Who you callin’ homo?

I really thought that this post would be about my reflections on attending (this past weekend) my 20 year (gasp) high school reunion. In a way, I sort of am writing about it, but not exactly. So before I get all cryptic and nonspecific on your arses, let me explain.

There was, in fact, a class reunion and I did go. I had a good time and do have some reflections about the grand affair, but what is most pressing on my mind today is a comment made on facebook in the aftermath of the reunion.

Ahhhh, facebook. The lurky, voyeuristic haven of delight. Really, some days I could spend hours looking at peoples notes and articles posted, baby shower and wedding pictures, reading the bios and info people write about themselves, and on and on. So entirely time sucking, but oh so strangely interesting. Like many I suppose, I have the status update page sort of ever lurking in the background of my day, not really paying attention to it, but it sort of sits there, notifying me that someone commented on something I also commented on, or maybe hugged my virtual pet–Cheese, or wants me to take some inane quiz about some shit I know nothing about. But sometimes, a comment just catches my eye, and I am hard-pressed not to say something. Take today for example.

Its no secret that there were some really beautiful people in my high school, AND they are as beautiful today as they have ever been (the whole getting fat and ugly reunion myth is just that, a myth–some of us (…ahem..cough cough…) have gained some pounds, but whatever, so not my point). Anyway, due to the nature of facebook, there has been some photo sharing and tagging and commenting going on since first thing Sunday morning–the day after.

So, one person commented on another persons page, and then another person, commented on that comment, and then that is when I had to find some words–as thoughtfully chosen as possible–and comment. The original note was about excitement and waiting to see so-and-so’s pictures. “Those will be fun!” Well, sibling of so-and-so saw the post, commented on how great they were and said this:

Sticks and Stones

“If I was a homo, I think I would try to make out with you guys!”

What? Wait a minute, really? Is that really what you just said/wrote? Really? So in full disclosure, here was my response: “Yeah, and this homo–thinks ya’ll are beautiful. Not in *that* way, but because you are kind, lovely, sweet people.”

All day this has been eating at me. Why would I even justify not in “that” way. What way is it? Why in 2009 do we still live in a world that uses derogatory inflammatory language as humor? Actually, why is it still acceptable to say homo, or dyke, faggot or “that’s so gay” but somehow we all understand that it is most certainly not OK to call someone who is Jewish all those slurs. And someone who is black, all of those hateful words. But the LGBTQI community somehow–its still funny? Its still socially acceptable?

I wish I could say that today was the first time I have chimed in and up about this on facebook–but its not. I wish that I could tell you that I called the commenter personally, and explain to her that her words are hurtful. I wish I could be “That One” who rights the wrongs, bravely speaks out, who will be the loving voice and face of normalizing what it means to be a homosexual in a heterosexual society. But I am not.

I am just me, thinking about how sticks and stones do break bones AND words do sometimes hurt me.

Tonight I take comfort in the prayer and words of St. Francis of Assisi (*with some minor updates and additions in parentheses):

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, (on facebook)
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; (through pokes and gifts)
where there is injury, pardon; (and comments)
where there is doubt, faith; (or at least a good quiz)
where there is despair, hope; (maybe update your profile info a bit)
where there is darkness, light; (I can totally facebook in the dark!)
where there is sadness, joy; (the essence of facebook, no?)

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love
(on Facebooooooooooooooook!)

For it is in giving that we receive; (karma, but not lil’ green patch for G-d’s sake!)
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; (pass a drink or something)
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. (update those privacy settings or you WILL have eternal life on the interwebs!)

(And where the word “homo” is used frivolously,
Let me call love by its real name.)

Amen.

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20 thoughts on “Who you callin’ homo?

  1. I really appreciate your reflection. The other day, I debated whether or not to respond to a facebook “friend” who made an unbelievably racist comment about the Gates arrest. I didn’t at first; afraid I would start a flame war or embarass the guy (God forbid a woman call out a man for inappropriate behavior!). Anyway, the next day, I did say something but felt ‘guilty’ for doing so. As for your particular conflict, I am glad to know what you would find offensive because I would never want to offend. Honestly, sometimes when I see a beautiful, sexy, or very charming female, I have thought (maybe even said aloud), that if I were lesbian, that is the kind of woman I would be attracted too. I don’t think I would mean it in any derrogatory way; no different than if I were commenting on a beautiful man. However, because most know me as heterosexual, I would qualify …??? or maybe I’m full of it and delusional.

  2. What an incredibly fabulous post! It was just stumbled upon, and might I say that I’m glad she found it!

    I personally enjoy the use of the term “dyke.” It’s reminiscent of the terms “Chicano” and “Black” that Cesar Chavez and the Mexican American community, and James Brown and the the African American community, respectively, embraced and used as terms of empowerment in the 60’s. Although I know that these terms are still bothersome to many, I also know that some are dealing with deep seated issues of self-hate or self-loathing. As a part-time dyke, I find no issue with the term. Then again, I don’t have the self hate issues to be resolved.

    I think the distance between “Queer” and dyke/fag/queen is not that great. The only difference is that Queer has been embraced as a term of empowerment, and allows for people like me to not affix a term like lesbian (although I’ve been in a lesbian relationship for almost 2 years) or bi (because, let’s face it, I’ve been in a lesbian relationship for almost 2 years after shagging and being in relationships with men for some 20 years prior) because it doesn’t quite seem to fit.

    Kudos to you for diplomatically calling the person out who used such an antiquated, naive, and immature term. I think that if we can just talk these things out, it’s the only way people can learn more about each other, and understand why and how terms are hurtful. A re-education is all most people need. And some will even be open to it.

    I look forward to reading more…

  3. Ah. I hadn’t noticed that exchange, Rachel. But what makes this more complicated is the way in which LGBTQ folks have appropriated some of that language, which was used to hurt us, and reclaimed it… many friends strongly claim the word “dyke” for instance, and a wonderful trans friend made a little joke recently about me being “a big homo”… which was totally loving and not a hate-filled thing at all.

    But, I suppose, it is all in who says it, and in the context. As we know with the African American community’s re-appropriation of a hateful slur, just because a person of color uses that word with friends doesn’t give this white girl the right to use it.

    I’m sorry you had this experience, of feeling name-called (God, what a school-experience, no?).

    And may I steal your fabulous prayer of Sts Francis and Rachel?

  4. I love this post! I read it last night and kept thinking about as I fell asleep.

    Here is one thought and tell me if I’m off the wall in it. I have wondered if using those “sayings” (only way I know to put them). Is almost the normalizing of the LGBTQI. In other words, it is people trying to process and to be ok with the LGBTTQI community. It isn’t me justifying, but in some ways trying to understand it.

    I remember being in a car and these girls saying, “you know I would so be all over you if I was a lesbian” and such comments. I piped up and maybe not nicely said, “you know, really your not coming off cool by saying that. you can tease about such a thing because you don’t have to deal with the consquences” They got silent and I didn’t mean to make them uncomfortable but to get them thinking. I realized in that moment, in the silence, I think that was their way of normalizing and processing me and the LGBTQI.

    Does this make sense? Its kind of skewed in my head and hard to verbalize exactly how I want to put it.

    Again, I loved this post and I loved how you used “make me an instrument”.

    Peace!

    Jules

  5. Sarah–have I mentioned how grateful I am to have met you? Thank you. Words, I love me some words. I wrote earlier in a post about my personal use of the word queer (I use it and prefer it, https://sweetbiandbi.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/why-i-use-queer/). I know there are many in the community who don’t use it. I think you are exactly right Magdalene–it is in who is saying it, the context and I would add whether they are openly affiliated with the group to which they are using the language of, for example a person who is OPENLY an Ally to the LGBTQI community.
    GranDiva–brilliant callback to the 60s language.
    Funny–it does really seem to be about power and who has it and how to wield it–for good or, not so good, intentionally or no. So glad to have you here and I’ll pop by your place. 🙂
    Babs–you will never know really, how much I love you and what you have given to me because of our time at GC. You are my Jedi and I, your grasshopper–always.

  6. Jules–totally get what you are saying. I think it does depend on the person. In this case specifically, I don’t know that the person knew that it was possible that “homos” would read her comment. I don’t know, so I can’t really say.

    For me it is in calling out the truth in love, and I struggle with saying it in a way that honors all, respects all, and teaches in a way that the listener, the learner, can hear. And who is the teacher and who is the listener? I am both–and so very grateful for you and the other voices chiming in.

  7. “For me it is in calling out the truth in love, and I struggle with saying it in a way that honors all, respects all, and teaches in a way that the listener, the learner, can hear. And who is the teacher and who is the listener?”

    Perfect.

    Okay, I’m officially addicted to this blog. 🙂

  8. BTW, I know that you have your comments moderated, so you don’t need to post this one if you don’t want. 🙂

    I wanted to let you know that I blog with a few other people at http://mindbodyknowledge.wordpress.com/. Recently, I’ve enjoyed a series of daily meditations using the Day by Day daily readings. You may want to check it out. I see we’re fellow Episcopalians…

  9. “For me it is in calling out the truth in love, and I struggle with saying it in a way that honors all, respects all, and teaches in a way that the listener, the learner, can hear. And who is the teacher and who is the listener? I am both–and so very grateful for you and the other voices chiming in.”

    I hear ya. I struggle with it to. I hate when I think I’m being the humble learner and teacher only to realize my hypocrisy. Meaning I realize I’m really only being a teacher in a costume of “a learner.” Sometimes its hard to balance them not only on this subject, but others I hold as true, right and worth not budging on. Its a process and thank God there are so many to help you learn, grow and make you better!

    I love the comments that others have shared as well. They have given me a rich smile today and good things to think about. HHHMMMM…sounds like something I’ve read before. 😉

  10. oh, btw: I just finished checking out the shared web site!!! Some good stuff!! Thanks GranDiva…and how I love saying that…GranDiva! WHOOT!

  11. This from my friend Erik:

    I read your article today and it has me thinking. I totally get where you are coming from I think. I think a big part of it is the spirit things are intended. Is a person ignorant or even aware of their use of a derogatory term? Are they blind to the harm they cause? Is there a learning of what is acceptable thought and words? Are they good or ill intended. In this case, you were right to speak out.

    Unrelated
    Recently, I watched some old celebrity roasts and Don Rickles was using every stereotype in the book and this was seen as acceptable humor. Everyone laughed. Maybe it was a way to expose it, bring it forward, show differences and laugh at them and thereby neutralize them. What was Rickles doing? Is he just a bigot?

    Today comedians/shows still do this ie. Will and Grace, Mendez, Chapell, the late Richard Prior all poke fun at their own stereotypes affirming and laughing at the differences, all be it in themselves. Is this somehow therapeutic to the culture or does it simply maintain the stereotypes. Is it ok if a black man calls himself the n-word? Does it somehow disarm the bigots? See, I did it first and it has no effect on me. Are we suppose to poke fun at our differences/others differences? When is it ok, when is it not? How easy is it to make the distinction? It seems to be a big part of comedy.

    I think the fact that the gay community has not been afforded the full rights that other citizens enjoy perhaps adds to what feels right and what feels wrong for a gay person. Also the intention of the speaker/writer. But only a gay person could answer that question for sure. Would you be willing to cut people more slack if you knew you were embraced by the culture as a whole?

    Its also got me thinking about how we see each other. What is spoken, what is repressed. Is repressed bigotry any better than spoken bigotry? ie. the South. Changing minds and hearts is harder than getting people to shut up. Maybe “the shut up” its a step though.

    Its all a lot of questions and work on the road to unconditional love. I doubt we’ll ever get there but its worth trying.

    Peace

  12. “Are we suppose to poke fun at our differences/others differences?”

    I think its good in some ways to poke fun at our differences, ect. Because it is like you said it becomes a neutralizes it and even makes the others think. Instead of being in the depression it sometimes brings or even frustration it allows that conversation to happen with laughter.

    “When is it ok, when is it not?”

    I think it isn’t ok when it becomes degrading. However, I guess some could to me and ask, when is it degrading? For me I think we know in ourself when that line has been crossed. Inflection, body language, and other ques come into play to let us know.

    “Would you be willing to cut people more slack if you knew you were embraced by the culture as a whole?”

    Maybe this is a double standard, but sometimes I will cut slack. And yes it has EVERYTHING to do with who it is and how it is put. I can laugh with Kathy Griffin when she uses LGBT stereo types because I know her love for the community. Others not so much. Some I just expect a lot more from. I admit, I do make little jokes here and there about our community and its stereotypes. Such as the U-Haul jokes or how gay men are suppose to be more fashionable. However, I only do that with certain company, because I know not all would not use it to continue harmful stereotypes. Yeah, I know it maybe a horrible double standard.

    “Is repressed bigotry any better than spoken bigotry? ie. the South. Changing minds and hearts is harder than getting people to shut up. Maybe “the shut up” its a step though.”

    I think repressed (I think you mean silent?) is worse. I think it is a killer worse than spoken. At least when it is spoken you can educate that person and to me that person can be educated, to a degree. Repressed is scary. I think those who repress are in the worst state that can be. I say this as someone who has lived in the south for a better part of my life. When the repressed bigotry surfaces, my experience is that it is damaging to so many.

    Just saw your questions and thought I would give them a whirl.

    Peace!

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