So, another star has decided that calling people “F@ggot” is totally acceptable. This time, basketball player Joakim Noah, but really anti-gay slurs keep turning up from sportsman, sports coaches, musicians, in musicians lyrics, actors and just about every kind of star there is.
So hold on guys, because we’re going to be riding that same old roller coaster again.
First step will be a non-pology. The words “intend” will be in their somewhere. It will likely imply that either a) nothing homophobic was meant by using an explicitly homophobic slur and b) that random passing hate aliens beamed the word into his mouth and it’s not at all because he’s a homophobe at all.
Second step is a gazillion straight fans leaping up and down in frothing agitation because an anti-gay slur is totally not homophobic and why are we so upset?! We may even get creative supporters using the slur repeatedly to show us how not problematic it is. If, on the off chance, there are actual CONSEQUENCES (I know, I know, doesn’t usually happen, but sometimes) to said bigotry, then their hair may actually catch fire from the sheer incandescence of their rage. When not howling with rage, they may pause to slowly and painfully explain to us why anti-gay slurs are a) not homophobic b) not real slurs, c) not that bad or d) all of the above. Third step is a youtube video or PSA saying “Homophobia is baaaad, and I really mean this, I’m totally not covering my arse.” It will be watched by a few people, most of whom will be either GBLT or perfectly aware that homophobia is bad. Unlike the slur in the first place which, of course, had a much much wider audience.
Fourth step, we’re all expected to go “awwww he learned” and forgive and forget and pretend it never happened – except the gazillion people from step 2 who are still ranting about us being “sensitive” and “hysterical” and “looking to be offended.” They’re going to hang around for a while
Fifth step, buckle in while another celeb opens their mouth and takes us round the ride again.
Can you tell I’m tired of this ride by now? So let’s start pulling it apart.
If you call someone a “f@ggot”or variations thereof, you’re a homohobe who just said something homophobic. It doesn’t matter if your target is gay or not, it doesn’t matter if you “intend” to call them gay or not – the mere fact you think being gay is worthy of insult AND that you chose one of the vilest possible ways to express it shows extremely homophobia. You do not – cannot – use an anti-gay slur to insult people without expressing contempt for us.
Right, next piece – crap like this doesn’t just slip out (the Mel Gibson “I was drunk” excuse). There are some words I can never see myself uttering – no matter how drunk, angry, upset, concussed or freaking drugged – because they’re not part of my common dialogue, they’re not even part of my internal thought processes. If they have no place on my tongue, they’re not going to slip OFF my tongue. These words don’t just “slip out” unless your happy to let them in and keep them around in the first place.
Ok, on to the next piece – to all the straight defenders that inevitably if you defend the use of slurs then you are defending, supporting and encouraging homophobia. And yes, that makes you a homophobe. If you downplay the severity of a slur, if you dismiss the slur, if you decide it’s not a slur or not a “real” slur – then you are a homophobe. And you are the reason why hate speech against us continually raises its ugly head – because you excuse it, you say it’s ok, you make it acceptable to say and you encourage it to happen again and again and again.
We don’t need you to give us permission to be offended and you don’t get to police when we are. You don’t get to tell us how much we can be offended, you don’t get to tell us when we shouldn’t be offended and you don’t get to tell us when we should stop being offended. Now stop it, before I have to hit you all with a wet fish.
Ok, moving to the next piece. Sorry is a word. A sorry word at that. Do you know what it actually means and what it actually changes? Sod all. However, it’s a nice start – if done well, but that hardly ever happens. If you’re going to apologise stop trying to excuse or justify yourself. I don’t care what you “intended.” You can say you don’t mean to disrespect us – it doesn’t matter. You did. Don’t tell me you’re “not homophobic” when you’ve just presented such stellar evidence to the contrary. Here’s a tip – want to apologise? Treat it as an actual APOLOGY rather than Public Relations arse-covering. Oh, and apologies aren’t like those nifty little red-light thingies in Men In Black. Your apology doesn’t mean we all magically forget what you did – nor does it mean we should.
Which brings me to the PSA thing which celebs seem to like to play with. Now, your mileage may vary but people doing stuff like this to cover their arses makes me want to reach for the haddock and start slapping people. Homophobia is an important issue, it ruins lives. Fighting it is important, it’s about protecting people, it’s about saving people. It’s not a tool to use to try to patch your shaky PR. And what’s the message here? “Homophobia is wrong and hurts people, but hey, not really because 3 days ago I called someone a ‘f@ggot'”? Or “Make pretty speeches for the P people but you know this isn’t REALLY important.” Is this the message? People saying “do as I say not as I do” to try and combat homophobia? Frankly I find it as pointless and aggravating as anti-gay politicians using “It Gets Better” videos for some free campaigning.
Well, I’ve deconstructed the roller coaster, but it’s only a matter of time before we’re strapped in for another ride.