The meaningful meaningless invective

I get a number of emails every year from someone trying to police my language. “You’re too smart to use so many 4-letter words,” they tend to write. Using that old shaming technique that my grandmother tried out on me when I was a child. “Only ignorant people talk like that, JillAmy.” Bullshit. Talk however you want to talk. If you don’t like 4-letter words, don’t use them. If you hate the word queer then don’t fucking say it. I love the word queer. It’s the most inclusive word that I know. “But it’s been used to hurt people!” The language police remind me. Yeah, no shit. That’s why I’m adamant about using it for love.

Yesterday, my wife and I were stuck in the middle of a line of cars when some asshole in a nearby parking lot started telling the whole world that, “Republicans are here to crush the homos.” He managed to yell “homo” a second time when I was fucking done. I leaned across my wife, and told him, slowly, and calmly, “Shut. The fuck. Up.” He turned to me and tried to say something, but I just reminded him a few more times to go fuck himself. And then, because bigots are not good at details, he said, “You one of those homos? You a faggot? Well, lick my pussy, faggot!”

Good one, bro. Pretty clever.

That’s the second time I’ve been called a homo just this month. Mary says that I’ve reached peak gender bending.

There are lines. There are words that you don’t get to use without consequences. I wear TomboyX underpants. They are the fucking bomb! They are comfortable and dope as hell, and the company is run by queer people for queer people. But it took me a long time to order anything from them. I hate the word tomboy. It hits me like a bazooka and I get flashbacks to my little kid self afraid to go into the women’s bathroom just to be run out by some angry white lady trying to tell everybody else how to pee. Mary loves the word tomboy. She wanted to be a tomboy more than she wanted to be anything else when she was a kid. And people were always telling her she was too girly to be a tomboy.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I decided not to apologize to my wife for telling that asshole to go fuck himself. She would prefer that I ignore these dudes. Sometimes I do. If I can walk past, I tend to walk past. But if I can’t get away from them, I tend to engage. He can make choices in his own space, but once he gets in my space, we have a problem. Or, more specifically, he has a problem.

Language matters. Everything matters. And what’s the difference between policing my use of the word fuck and his use of the word homo? The difference is that you’re trying to argue class and education when you’re telling me how to speak or how to write. You’re trying to say that language that includes swears is not capable of elevating arguments to the appropriate level. And I am saying that I will speak as I speak. And the fact that it bugs you is exactly the point. It isn’t a meaningless invective at all. It has a history of working class struggles and women’s rights and queer rights and autonomy inside every letter. And my swearing doesn’t make you unsafe. So find something more vital to care about. My use of the word FUCK has never made you unsafe.

And his use of the word HOMO was an attempt to make me unsafe. His use of the word FAGGOT was an attempt to injure me. And that shit will not stand. Fuck that guy. Of course language has meaning. And language matters. Don’t tell me how to be queer. I’ve been out here trying to steel myself to go to the fucking public bathroom since I was a small child. And I’m not afraid of some asshole screaming about the purge. We are here. We are gloriously queer. And you can shut the fuck up.

3 thoughts on “The meaningful meaningless invective”

  1. My comment shall be short and sweet. I am so incredibly proud of you. Proud to know you. Proud to have “grown up” with you. What hit me, in the gut, was your example of words that cause other people to feel “unsafe.” You could’ve dropped the mic and walked away right after that line. That sealed the argument for me. Thank you for sharing your story and for being willing to stand in the vulnerability of your own truths. And Never. Never Stop Shutting the Fuck. Up. Love you friend!

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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