Friday, October 15, 2004

There's an L-Word in my Woodpile? Well, I Like Liberals... Oh God, You Mean....

Thinking about the stormlet surrounding John Kerry's use of the word "lesbian" in Wednesday's presidential debate, it suddenly occurs to me that "lesbian" is being processed by some people as the gay N-word, as if it's radioactive, as if the only people who have the right to call someone else a lesbian are, in fact, lesbians, as they "redeem" the savage vocabulary of hate by grinding its sting away through use.

This makes a kind of connotational sense. When I heard Kerry say Cheney's daughter was a lesbian, I thought I understood what he was saying:, and liked what he was saying, that is:

"You idiot. It's on the record that you have been in the room with homosexuals -- not admitted homosexuals but avowed homosexuals! -- and you have never discussed a point the understanding of which is crucial to a defense of your homophobe agenda."

Even though I understood that and applauded that, I immediately wished he hadn't said it because I knew the word was a kick to the lizard brain of many of us and that it would seem somehow inappropriate for very different reasons to very different groups.

I figured it would not bother homosexuals, and the early reaction seems to confirm that. But no one has ever been elected to anything big in this country by saying something that homosexuals rose up and defended.

I was glad that Kerry was saying, in effect, that Bush was once more showing either his hypocrisy or his incuriosity. But I wish he hadn't said it in that way. Even as I think it through, I feel the many strands of this moment escape me. I can't tie them together. Undoubtedly, some thousands of undecideds will conclude that Ms. Cheney interpreted Kerry's remarks not as a statement of the simple truth but as an intriguing suggestion upon which she immediately chose to act.

John Kerry: Numbah One Recruiter for Lesbian Nation.

He should have said Sapphic Warrior. Everyone would have thought it was a Nintendo game.

Update: First time through this I typed "homophone" instead of "homophobe." That is already a good word, but I have just given it a useful new twist -- homophones (speakers of Gay) understand what heterophones (speakers of Straight) are saying, but the opposite isn't always true. Homophones comfortably use the word "lesbian," of course, but John Kerry is a heterophone and got into trouble.

Update update: I am not first with the word "heterophone," but I think I am the best. (Actually, I am only better, since there's only one other definition.)

No comments: