Derogatory words have been used against us since the Semitic religions began, including that aberration of true Christianity, the Pauline version normally accepted as mainline Christianity today. The favourite among gay-bashers is "queer".
And in the last ten years or so, our own word for ourselves, “gay” has been purposely hijacked in America by the homophobes with the object of turning it into an insult. Don't let them play that game with us.
Demeaning terms are used to somehow dehumanise us. Give us an appellation that somehow implies we are not proper people, but somehow weird and "sick", and the next step is you can abolish our freedoms, put us into concentration camps or insane asylums, impound our property, hang us, burn us at the stake (in France only 400 years ago, gay men, if they weren't upper clergy or high aristocrats, would have their tongues torn out with red-hot pincers before being burnt alive - to make sure they didn't confess and thus get into "heaven").
As someone (I think John Lauritsen - find him on the net) has written, the last thing a gay man hears, before he has his teeth kicked in or his head smashed open, is "******* queer".
There are several, used by what Christopher Isherwood called "the enemy". Australians used to call them "squares". I call them "heteros" or "dismals". Some still cling to "normal", as though we're abnormal.
I am astounded at the glee with which some gay people have decided to "reclaim" some of these insulting appellations, "queer" being their favourite.
"Gay" is the word that we were using to describe ourselves for decades, perhaps for centuries, and until 1970s, without the Dismals' being aware of it. The word is not a variant of the word that means light-hearted and carefree, though I am sure that overtone is always present, because it does describe us, too.
In this sense, it is cognate with the German and Dutch word "geil", pronounced differently in the two languages and meaning "horny" (US) "randy" (British); this relationship makes me wonder just how long the word would have been used in the perforce secret gay world before it surfaced generally in gay bars and pubs throughout the English-speaking world in the 1920s, when gradually the threat of persecution was receding. We know it was used in the 18th century to describe something sexually off-colour.
English and German or Dutch were last mutually intelligible almost a thousand years ago, but there have been several waves of German and Dutch immigration into England and Scotland since then. As I do not regard myself as "twisted", "crooked" "queer" or "bent" and the heteros as "straight", I describe myself as "gay", and avoid the pseudo-clinical term "homosexual" when I can, as I do not regard myself as "sick", either.
· 8 years ago