's so gay", we have an example of shifting definitions. (This poor word, "gay", has gone through so many, hasn't it?) Such shifts are driven, simply, by usage. As far as I can reason, I see no reason to discourage or encourage such shifts of usage through discussion.

Sykes has a point. Though I might not describe it as (directly) insulting, it helps nobody to say "that's gay" when you could have as easily said "that's lame" or "stupid".

If it's really just a word, then won't any word do just as well in its place?

{cringes slightly at my own abridgment of linguistic (specifically semantic) analysis}

If the whole problem is as I've said driven by usage, then we need to think more about how we use words like "gay". That's why I favor discussion over censorship. Prohibiting a usage only creates more of a phobia around it; it only encourages people to feel hurt and offended by that particular series of arbitrary sounds because the correlated meaning for that usage has been deemed so 'inexcusably bad'.

Goddamnit, my thoughts are so allover about this. It's really infuriating when you try to make a point and can't seem to find it. Grr, and I need to get ready for work ASAP.

My closing remark (before, of course, that lengthy, pedantic chunk I moved down in the interest of expedience): I don't care what you say or how, so long as you're willing to discuss it civilly. Is that really so demanding?

Meanwhile, I'll try to be more aware of what I'm saying and, importantly, why.

I, for the record, take what I understand to be a fairly literal interpretation of the first amendment, similar, I've understood, to the ACLU's stance. At least, whatever it was when I formed the opinion; might have changed, but that's mostly irrelevant. In essence, the best, most prudent, and most effective countermeasure to obscene or indecent or offensive speech & expression is never outright censorship--prohibition, as it were--but more speech, more expression. Fight words with words.

It's the ole, if one group objects to a demonstration by another group, instead of having that group's activities blocked or banned, they should hold a nearby counter demonstration to voice their opinion(s) and to encourage balance and (hopefully) discussion.

Similarly, I once heard about a holocaust denial group taking out a full page ad in a prominent college newspaper; instead of refusing to run the ad, the editorial board ran an op-ed arguing against holocaust denial on the facing page. Basically, one opened the newspaper and had one position on the issue on one side and the opposite on the other.

Anyway, enough theory or shit.

As far as slurs and slurry language, I've often drawn an analogy with phobias. More often than not, it seems, the negative reaction to slurs and offensive language is self propagating; it's a semi-automatic response to generally arbitrary words encouraged by its own reaction. But, crucially, the cycle--the harmful power we give these words--can be broken by discussion and awareness of those words. Not by continued curtailment.

More on all that another time; my, this post has turned huffy & political, hasn't it? Drat.

What I'd wanted to talk about was admitting where I'd been wrong. It is wrong--or perhaps more accurately, hurtful--to use "gay" in that negative sense--"that's so gay". I could go at length to talk about how, interestingly, it strikes me as a sort of counter-example/counterpoint to my phobia analogy, but I'll spare y'all that unnecessarily nerdy tangent for now.


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