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    The nastiness comes so easily to your people

    A visitor from Susanna Cornett’s site sent me a very polite inquiry about this story from down her way:

    When Mike Johnson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents conservative politicians and “pro-family” organizations, called Rawls a “homosexual,” Rawls charged at Johnson. Rawls’ voice rose and his face turned red, and he approached Johnson, pointed his finger at him and labeled him a “homophobe.”

    “I am not a homosexual,” Rawls angrily told Johnson. “I am a gay man.”

    Rawls considers the term “homosexual” derogatory. “No one calls me the ‘h’ word,” he said later.

    Johnson said Rawls had berated him earlier that morning by calling him a member of the “radical, religious right” in a television debate they taped to be aired Sunday on WDSU-TV.

    “He just went nuts. I was shocked by it,” Johnson said of the courtroom encounter. “He lunged at me because I used the word ‘homosexual.’ I thought that was an appropriate term, I didn’t know it was derogatory.”

    I wish this surprised me, but it doesn’t particularly. It just happens to be the gay version of one of the most unpleasant features of contemporary American culture: the practice of fantasizing into existence one’s own arbitrary system of etiquette and then going ballistic on people who unwittingly violate it. Janis Gore, who kindly gave me the link to the original story and then to her own take on it, sensibly says,

    When did the term ‘homosexual’ become derogatory? ‘Homo’ has never been a neutral word, but ‘homosexual’ is a descriptive term, like its siblings ‘heterosexual’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘asexual’, isn’t it?

    It is a bit more complicated than that. One sometimes hears social conservatives proclaim that they refuse to use gay to mean “homosexual” because they’re standing firm against the corruption of a useful word without any good equivalent. I find that explanation improbable. Considering their presumed civic-mindedness about the usage of our great native tongue, such people don’t seem to get around to complaining much about the slipshod way people use infer/imply, or disinterested/uninterested, or momentarily/in a moment. And I have a funny feeling that when the slang use of gay to mean “homosexual” had connotations of promiscuity and chirpy light-in-the-loaferness, they might not have been such sticklers. What does seem to irritate them is that, unlike the medical homosexual, gay is neutral and doesn’t retain even a trace of pathological implications.

    I’ve been known to call such people on what I see as their disingenuousness–most of them don’t exactly try to hide their disapproval of homosexuality, so why they need to make a great show of language persnicketiness to dress up this particular aspect of it is beyond me–but I don’t really care what word they use as long as they don’t try to keep me off my man. I probably reach for the word gay more often than I do homosexual, but on this site, I yak about gay stuff so frequently that if I didn’t have more than one word to choose from, I’d start to sound like a broken record. Come to think of it, when I’m feeling especially playful or nettled, I throw the word fag around quite a bit. I think I’ve used invert here once or twice, too.

    So Rawls’s reaction doesn’t make much sense to me, but some people will never miss a chance to work themselves into a froth of indignation. One might actually dispute his use of the word homophobia to characterize someone who wasn’t expressing any skittishness, let alone irrational fear and hatred, toward homosexuality. But I can understand why Johnson either was too shocked to do so or just figured it was best to let the matter drop.

    Added on 22 August: Mike A. from Ex-Gay Watch has a post relevant to the topic here that links to the predictable reaction to Rawls’s outburst by World Net Daily.

    3 Responses to “The nastiness comes so easily to your people

    1. Auntie Mame says:

      Oh, good grief!
      I use “homosexual” because it doesn’t infer gender. If I mean a homosexual man I’ll say “gay man” and if I mean a homosexual woman I’ll say “lesbian.” If, however, I’m speaking generically of gays AND lesbians I’ll use “homosexual” because it’s fewer words.
      That’s just common sense. I can’t imagine being upset if someone referred to me as “straight” or “heterosexual.” Either would be correct and I don’t base my identify or my life on how others describe me (or how I even describe myself). It’s just fucking words.
      There was a time (late 70s I think) when lesbians got all persnickety about being called “gay” and insisted that there be a differentiation between gay and lesbian (“women are not gay”). Society adjusted, but that also means there isn’t a single word (such as “straight”) to identify men and women who are not straight, EXCEPT “homosexual.”
      It’s just impossible to keep up, so I’m not gonna.
      If anyone wants to infer sinister motives or biases based on the above, I don’t give a damn.

    2. Ex-Gay Watch says:

      Exodus announces third recent ex-gay ad

      Exodus announces its third recent ex-gay ad claiming “freedom” from “homosexuality.” This time the ad appears in the conservative Christian men’s magazine New Man. In commenting on the ad, Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas says, “After all, it is within th…

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      Connie, Connie, Connie. How many times do we have to tell you? Trying to use goodwill and logic to navigate through life! Who the hell do you think you are? We get to dictate the terms, and you get to do what we say to make up for a lifetime of hurts.
      Oh, the terms may change without notice.