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Friday, 22 March 2013

A modest proposal on language

David Shariatmadari has an interesting piece 'The language of LGBT love' in the Guardian.

He looks at an update of a film made about young gay people in London in the 1980s for the current London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

That GLC-funded, Daily Mail provoking, three decade old film he found striking in its innocence of language, of how people described themselves and their lives. Whereas today ...
... what stood out was the way they talked.

Translated into 2013ese, the blunt vox-popping of shoppers ("D'you know any lesbians?") morphs into something more postmodern ("Do you know anyone who self-identifies as LGBT?"). This generation namechecks "genderfluidity" and appears to embrace "questioning" (the last word in the variant LGBTQ) as an identity, as opposed to a phase, or a state of mind. In spite of claiming they want to get away from definitions and labels, to avoid "putting people in boxes", they reflect an online culture that finds room for the asexual, the pansexual, the heteroflexible and the demisexual. The boxes haven't gone away, they've just got smaller. Personal definitions are listed, menu-like, in that vast banqueting hall of the self that is social media.
Someone should really do a timeline on when and how this overwhelming, alphabet soup of PC language descended on us.

A couple of things struck me.

'Queer' is a vile term. Much of my and earlier generations of gay men got killed off by Iris the Virus, so less around to complain then, but all those still standing remember what that term meant and it still sends a shudder up my spine. It seems a bit ridiculous to, on the one hand, hear today's activists paying tribute to those who went before and, on the other hand, hear this hideous word still used in polite company, let alone 'reclaimed', whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean (by whom? who for?).

Both Ellen (DeGeneres) and (Rachel) Maddow, two of the most famous lesbians in the word, to pick off the top of my head, refer to themselves as 'gay'. Everyone knows what they mean.

So here's the proposal, drop 'LGBTQIetc' and just use 'gay'. Everyone knows what you mean because we went through all that stuff which a timeline should be written about and now everyone knows that 'gay' does not mean just 'gay men' -- the reason this process started in the first place and why we now have the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. 'Gay' = that whole 'alphabet soup' plus 'heteroflexible' and whatever the next flavour-of-the-month term comes out of some University.


HT: Fagburn
Image: Uly's Comics

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