Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Straight up, no chaser

I found out the other day that the term "homosexual" is offensive.

You what? I first thought. Given its ubiquity, gays must spend an awful lot of time being offended.

So I rooted around on the web and I found that yes, it is now thought to be offensive. And not, as I might have thought, because it puts a limit on sexuality by pigeonholing people as one type or another. Oh no. It's because it used to be used in psychology to label a "deviance". And, of course, antigays on the American Right do not call gays gay; they insist on calling them "homosexual".

Well, okay, but here's the thing. Just fuck off.

No, really. No one on this planet is offended by the term "homosexual". What it is is a shibboleth. If you use it, you just don't know. You do not know the code, the correct word, and you are not allowed in.

Already I read in some places that "gay" is no good. One must say "gay man". I haven't yet been able to stomach reading the explanation but I'm thinking it must be because gay describes something about a person rather than the person themselves. Because it is not the totality, it is wrong.

(But gays call straights straights. And heterosexuals. Personally, I've never much cared for "heterosexual". It doesn't really capture how I feel about my own sexuality at all. Nor does "straight". As I've noted before, I feel satisfyingly curvy when it comes to sex.)

Dyke is out of the question, unless you are a dyke, in which case it's okay. Personally, I missed the part where dyke became anything like acceptable, so I don't use it. When it becomes okay, I hope someone lets me know, because I'd hate to "offend" the lesbians in my life whom I love dearly by not calling them dykes when I'm supposed to.

This use of shibboleths was pioneered in talking to and about blacks. I've never liked "blacks", because people who could be identified as nonwhite come in so wide a variety, from such an enormous diversity of backgrounds, as not to have sufficient in common (barring some African ancestry, unless they are indigenous Australians or negritos) to be considered one thing and not another. But I like it a whole lot better than "persons of colour". I've always felt that that rather made me a "colourless" and I don't like that. I'm not keen on "white" either but of course whites don't feel the need to be identified as homogeneous because we are too aware that we are not.

As for African-American, well, its silliness has been exposed enough times to puncture the pomposity that fuelled it. There are no white African-Americans, despite plenty of Americans' having come from Africa and being white. Many African-Americans are only a reasonably small part African; some actually are African; most would not like Africa if they were to go there -- the places that slaves were sourced from are pretty short on McDonald's and largely do not speak English, let alone Ebonics.

The word I like most is "people". If I need to call you anything else, well, lucky for us both, your mum and dad thought to provide you with a name, and, if you don't like that, you are free, as we all are, to present yourself under another name of your choosing.

I couldn't care less who fucks whom. Why should I? And I care even less about learning what is today's word for you if you fuck who you fuck. And, best of all, I've never really wanted to be in, so I can happily stay out here, "offending" anyone who wants to be offended, not giving a fuck about fucking.


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