Twice this past week us gays have been up in arms over perceived homophobia by the straights. We’ve stomped our feet angrily, sent nasty tweets and decried the use of language we find offensive.
First, it was a billboard in St. John’s by Opera on the Avalon promoting their run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which read, “Filled with more Fairies than St. John’s on Pride Day.” Then it was Madonna on Buzzfeed using the word “gay” to describe kale.
Really? This is the sort of thing we are getting outraged about these days? The billboard is very obviously a play on words designed to be funny and not offensive. And Madonna? Really? It is hard to imagine anyone who has been more supportive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights over the past 30 years than she has. I wish we could lighten up a little bit and recognize that there is a big difference between a cleverly worded double entendre or a tongue in cheek throwaway and hate speech. There has to be room for intention – in society as a whole and within our own LGBT community. This ad did not intend to offend and Madonna wasn’t calling us names. The outrage says more about the “outraged” than it does about the people it is being directed at.
Yes, I get it. I understand why referring to something as “gay” in a negative context or ascribing feminine traits to homosexual men (which is the issue most people had with the billboard) is an issue that we need to continue to address. “That’s so gay,” in the wrong hands, is a problem. Madonna, calling kale “gay,” is not a problem.
I’ve been called every name in the book at one point or another, Fairy, Faggot, Queer, Queen, Gaylord, Cocksucker, Ass Bandit, Knob Gobbler… I can always tell if the intention is to harm. If somebody calls me an offensive name and its usage is designed to hurt or diminish or make me feel “less than” then I have a right to be upset and challenge the choice of language. I have an obligation, to myself and everyone else who struggles for equality, to say, “Hey, that’s not OK,” or “Fuck you, Motherfucker, call me that again and I will throw my nail polish in your face and light in on fire!” But, if it’s just a joke, then perhaps I can relax and not be a jerk about it.
“But, Robbie,” some will cry. “What’s a joke to you may not be joke to somebody else!” Yeah, I know. People need to lighten up. Haven’t we taken this whole Politically Correct (PC) thing as far as it needs to go? The rules about what’s OK to say and what isn’t change faster than a drag queen between numbers and it is impossible to keep up. The bigger risk is becoming so PC, so righteous and indignant over every little thing, that people stop listening to the shit that really matters.