It does not surprise me that I have to write such a column in twenty bi-teen (2019), because this is the world I live in. However, I am still disappointed and saddened. It is upsetting that it does not go without saying: do not call me a fag, a dyke or any verbal variations of the same hurtful phrases.
As a queer person, when I hear the word “fag” or “dyke” — regardless of the context in which it is used — I am immediately taken by terror. Because whenever anyone has hurled those words at me, it has been a challenge. Queerness threatens the status quo, the cisgender, the heterosexual. Often, the response to this shaking up of norms is a violent lashing out in hopes of scaring the queerness back into hiding. The people who call me a “fag” are sometimes the same people who later on try to impose heterosexuality on me. “You need a man like me and then you won’t be such a dyke anymore.”
It happens in “friendly” situations, too. Acquaintances, even family members, have used slurs in hopes of establishing a closer bond with me. Perhaps they think that if we can laugh and joke about sensitive topics, then we have somehow jumped over the hurdle of having my queerness stick out like a sore thumb. But it does not work.
The only time I have not cringed or fled upon hearing “dyke,” “fag” and words of similar weight, has been when they were spoken by people who identify as such. So unless someone tells you to call them a dyke, a fag, or you identify as one, do not use those words.
And to the inevitable response of “but I meant a cigarette!” I will say that a “bitch” is also a female dog. Although completely different in the damage that these words cause, they are similar in the way that regardless of what you mean, or say you mean, we live in a world where words kill. Words assault. Sticks and stones hurt bones. Words create worlds in which sticks and stones are acceptable language.
Do not say fag, do not say dyke — unless you are one.