Monday, March 22, 2010

LGBT PEOPLE ARE NOT "QUEER," AND I DOUBT THAT LT. DAN CHOI SEES HIMSELF AS A "FAG!"

UPDATE, March 23, 2010: The following is an email I sent to Lt. Dan Choi. His email address is: contact@ltdanchoi.com.

It would be wonderful if as many people as possible expressed their gratitude to him for what he is doing to make possible equality for LGBT people.

Dear Lt. Choi: God bless you for your courage, the service you have done for our country, and the service you are doing for countless numbers of LGBT people who, because of the very nature God gave them, are consigned to pariah status and second-class citizenship. Please know how grateful so many are for your sacrifices and dignity, and I frankly view you as the Martin Luther King of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement! My very best wishes, Jerry Maneker.

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I really believe that Lt. Dan Choi has become the catalyst for an exponential increase of the momentum in the struggle for equal rights for LGBT people! His sense of dignity, poise, and intelligence enables him to articulate the need for equal rights in a way we have not seen since Martin Luther King.

Indeed, he may well be the Martin Luther King of the LGBT Civil Rights movement!

He is not only extremely articulate and poised, but has already begun to pay the price that is part and parcel of that "season of suffering" than Martin Luther King said was essential for African Americans to win full and equal civil rights.

After listening to Dan Choi speak; after seeing his sense of dignity and his poise in front of the media, do you think for one minute that he refers to himself, or even thinks of himself, as a "queer" or as a "fag?" I'd bet my bottom dollar that he never sees himself in that way or refers to himself in that way!

He has class, and it abundantly shows!

Unfortunately there are also some people with class who refer to themselves by use of hateful words, but that is largely due to their false and tragic belief that they are somehow "reclaiming" and "redefining" those words by their use of them; they feel that they are "empowering" and "liberating" themselves by their use.

However, we may well be entering an era in this Civil Rights movement when such false consciousness will be increasingly seen to be traitorous to the goals of achieving full and equal civil rights; show a lack of dignity and class by the people who continue to choose to use such words as self-identifiers; show such people to not really be interested in acquiring full and equal civil rights despite their rhetoric to the contrary.

A major tragedy of the LGBT Civil Rights movement is that so many Gay people refer to themselves by use of hateful terms that there is now going to be a division within the ranks: those who see themselves as "queer" and those who see themselves as "Gay Americans."

And it is this latter group that will provide the dignity and meaningful and coordinated individual and organizational activism necessary to continue this struggle to finally get full and equal civil rights in the U.S. and elsewhere!

In this connection, my good friend, Don Charles, has, as have most Gay people, been exposed to virtually all sorts of rhetorical (and often physical) assaults, all the while being called the very same homophobic epithets that many Gay people continue to use to identify themselves.

Don Charles wrote a letter briefly letting Steven Petrow, who authored an article entitled, Queeries: Beware of Sexting, how insulting that epithet is to a Gay person who has dignity and self-respect.

With Don Charles' permission, I'm reprinting the complete thread (in reverse order) of his exchange with Mr. Petrow: (I have omitted the personal information of those people who chose to comment on this matter in regard to Mr. Petrow's question that he publicly posed on Facebook.)

Mr. Petrow,

What a strange reply you sent to my request that you reconsider your casual use of hate speech. You say you had to poll opinions before deciding whether to adapt a derogatory term for your column title. I'm sure if you had polled a bunch of reactionary, Bible-bigoted Right Wingers, they'd agree that "Queeries" was an appropriate title for your column, too. What's more, I'm sure if, in the 1800s, you had asked most Black slaves if "niggers" was an appropriate name for them, they'd have answered in the affirmative. (The analogy I'm drawing between LGBT folk and slaves is quite deliberate.) And I'm sure if, in the 1930s and '40s, you had polled the German people about what Adolph Hitler was doing, they'd have given his administration an overwhelming thumbs-up. My point? There are no conditions under which ignorance stops being ignorant. Let me put it another way: if you smear lipstick on a pig, you've still got pork! "Clever, catchy, and not at all hateful?" After I've shared with you my personal experience with the word "queer" and other forms of hate speech? And then you have the gall to end this extended exercise in sarcasm with "cheers"? What a clown you are, sir. Forgive me if I refrain from laughing, but I don't feature your kind of comedy! I never did go for the kind that insults my intelligence. There comes a time in life when a rational person must decide for himself what is right or wrong; where going along with the crowd just doesn't cut it; where being "edgy" or "trendy" is no substitute for being responsible. I don't think you've reached that time in your life yet, Mr. Petrow! I wonder if you ever will? I'm sorry that I wasted my time trying to reason with you. I should have recognized you immediately as a "House Negro". Go on back to serving your master, before he gets cross with you.

Donny C. Hampton

On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 11:41 AM, steven petrow wrote:
dear mr. hampton-
thanks for writing me about this. before i named the column "queeries" i gave it a lot of thought and talked with several colleagues in my professional world. they thought it was clever, catchy and not at all hateful. since you wrote, i posted an abridged version of your note on my facebook accounts and asked people to respond to your comments. as you can see from their comments, your view wasn't shared by anyone who cared to comment (which doesn't mean some people don't feel the way you do). here are what the posters had to say. and, again, thanks for writing -- and presumably reading. cheers. sp


MR. PETRO ASKED HIS FACE BOOK READERS WHAT THEY THOUGHT ABOUT THE ORIGINAL EMAIL DON CHARLES SENT TO HIM: I got this email. What you think: "Why do you use this title [Queeries] for your column? Don't you know that "queer" is still a hateful word? Calling a column devoted to Gay topics "Queeries" is the like calling a column devoted to African-American topics "All About Niggers." Some Gay people have ignorantly... "reclaimed" this ugly term, but you can't reclaim something that hasn't been given up.

COMMENTS:

I may have no room to speak here, but I think "Queeries" is a clever term for a Q&A column!

I honestly thought it was a play on words....a shortened term for 'inquiries' and use of the word 'queer' as your questioner asked.
Btw, has your reader noticed that African-Americans use the word 'nigger' in a lot of music? In today's world. it seems a word or term isn't so derogatory when used by the 'group' it reflects but when it's used by others, then it's deemed to be hateful.

In its earliest days, the gay and lesbian movement took its cues from the civil rights movement. Reclaiming pejoratives was one of the many tricks we learned. I haven't cringed hearing the words "fag" or "pansy" in decades, because they're my own now.

I guess for some people the sting of a word never goes away, despite a community's effort to reclaim it. The 'N' word, while used by some African Americans towards each other is certainly seen as one of the most horrific epithets when used ON an A-A by a non-A-A. Personally, if a someone uses any gay epithets, I look at it in context of the person, their usage and their general ignorance before I take offense.

I always take a cue from my grandmother, who smuggled Jews in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. She says, "It' doesn't matter what a person says. Any idiot can look around and figure out the the right thing to say that'll make people nod and clap for you. Look at what they do - how they behave."

I don't use the term to refer to myself as I've never particularly cared for it, but I don't find it particularly offensive, either. I suppose part of the reason is that I came out in 1982 - we were only finally getting around to acknowledging that gay women were, in fact, "lesbians". Queer, to me, says "unusual" or "out of the norm". I don't ... See Moreparticularly consider myself either, but I often jokingly use terms like "homo" and "'mo" in reference to myself. I am gay, I like being gay, and I like the word "gay."
I suspect it's - mostly - a generational thing.

I didn't realize it was a hateful word. I guess it is if it's being yelled at me by a redneck or a basher... lol. If "queer" is an ugly term now, I suppose "gay" will be considered ugly at some point too. Words are arbitrary and only hold the meaning that a person gives them. Keep up the good work Steven!

The word queer has grown in use among young people due to its umbrella quality - it includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender folks, and the intersex community. In academia, we've seen a rise in pursuit of "queer studies." I recognize that some still find the word offensive, but I think it's here to stay. And I don't think it compares easily to "nigger" because "queer" already has so many legitimate uses. Wondering whether this letter writer was equally incensed by "Queer as Folk."

it really doesn't bother me. I think calling something "gay" as used today by our youth bothers me a little more.

Perhaps my own friends of color are an exception, but I have often heard the n-word used as a term of affection between African-Americans. That is a closer parallel than the letter-writer's example of an offensive column title, since Steven's work here is clearly of us, by us, and for us GLBTs. Besides which, there is a play on words within "Queeries" that is NOT present in the "All About Niggers."

queer isn't a hateful word, just as lesbian isn't. it's usually a type you can check off in "sexual orientation." now f*g and d*ke i can agree with.

Turning oppressive language on its head. In other words, historically oppressed groups proactively reclaiming words previously used by their oppressor to — both symbolically and in most cases literally — rob them of their humanity. Such a great example of poetic justice!


END OF COMMENTS


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2010 11:14:21 -0600
Subject: "Queeries"?
From: doncharles@gmail.com
To: queeries@live.com

Why do you use this title for your column? Don't you know that "queer" is still a hateful word? I appeal to you to please change it. Calling a column devoted to Gay topics "Queeries" is the equivalent of calling a column devoted to African-American topics "All About Niggers."

I live in the Bible Belt, and I'm regularly taunted with words like "queer" and "faggot". LGBT people are not "queers"! The label is inaccurate as well as derogatory. Some Gay people have ignorantly "reclaimed" this ugly term, but you can't reclaim something that hasn't been given up. Believe me, it hasn't been given up! Please stop helping bigots feel comfortable with their bigotry.

Don Charles


As Jesus says: They have eyes, but they don't see!

As I wrote in a February 21, 2008 article entitled, On The Need To Grow Up:

There is a point when one has to own his/her dignity, demand the respect due to any human being, demand full and equal civil and sacramental rights regardless of the negative messages and hostility that have been visited on that person in the past, or even in the present. And those goals will not be realized as long as the minority group accepts its inferior status, and revels in it by referring to its members by the very same terms used by the most virulent homophobes throughout history and in our midst.

No self respecting person, Gay or Straight, stands for being treated as less than fully human; no self respecting person, Gay or Straight, uses negative self-identifiers that have been historically (and contemporarily) used by their oppressors. The slave mentality is blamed on others, but the fact is that it ultimately resides within each human being whether or not to accept that mentality.


[Please also read Don Charles' article, In Defense of Growing Up.]

I truly believe that Dan Choi is the catalyst for equal rights to become a reality in the foreseeable future! Not only because his words and actions can significantly help change the hearts and minds of potential Straight allies, but because his persona can have enormous influence on judicial interpretations of Constitutional law.

He has put a human, dignified, and very public face on Gay people as citizens who are illegally discriminated against, and that face will likely favorably influence federal court decisions.

Moreover, he presents a face contrary to the homophobic stereotype that "Gay merely equals Sex," and contradicting that one-dimensional stereotype is essential for acquiring the very same civil rights that heterosexual citizens enjoy.
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5 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

When I read over my response to Steven Petrow's arrogance and ignorance, I realize that I wrote it in the Jerry Maneker style! You have definitely influenced my polemic, Jerry. Incidentally, I emailed a copy of my "Stamp Out Homophobe Mouth" manifesto to Mr. Petrow's employer, The Huffington Post. The website would not even accept it in their email box. I've emailed the Huffington Post in the past with no problem. Do you think I've been banned again?

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks so much, Don Charles. You might well have been banned from that site. In my opinion, "true believers" who refuse to be enlightened as to how their rhetoric is helping to prevent the realization of the very goal they say they are working toward are just as dangerous as the most rabid homophobe! In fact, I'd rather deal with a principled reactionary any day than with some politically correct airhead! Best wishes, Jerry.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with your point completely. While you might find the term "queer" offensive you shouldn't try to stop other people from using it in a non-hateful way. I'm bisexual and like queer as a term because it is very broad, it includes everyone who doesn't identify with the sexual/gender majority. I think that it would hurt our cause to make a big deal out of the use of "queer". People will be annoyed at whoever tries to stop the use of the word and see it as radicalism, plus there are a lot of lgbt people who will not be on your side, in order to get anything done we need to be united in our cause.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Anonymous: "Agreement" is not as essential as "dignity!" During the African American Civil Rights movement, for example, it was unheard of for African Americans to refer to themselves as "Niggers." White Supremacists used (and still use) that term, but African Americans never did.

Similarly, in the LGBT Civil Rights movement, LGBT people should never refer to themselves by use of such hateful words as "queer," "dyke," and the like. Despite the intent in the use of such denigrating words as self-identifiers, their use presents a face to the oppressor of self-loathing and shame, the very traits that homophobes have inculcated in many LGBT people all their lives.

You are not a "queer!" You are a Bisexual American, and that is an honorable and accurate description! Best wishes, Jerry.

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Attaboy, Jerry! As to the points made by the proud "queer" who wasn't proud enough to identify himself by name:

1)There is no way to call yourself or others "queer" in a "non-hateful" way. Applied to human beings, the word is inherently hateful!

2) Calling "queer" an umbrella term for everyone who isn't heteosexual or of binary gender reinforces the false idea that LGBT folk deviate from the norm. Lesbians, Gay men, bisexual and transsexual folk are part of the norm!

3) The misguided Gay people who've adopted "queer" for casual use have already hurt the equality movement! They've heightened ignorance about LGBT identity and made it easier for bigots to feel comfortable expressing their bigotry.

4) If it annoys people to be warned that they're heading off the edge of a high cliff, then let there be as much annoyance as necessary to prevent disaster! Uniting behind a bad idea does the equality movement no good at all, and anybody with common sense knows as much. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this person is a "stealth" bigot, masquerading as bisexual and trying to deliberately spread confusion in the Gay blogosphere.