Your words are powerful

by Mykha’el Wilson

“To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” George Washington said.

I was looking at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia contemplating this quote.  Before me stood a symbol of freedom, liberty and democracy, and I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed.

The tears that threatened to escape were not prompted by patriotism, although I usually get emotional when I encounter tangible symbols of our great country.

The tears that came to my eyes were prompted by sadness in the lack of truth in these words.

They are far from being realized.

I cringe at the homophobia that is so prevalent in our current political climate (over 100 anti-LGBT bills are up for consideration in 2016). I also cringe when I hear it at work or at FM.  Yes, I hear it often while at school. It happens daily, and sometimes hourly.

Our words have immense power.  They express thoughts and feelings and spur people to action.

The words I hear so often spoken at FM are “fag”, and “That’s so gay!”, or “You’re so gay!”
These words and phrases are steeped in a history of hatred, violence and bigotry. It doesn’t matter who you are or what community you are part of, these words and phrases are unacceptable. They are derogatory and intend to make the other person feel “less than” others.

You are using part of my identity as a put down for someone else.  This is not negated by the fact that some of the very people using these words are within the LGBT + Community.

I recently heard a student refer to someone as a faggot.  The person she said this to was not gay. I called her to task for it and told her that the language she used was offensive and unacceptable; her response absolutely shocked me.  She responded that it was fine because she had gay friends!

A fag or faggot is a bundle of sticks that is meant to start a fire.  Cigarettes have been called faggots or fags.  It is something small, of little significance, whose sole purpose is to be burned.

The Nazis murdered gay people during the Holocaust, Jew and Gentile, just because they were gay.  The Holocaust, like everything else, began with thoughts that were expressed in words and then became actions.

Another phrase I hear often is, “That’s so gay!” or, “You’re so gay!”  These phrases are meant to express the fact that someone or something is stupid.  I am gay, and in that, I am not less than anyone else. I am not less valuable! I am not stupid! This phrase, however, infers that.

I am proud of who I am. I am proud of the strides the L.G.B.T+ Community is moving towards in fully realizing our inalienable rights. I am proud of our allies who are raising their voices to ensure that we get the rights we deserve.

With that said, I am also painfully aware of the ongoing struggle my community has ahead.  We still face discrimination. We are still tortured and murdered around the world for daring to be who we were created to be.

If you use these words and phrases you are clearly making a stand against hope, love, justice, and the L.G.B.T+ Community. You are aligning yourself, through your language, with hatred and bigotry. You are standing on the wrong side of history.

I challenge you to think about the words that you use, and why you express things the way you do.

What thoughts and feelings lie behind them? A small change in how you express yourself can create a paradigm shift in our culture and society.

Your words are powerful. How will you use them?

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