Note from Deb: David Gerrold posted this on Facebook early this morning, and I felt it was important, so I asked him if I could reproduce it as a guest post, giving him full credit, of course. He was kind enough to say yes, so here it is. For those of you not familiar with David Gerrold, he is the author of over 50 books, several hundred articles and columns, and over a dozen television episodes, including Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
And now, I turn the floor over to Mr. Gerrold:
Yes, words matter.
The trick is to not let them matter very much.
Ask an African-American what he or she has been called. There’s a whole song in the musical HAIR which lists some of those. Ask a Jew what he or she has been called. You can go back to Shakespeare’s MERCHANT OF VENICE to understand the tradition of Jew-baiting. And women — there’s no shortage of derogatory words for women, many of them based on female genitals. And gay men and women? Hooboy! Someone was working overtime on that linguistic smörgåsbord.
But guess what? Along about the fiftieth time someone calls you a faggot (or any of the other joyous epithets), the words begin to lose all power to hurt. After a while, it’s just amusing. After a while, it’s just an invitation to snap out a great punch line. A woman shouted at me, “Are you a faggot?” I looked at her and said, “Are YOU the alternative?”
Yes, words matter — but that doesn’t mean we have to be victimized them. We can own them.
Somebody on an online forum once thought to shame me. He called me a “homo.” Oh, heavens. My response? “You think I should be ashamed of my capacity to love? Every time someone calls me that, they’re reminding me of how much love I’ve experienced in my life. You really think I’m going to wither away?”
I’m a writer. There’s a lesson that the great writers have mastered: own the language. Ride it like a bronco. Hang on for the ride. Steer it where you need it to go. OWN THE LANGUAGE.
Yes, words matter — but I refuse to be a victim of language, I intend to be one of the owners.