Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't Call Me A Faggot, Unless You Are A Friend

I wish we had the current season of Ellen DeGeneres's talkshow "Ellen" here, because I would love to have seen this interview with "Grey's Anatomy" star T.R. Knight. I've mentioned this story before, about how co-star Isaiah Washington called Knight a "faggot" before getting into a physical fight with Patrick Dempsey over the incident. The altercation prompted Knight to come out and be open about being gay, and as he tells it the catalyst was considering the option of standing up and being honest in a similar way that others like Ellen had before him. What I didn't realise until I caught up on my blog reading this morning is that the story made news again when Washington denied ever saying it during a press conference at the Golden Globes. (Oh, and I so want Katherine Heigl in my corner during a fight! She's aces).

It amazes me that some people don't see "faggot" as being a harmful slur. It's a word that is meant to harm. It doesn't just mean 'gay' or 'homosexual', these are fairly neutral words that label same sex attraction. "Hey, homosexual!" doesn't quite have the same sting. "Faggot" (like the Aussie "poofter") is loaded with associations of being less than, of not being acceptable, of lacking. In Australia you often hear school kids these days saying "that's so gay!" meaning that something is lame. It saddens me to hear the word "gay" being used like this, but it still doesn't have the same degree of sting.

Not that I think Knight or anybody else would, but it makes me wonder how Washington would have reacted if one of his fellow cast members had used a racial slur. Then passed it off as being no biggie, and even denying having ever said it. Words can hurt.

14 comments:

Michael said...

I agree that it's a loaded word and designed to hurt. Completely agree. Thing is, I have no respect for someone who uses it in that manner, so the only way it's gonna hurt me is if it comes unexpectedly from someone I trust, love, or admire. I'm guessing that TR felt at least one of those things for Isaiah Washington. Before.

The Other Andrew said...

Yeah, my point. I think T.R. was hurt by the fact that it came unexpectedly, for sure.

I had to give a little shout-out to singer Joe Jackson with the title of this post. It's true, context is everything. My friends can call me a faggot, no probs, because it's not intended to hurt and it's in the context of humour and irony.

Michael said...

So are you saying that I just reiterated your faggoty ass?

The Other Andrew said...

Kinda. I'm being supportive. I'm reframing and mirroring.

Didn't you call me a faggoty ass faggot in like your first ever comment to me? Back when you were 'anonymous'? Eh, somethings never change, right? I like that degree of constancy.

Michael said...

I am what I am, pumpkin.

I think I offended you a little with that very first "faggot" because you didn't know how much you loved me yet.

Michael said...

I just located my first comment here and there's nary a slur in sight. PS? Your #5 made me smile all over again, sweet thang.

http://tinyurl.com/2xszze

The Other Andrew said...

I think I offended you a little with that very first "faggot" because you didn't know how much you loved me yet.

Hah, true. See, context is everything... :)

Michael said...

Here's the faggoty one, which came MUCH later, after I'd been your favorite nameless commenter for a spell.

http://tinyurl.com/28uqrj

Oh my christ, I think I'm about 30 seconds from cueing up "Reminiscing" on the iPod.

The Other Andrew said...

Hah! Awwww, memories. I think I was cautious because I wasn't sure if "anonymous" was you, or some random. We've had quite a lasting relationship haven't we? And not just because we've never met. :)

Sunshine said...

It's weird how I find some words more offensive than others but it also seems that this differs between people. I don't usually mind, "fag", "homo", or even "fairy" but "faggot" and "poofter" (or "poof") to me is ever so abrasive.

Mikey (The Lovely Ex) said...

Leaving the "michael + TOA" love-in for just a moment ;-)

I try not to take offence at any such language. It's that old chestnut "no one can make you feel bad about yourself, except yourself". But then, not everyone is as good as me...sheesh...

My issue is twofold:

1. It's not the word that is used so much as the intent behind it (which I think is at the heart of TOA's OP in any case). And clearly in this context, Washington (who can't be long for the cast of the show...) mean't to hurt. His subsequent flip-flopping is just pathetic. And TOA is right, if someone used the "n" word with the same intent, I'm sure all hell would have broken loose. Which brings me to my second issue.

2. I sometimes think (notwithstanding what I said at the outset) that we homos (and those who love us) are too damn nice. If the cute as a button T.R. was offended by Washington, then he should raise hell. What we need is our own Malcolm X. I think we need more "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore" type responses. Most of us have fought damn hard for the self-esteem we (hopefully) enjoy and it pisses me off that sometimes we seem to give it up too easily.

Anonymous said...

Okay, as a nice white middle class straight girl whos married with a son, what the hell would I know about demeaning words, right?

so, having said that, there is this thing I've been trying to work out in my head for a while. Get comfy, I'm about to ramble.

The concept that we shouldn't use the mean words amongst our own community because it then becomes acceptable outside of that community.
i.e girls shouldn't call other girls bitches and ho's etc because it's then seen as acceptable for a boy to use them and pass it off as 'i was just kidding and everyione else says it' Words do have more power and meaning.
I hate when people use a word that is offensive and when called on it use the 'it's just a word, get over it' line. Grrrr

I also understand that words can be used to empower and take control of a situation. Yes, the gay community may call each other faggots because that takes ownership of the word and that's v important but is is a good thing?

Does this make sense or am I just rambling.

I think what I'm trying to say is that no-one should call anyone a 'mean' word because it then makes it acceptable for others.

However if you do call someone something inapropriate, own up to it and apologise!

Anonymous said...

You can do a search on Youtube for that particular Ellen interview, if you still want to see it. Thats how I saw it, because I was interested. I'd like to know I. Washington's problem.

Anonymous said...

Well you may be right, but can't a cig be a fag to a Brit. eh? I much perfer sodomite, or colon troller, or shit packer, or AIDS junkie don't you? people are sooooo gay, sometimes.