Words are funny things. In and of themselves, they are pretty neutral. It’s only because of the meaning we imbue them with that they become charged. Take, for example, the word faggot or fag. In America, it’s a derogatory term for a homosexual man. In England, it’s a cigarette. Originally, it meant a stick.
In addition, who uses the word make a big difference as well. Queers can use it; non-queers cannot. Many people outside the community (any community, really. Look at the word nigger as a very explosive example) don’t understand why it’s ok for a gay man to call another gay man a fag, but it’s not ok for the non-gay man to call him that.
I used to work for the county, and I did diversity training. I said something about being bi and that those of us in the queer community, blah blah blah. I got two emails informing me that someone outside the community should not use the term. I emailed back and said that is correct, but as I am in the community, I can use it. However, I realized that using it would bring up issues that were not relevant to the discussion, so I changed it to GLBT instead.
As I have noted many times, I love words. I love saying them. I love reading them. I love learning new ones. I love using words that may not be a part of every day conversation. In fact, I know so many words, I sometimes don’t realize that a word I’m using isn’t in the American vernacular. For example, the word ablution. I love it, and I use it whenever I can. However, I have had several people ask me what it means, so I took a poll of the smartest people I know: my family and friends (and my therapist). To my surprise, only one person knew what it meant. That amazed me. I mean, I just assumed it was a well-known word. I was wrong.
To be fair, I most often ran into the word while reading British mysteries, but still! Could it really be that outlandish of a word? Apparently, yes, it could be. That got me thinking. What other words do I use on a regular basis that other people don’t even know? I already censor myself so that I only use about a fourth of my vocabulary. Would I have to cut it back even further?
Some words I like because of the way they sound. My favorite word is deliquesce, and I don’t ever get to use it. Esoteric, lugubrious, sonorous, and melancholia are but a few. The way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, but the way to this woman’s heart is through words.
Having established my vocabulary creds, I am going to take this entry in a completely different direction just because I can.
Words define. That is what they do. So, the words I choose to define myself are very important. As a kid, I refused the Asian nomenclature because I was American, damn it. I had the Farrah Fawcett feathered bangs and the powder blue cable-knit sweater to prove it! Plus, blue eye shadow (a note to my Asian sisters, go easy on the blue eye shadow), lots and lots of blue eye shadow. Then, when I realized that I was, indeed, Asian, I shunned the word American and hung out exclusively with Asians. Once I integrated the two, I reclaimed Asian American (more specifically, Taiwanese American) for myself. I think about it every few years to see if I still find it apt, and I have kept it thus far.
Next up, feminist. When I became aware that I was a woman (in the metaphorical sense, of course), I simultaneously became aware that the word ‘feminist’, like ‘bitch’ had mostly negative connotations. In fact, they were pretty much interchangeable–meaning an uppity woman who didn’t know her fucking place. I heard so many women say, “I’m not a feminist, but,” or, “Well, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist,” in tones of apologia and cringing deference. I decided early on that I did call myself a feminist, damn it. To me, it was pretty simple. Women should be treated equally (not the same, but equally) as men. Women should have equal opportunities in life. Women shouldn’t have to adhere to proscribed roles (which, ironically, allows men to break free from traditional gender roles as well). The feminist movement meant, to me, that as a woman, I was free to choose my own path in life. If I wanted to wear a mini-skirt because I had nice legs–I would. If I wanted to wear sweats because they’re more comfortable–I would. If I wanted to wear lipstick to simulate the appearance of being in heat–I would. If I wanted to wear lip balm just to soothe my chapped lips–I would.
Sure, those are superficial attributes, but they have meaning. I knew this dyke who was puzzled by me because I was artistic and creative, but I loved watching sports. In addition, she said I *had* to be a femme because I had long hair. I shrugged my shoulders and dismissed her words because to me, being any kind of ist meant being the person I truly am with all the messy details rather than try to stuff myself into a little box so others could take a heuristic measure of me. In other words, in accepting the designation of feminist, I was expanding my persona, not constricting it.
Next, my sexuality. I have struggled with this one because I don’t really feel one thing or the other. I am not straight. I am not a lesbian or a dyke. I am bi, to a certain extent, but I see myself in a relationship with a man, not a woman. I like the word queer because I am strange and weird as well as sexually deviant (said with tongue firmly planted in someone else’s cheek). Pansexual just sounds odd. Omnisexual and ambisexual doesn’t cut it, either. I am not monogamous, but I don’t like polygamous, either. Polyamory is better, but not quite right. I use bi out of default, but I prefer to say I’m sexual and a hedonist. I think those two words in combination come the closest to describing my sexual nature. I will use bi in a pinch, but that doesn’t feel like it really fits any more.
My journey through my religious/spiritual nature has been equally nuanced. I was born a de facto Christian. I never felt it–ever. When I first realized I was going to die (age 7), I had a hard time believing in the Christian God who was full of compassion and all that shit. When I could understand what the Old Testament really meant, well, let’s just say that I didn’t want anything to do with that God. He reminded me of the supposedly-pagan gods of Greek and Roman mythology, what with the smiting and hating and jealousy and all. As for the Virgin Mary, Greek and Roman gods impregnated human women, too. Zeus/Jupiter did it with appalling regularity. So, what’s the difference, really?
When I dumped God, I was angry, bitter, and hurt. I took every opportunity to lash out at Him, angrily denouncing Him at every turn. It made for some very heated discussions with my mom who was just becoming reborn around the same time. Vengeance was MY name, motherfucker, and I wanted to make Him very aware of how much I hated Him.
As we all know, hate is just another way to be deeply enmeshed with someone. Since I Hated Him with a capital H, I spent a lot of energy and time cursing Him out, sometimes, taking His name in vain in order to do so. Oddly enough, I was more passionately engaged with Him in my hatred than I had ever been in my devotion to Him (which rarely got above zero).
It took many painful years for my rage to subside. When it did, I realized that there was no Him there. The Christian God did not exist. Therefore, there was no reason to expend energy in His direction. I started dabbling in other faiths such as Wicca. I tried to say goddess rather than god, but it felt contrived to me, so I dropped it pretty quickly. Organized anything has never been my thing, and that was never more true than in the realm of religion. I saw all-too-clearly how easy it was for the masses to get riled up.
Just today, I took a poll on FB asking whether Under God should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. 80+% said no, and the reasons given were specious. “Zomigod! Our country was found on Judeo-Christian principles you Islofascist pigs! We need to get back to God’s Law!” Except, everything was in caps, which made it REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT. I did a simple post about seperation of church and state and how “under God” was not added to the pledge until the 1950s and that people should really know their history before spouting off such shit. I didn’t say shit, and I didn’t list the ways this country has used Christianity to justify atrocities we committed (see, slavery, for example), but I was thinking about it. I ended by concluding, “Otherwise, we are a theocracy which is what we decry in other nations.” I was restrained, but disheartened at all the Christian nation crap.
Anyhoo, I have never been an atheist because I believe there is something bigger than me and thee. I believe in evolution, but I have a hard time believing that there wasn’t some kind of laissez faire hand at work in creating the universe in the first place. To me, believing that there is nothing bigger than us requires more faith than it does to believe in the Christian God. So, I have settled on agnostic, though that’s not quite right, either. I called myself an agnostic deist for a brief period of time until I realized that I just cannot commit to any kind of god figure. Agnostic is good enough for now.
As usual, I am running way long, so I will end here and pick up the thread in the next entry.
P.S. Picture above was created at the site, Wordle (www.wordle.net) using the words from this entry. It is fucking cool.