Growing up, I remember always hearing the phrase “Stick and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” This, I think, is, for the most part, a true statement. However, some words carry a heavy background with them and it is not the word that hurts, but the principle of the word.
I am specifically speaking about a certain word that is typically used as a derogatory term for individuals who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
What brought this to mind was a recent trip I took to a tattoo parlor in my home state of Indiana. I will not mention the name of the place, but I will speak about my experience in said parlor.
I walked in on a Saturday in February, excited for my next tattoo. I had a quick consultation with my artist and soon I was on the chair. I was sitting there, not really focusing on much else considering that there were needles poking ink into my back, but then I heard something that shocked me.
A girl next to me was getting a rather sizable thigh piece done, and her artist was doing an Instagram live stream of it being done. Apparently someone on the Instagram live stream had been making lewd comments about the artist’s work and he did not take this very well. I heard him throw out the phrase “F**king f**got,” in response and I was beyond shocked.
In the particular area of Indiana that I was in, people are rather accepting of LGBTQ+ people and I was definitely surprised that someone in this area was so okay with using such a word. I am not trying to paint myself as a victim, I know that the word was not aimed at me, however the shock value of the use of the word was still very prevalent.
Sure, maybe he did not know the weight of his word choice, but that is why I chose to write about this issue, to hopefully bring light to why it is unacceptable to use this word.
I want to take a quick look at the etymology behind what I am going to refer to as the “F” word. The “F” word began in the 20th century as a derogatory term for people in the LGBTQ+ community. It has in the past been used as a term to call women, particularly older women, a burden. So, basically when the “f” word started being used, it was a way to insult both gay men as well as women, insinuating that they were a burden or not worth anyones time.
There are also other links to the “f” word being used to compare gay men to cigarettes which are sometimes called “fags,” and gay people were sometimes burned.
In modern settings, groups like the Westboro Baptist church also use the “f” word on their protest signs. they proclaim that “F*gs are going to hell,” and “God hates f*gs.” It is still used as a word full of hate and disrespect.
In the grand scheme of life, it is just a word, but it is a word that has perpetuated the belief that gay people are a burden or useless or that violence should be exacted upon them. I know that on that Saturday in that tattoo shop, that word was not aimed at me, but it was still openly used. He still chose to use that word with such a heavy history.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me… but it is possible for words to carry a past with them. It is important to consider what kind of past is behind words that are used before they are thrown about so carelessly.
I encourage anyone who has used this word in the past or who still says this word to consider the violence and the hurt behind it and stop saying it. It is a small gesture that can go a long way.