In a Diary on the blog, Pam's House Blend, a woman wrote the following as part of her post: "In a recent diary entry, a poster commented upon my styling myself 'The Old Dyke' by saying that he did not accept the concept of a 'Dyke.' You say that you do not accept the concept of a 'Dyke.' I am a Dyke. My Lesbianism was something that I was born with, that I choose and rechoose to live every day. It an evolving process, an organic thing of unending possibilities. My Dykeness was thrust upon me, suddenly, unwillingly. In the beginning it was frightening but it is something that I now treasure, that I embrace with pride." [See here for the rest of the post and the comments made on that post.]
The attitude of this woman is unfortunately shared by many LGBT people who have so internalized the messages of their historic oppressor that they not only use the oppressor's words as self-identifiers, but actually view the use of those hateful words as signs of liberation. The desire to sincerely debate ideas about how best to achieve full and equal civil rights is by far subordinated to the demand of many LGBT people that they be given the right to take pride in using those self-identifiers as a symbol of their "liberation" and as a consequence of their experiences of discrimination and oppression.
What is instructive in this context is the proposed origin of the derogatory terms, "Dyke" and "Faggot." My friend Don Charles sent me the following emails that deal with this significant issue of stereotyping that is doing immeasurable harm in the fight for full and equal civil rights for LGBT people:
"The epithets 'faggot' and 'dyke' both appear to have been derived from insults directed at women! Etymologists have traced 'faggot' to an older root word used to denigrate older women. It had the connotation of “hag” or “bitch” (a slur that modern Gay men share with women among working class people). Contrary to what’s widely believed, 'faggot' is probably not a reference to the wooden sticks once used to burn Gay people at the stake. The word “dyke” has been traced to a vulgar expression for a woman’s vagina. It may also be an abbreviation of the word 'hermaphrodite', meaning a person with indeterminate genitalia. Not the accurate definition of a Lesbian! One thing we can deduce for certain: Both of these slurs were coined by men for the purpose of insulting womanhood. Most, if not all Lesbians call themselves feminist. How can a feminist allow sexist language to issue from her mouth, much less define her identity? It was taken from the online etymology website http://www.etymonline/com."
Some stereotypes he mentions, and that are wittingly and/or unwittingly fostered are:
"The 'prissy faggot', a cartoon caricature born to do your hair, makeover your wardrobe and decorate your apartment.
"The 'depraved leather queen', a certified sicko with a fully-equipped torture chamber in his basement.
"The hulking 'bulldyke', a beastly figure who despises her own womanhood, sees men as a threat and is ten times more macho than John Wayne.
"The hedonistic 'lipstick Lesbian', a Victoria's Secret fantasy who loves it when men watch while she has sex with her girlfriend.
"The AC/DC/screw-anything-that-moves 'bi guy', orgy-loving, sex-obsessed and inherently unable to commit to a monogomous relationship.
"The outrageous 'trannie', another cartoon caricature who lives to model the latest in femme couture and trick innocent Straight men into believing she's a biological woman.
"The 'radical' Gay Pride marcher, a carnival clown with 'I'm here, I'm queer' placard in hand and pink feather boa slung 'round the shoulders, gyrating to a Disco beat, bare breasts bouncing, genitalia swinging free.
"Every one a sexual predator, an advocate of public sex and underage sex, a danger to children and the family structure.
"These images of LGBT folk are arguable more degrading than the Uncle Tom, Aunt Jemimah, Zip Coon and Stepin Fechit images that have plagued African-Americans."
Don Charles concludes: "I think those ugly myths hurt us, and we are not doing nearly enough to counteract them and insist on more diverse images of ourselves in the media . . . and I mean the Gay media, too. Pick up a Gay publication (fiction or nonfiction), and more likely than not you'll see a sexually provocative cover. Usually a naked or half-naked White man. Often, a cross-dresser whose make-up and clothing are over-the-top. Look at the recent crop of Gay TV shows and what do you see? 'Queer Eye For The Straight Guy', an insult. 'The L Word', sexual objectification of Lesbians. 'Queer As Folk', sexual objectification of Gay men. We're either depicted in a soft-porn context or played as a limp wrist joke. No way would Black people have stood for those kinds of portrayals of themselves at the height of the Civil Rights struggle! They reinforce the oppressor's bigotry. When I say stereotyping, I'm talking about the way we fail to challenge dehumanizing, one-dimensional images of ourselves."
Many LGBT people honestly believe that by appropriating degrading names given to them by their oppressors they are re-claiming their essence, and their very liberation, from the hurt that those names that have historically been visited upon them have caused them. They don't see, and many refuse to see, that their use of those horrible names merely reinforces in their psyches and in the psyches of others their "deviant" and "abnormal" status that is diametrically opposed to the status one must have, and demand, for full and equal rights to become a reality.
What is interesting about the source of one's identity when he/she is oppressed is that that part of that person that is used as "justification" for that oppression visited upon him or her rather quickly becomes that person's prism whereby he/she sees his/her very identity. For example, being Black is a mere skin color. It is no different than the size of one's feet or the color of one's eyes. However, since skin color has been used as a major criterion for discrimination and grinding oppression, that very skin color becomes the essence of one's perceived identity. If foot size were the major criterion for such discrimination and oppression, it is likely that foot size would become the essence of one's perceived identity. The counter-productive use of any one facet of one's multidimensional humanity, be it skin color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or foot size diminishes the essence and dignity of any human being who reduces his/her identity to that one, or any one, facet.
Sociologists have a term for this phenomenon that is called one's "master status." That is the status by which others view that person and is the status by which that person frequently views him/herself. One's master status becomes the characteristic of that person whereby virtually everything that that person does is seen in its light. This phenomenon is most strikingly seen when one's master status has been stigmatized by others.
For example, if you found out that I had been in prison, it is likely that everything I would do and everything I would say and write would largely be seen as a function of my being an ex-convict. Similarly, if one is Gay, virtually everything is seen by others, and even by the person him/herself, as being a function of his/her status of being Gay.
When one takes a given characteristic, be it ex-convict, being Gay, being an ex-mental patient, being African-American, etc., that has been stigmatized by others, not only is that master status seen as being the most important part of that person, but that master status frequently becomes part of one's own very identity and concept of self. They have bought into the label placed upon them by their oppressor and, further, have so incorporated that label that it subsequently becomes viewed as the very essence of one's very identity and concept of self.
And that master status, that identifier, can frequently be tenaciously defended as part of one's identity, one's very essence, in order to preserve one's dignity in the face of a host of indignities visited upon that discredited, and potentially discreditable, characteristic of that person. Therefore, we find that among many people who have suffered stigma, in order to maintain their ego-integrity, their sense of dignity, they largely feel most comfortable associating with those who will validate their dignity. Hence, ex-offenders feel most comfortable associating with other ex-offenders; many Gay people feel most comfortable associating with other Gay people; many Transgender people feel most comfortable associating with other Transgender people, many African-Americans feel most comfortable associating with other African-Americans.
After being the recipient, along with my friend Don Charles, of much revulsion and antagonism for our pleas on Pam's House Blend (referenced in my post of March 2nd, and on Don Charles' last two series of posts) for LGBT people to stop using historically and contemporary demeaning names in reference to themselves and to other LGBT people, I came to realize that the work to achieve full and equal civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people is much harder than I had ever anticipated.
[The relevant posts that appeared on Pam's House Blend can be seen here and here.]
The fight for equal rights for LGBT people is very difficult because we are dealing with psychological issues and well as social and political ones, and the first one must be largely overcome before the latter two are significantly realized. When we throw into the mix the fact that one can easily be greatly resented by those we are attempting to help for our trying to suggest to them what needs to be done to become truly liberated and achieve full and equal civil rights, it's a mighty long and lonely road.
Many LGBT people don't even want to hear the message about the tactics that can be used to achieve those rights, and they could well resent me, Don Charles, and others for telling them about the means by which acquisition of civil and sacramental rights can become a reality. Indeed, even a meaningful discussion of the tactics and strategies needed to achieve equal rights was eclipsed by the frequent ad hominem attacks on Pam's House Blend leveled against Don Charles and me by most all of those who chose to comment.
Using pejorative epithets as self-identifiers is harming so many in the LGBT communities, and is doing inestimable harm in the same way as using pejorative epithets as self-identifiers is doing among some people in the African-American community. And the tragedy is that the mind-set that one uses to justify these words is the very thing that is going a long way to retard, and will continue to retard, achieving the living of a meaningful life, devoid of discrimination in both groups of people.
So, the Ken Hutchersons and James Dobsons of the world, and other assorted "religious" and secular homophobes, have not only done their jobs, but now have unwitting "allies" in their cause who are members of the very minority groups that they oppress and denigrate, and those members are frequently oblivious to that mutuality.
Basically, it may be seen that many LGBT people are victims not only of homophobia, but are unwitting and unaware victims of a slight variation of the "Stockholm Syndrome" where, "Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat, since it's likely the captive would be injured during such attempts. It's important to note that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, and has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors."
The very fact that so many commentators on Pam's House Blend couldn't see beyond the sexual nature of their very being in their hostile reactions to Don Charles and me is undoubtedly because they have bought into the lie of the oppressor. The oppressor says that they are "hedonists," "promiscuous," "deviant," "abnormal," etc. and, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, they have come to believe that lie at a very deep level.
Moreover, they frequently reinforce that lie by viewing their own use of hateful epithets as self-identifiers with a sense of pride; viewing their own use of hateful epithets as being equivalent to "liberation," which is further complicated by their revulsion and antagonism to anyone who will tell them that they are fully human, as normal as any other part of the natural order, and that they deserve to be treated with dignity and have the same rights as everyone else. Clearly, the use of pejorative self-identifiers does grave injustice to that reality.
That's a horrible combination of psychic and social distortions and denial to overcome before we even get to the political realities that have to be confronted before full and equal civil and sacramental rights become a reality. So, we're not only fighting against religious and secular homophobes, but we are fighting against many people who clearly don't want, and even terribly resent, some people telling them that the use of such pejorative words as self-identifiers is reinforcing the very mind-set from which one must be freed before meaningful activism can occur.
I don't really know whether or not those who chose to comment to our most recent posts on Pam's House Blend are representative of those in the LGBT communities. However, what has been established is that there are many LGBT people who suffer horribly from the damage done by homophobia emanating from a host of sources, not the least of which are many pulpits throughout the world.
And a major component of this tragedy is that it is a level of damage largely unrecognized by those who have been homophobia's victims!