Monday, March 19, 2007

The Word is Gay

A decade ago I wrote a piece about discriminatory terms used to refer to gay men which I vividly and collectively described as "having strongly, scornful semantic value." With the same title I revisit my opinion back then and see if it has changed ten years after.

Gay men had been referred to in many derogatory ways: "faggot," "queer," "pansy," "bent," "sissy." My own language is equally unapologetic: "bakla" (which I euphemistically refer to as "the B word"), "bading," "alanganin," "jokla," "badaf," etc. I cringe as I encode these words that nevertheless had to be laid out for lucidity. These references marginalize a component of society that has contributed mightily to cultural enrichment and nation building. The people who coined these must have had perverted thoughts. These words should know no place in the vocabulary of the gender-sensitive.

My enlightenment on gender sensitivity crystallized in the advent of my coming out at twenty thus I felt very strongly about it. Within our fervent youth lies a furnace of smouldering passion bursting out in open flames, and damned be those who dare to be on the way of its raging path. I was a tad too idealistic. I wrote to newspapers and radio and television programs that commit the verbal blunder. I sent potent letters to my professors who utter slighting terms in their lectures. I readily debated people, even those I do not know, who gleefully use offensive words in wanton abandon. It was about me and this community I belonged to, how people view and talk about us, and I felt I had to put up a seemingly solitary fight against age-old verbal conventions, fervently and foolishly appointing myself the lone bastion of gay political correctness.

I was mostly cantankerous, expressing my frustration and disappointment through incisive missives and cold shoulders, the latter being an ineffective and admittedly insipid way to get my message across. My principle was: "You don't respect what offends me, you don't respect me at all." Much to my chagrin, skirmishes turned acquaintances and even friends into enemies because of their gender insensitivity and political incorrectness, and of course my unbridled ire. But some people's beliefs had been challenged and changed. I only hope it was out of empathy, not fear. Fear might be a motivator but empathy is a far more virtuous stimulus for reform.

One interesting new angle is that some of the words I found disappointing have been neutralized by gay people themselves. Like a hood thing, some terms are slowly crossing the border to become terms of endearment within the gay community. Gay media powerhouses have used words like "fag" and "queer" mainstream possibly making the fangs and venom of prejudice less sharp and virulent. The gay undercurrent of the super heroes cartoon series and movies "X-Men" had been alluded to be an allegorical expression of rebellion against this society that is so hellbent on conformity in conventional coexistence, possibly rendering "x-man" an appreciable impression for some.

But these still remain a bone of contention for me. I still find "fag," "queer" and "bading" unpleasant to read, utter or hear. The idea of being billed "mutant" in the absence of any kick-ass superpower does not seem to be enticing. And "x-man" may be misconstrued as formerly male. Gay men are still men. We did not cease to be on our side of the gender pole. And while I'm on this thread, let me say that there is no third sex. Postulating there is a first and a second only begs to arouse the old flames of sexual discrimination.

I still stand my ground to this day, although admittedly I have become outwardly nonchalant to neutralized terms and unenlightened individuals who make the utterance for sheer reference. Mellowing comes with age, and we become more tolerant of idiosyncracies and points of view different from ours. I understand there are still people out there who are, for lack of a better word, ignorant of these inflammatory terms. They may not even see themselves unenlightened. That's fine as long as they make the utterance not in my presence nor within my hearing distance.

Personally and ultimately, back then and until now, I still believe there are only two words that can be used to refer to "gay" men that is gender sensitive and gay-friendly. The other one being "homosexual" which is rather clinical to the ear, and its derivative "homo" some gay people perceive to leave a phobic aftertaste. Nevertheless, these words have to be the only politically correct terms to refer to people of my kind as far as I am concerned. Perhaps in time my auditory faculty and gender consciousness will get used to previous nomenclature of ridicule that has been neutralized through amicable use. Perhaps.


  1. I come to your blog via Best Gay Blogs. And I am startled. It took me a few days to figure out why: the exactitude of your English. Not a bad thing, but rather off-putting. It's as though you are in the frame of mind that he who controls the language controls everything.

    You might try a simple exercise to grasp my point: Try introspecting the future and projecting the past.

    As for "gay" and other names for us people, my attitude is that words have artificial meanings, but feelings have consequences. So call me anything you want, it's how you feel toward me, or anyone, that is important.

    Please, keep it up. What you have written so far is illuminating.

  2. Hi, bob. Thanks for sharing your point of view.