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.