Personal context: How something relates to you and your life.
I’d like to talk about this today. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, triggered by something said to me a while back, and incidents that occurred at school, as well as an incident about 9 years ago, when I was 19.
I’ve been no stranger to homophobic slurs. I’ve never been exactly the most manly of men, and I knew I was gay from a relatively young age. Trouble is, people who are different at school tend to inadvertently make themselves targets for bullies. Thankfully, the worst slur I had to contend with was “you’re gay!” or “you’re such a fag!” primarily because the bully-type kids weren’t exactly the most creative or intelligent of humans. There was no violence towards me either, so in all things considered, I had it pretty sweet.
My personal context of the word faggot, despite the slurs at school, is less relating to homosexuality, and more relating to the absolutely vile foodstuff my mother made us eat when she couldn’t be bothered to cook anything nice.
The word “gay” itself also holds no particular offensiveness to me, after all, I am. I know a lot of people tend to use it as a synonym for “rubbish” but again, that’s a lack of creativity showing there, and truth be told, I sometimes use it in that context too. Bad Steve.
No, the word I very much object to is “queer”. Now, I understand that it’s used as a sort of catch-all word to mean anyone who is not a cisgendered heterosexual. I understand that since the 80’s, LGBT groups began to reclaim the word as a neutral, deliberately ambiguous alternative to LGBT. I do not associate it with this. I do not associate the word with anything positive at all. I don’t want the word to be reclaimed, and I will never identify as being “queer”.
My personal context of the word? Someone yelling it while assaulting me. That’s probably enough to put anyone off any word.
Now, I don’t expect people to stop using the word. By all means, sit under the umbrella of queer with all the others who use it non-pejoratively. Thing is, my experiences with the word have given me an extreme dislike of it, and so I shan’t be joining you under there.
The incident that happened recently, I shan’t bore you with details, but a fellow homosexual said to me, “Us queers gotta stick together!” Now, I took umbrage with this, for the obvious reasons that I outlined above, and their response was effectively, “Pff, get over it, that’s no reason to hate the word.”
Now, I am going to say this in nice, bold lettering.
Dismissing the personal context of other people is pretty much saying “your experiences, your thoughts, your feelings about (x) are effectively irrelevant to me.” This makes you a pretty shit person.
At least acknowledge the fact you can potentially upset somebody, rather than tell them to get over it.
A while back, during the Warlords of Draenor beta, there was a quest called “A Chink in the Armor”. There was a mild outcry because the word “chink” has two main definitions:
- The first is the context of the quest itself, a weak spot, a small cleft, a fissure, the word itself hailing from the medieval days;
- The second is often used as a racist slur against (primarily) the Chinese, but also other Eastern Asian countries by fuckin’ idiots who think they “all look the same anyway” and so it doesn’t matter.
Now, people were defending the usage, saying “Blizzard OBVIOUSLY means the first definition!” and they did, of course, but so many people were so fixated on this that they were ignoring the personal context of a LOT of Chinese people who find the word in ANY context to be offensive. When I see the word queer used in any context, I cringe. Shit, I’m cringing as I TYPE it. I’m sure a lot of people who have had the C-word thrown at them were rather shocked to see it in a game they love.
Blizzard changed the quest name, and good on them for doing so, because if you have the choice of potentially offending some people, or offending nobody, then you should probably go with the latter.
My point being, you can’t just dismiss people’s personal context with things. It’s incredibly insensitive and offensive to do so. It makes you come across as someone who doesn’t give a fuck about anyone but yourself. Maybe that accurately describes you, I don’t know. Maybe you WANT to be seen like that. Fair play. Just don’t expect people to tolerate you for very long.