or: Queer Words and the Asshats Who Willfully Don’t Get Them
[TW for transphobia]
From time to time – more or less often, depending on the circles you run (or type) in – you run into that type of phobe who just loves his dictionary.
Now, I like dictionaries. I love them. I love etymologies and rare words and books that are fucking ginormous. I love a lot of things about dictionaries.
But dictionaries are written to the middle, and their definitions often marginalize and/or completely ignore entire populations of people. Let’s take this definition of marriage from Merriam-Webster (online) shall we? [All the definitions – or lack thereof – in this post are from Merriam-Webster, as it is at least one of the dictionaries of record for the English language.]
a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>
I bet you dimes to dildos that definition wasn’t written by a gay person.
But what does this have to do with Big Mama Schlomo’s fabulously queer modern life?
Yesterday, I tweeted about the trasnsphobic attempt at boycotting Girl Scout cookies because of the acceptance of a trans girl. A user who seems to have joined Twitter for the purpose of transphobic ranting tweeted back:
Aside from being incoherent, equating a trans girl with a devious cis boy is uh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Or, right. Transphobic. And I told him so.
Now, I shouldn’t have fed the troll. I know that. And I’m going to let sleeping phobes lie (that’s why the username is cropped out), but something…possibly my second drink last night…made me write back:
(Obviously transphobia is worse than bad grammar. But this femme shakes her funny-maker, ya know?)
And that’s when I get the dictionary defense. The dictionary defense, for the record, is what I call it when someone says “that’s not what the dictionary says about my fuckery, so it’s not fuckery!”
Now, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a jillion times: words change. Girl used to mean child, magazine comes from the Arabic for storeroom, and thou was the informal form of address back when peeps used it on a daily basis. Words change.
As a word nerd, I know that homophobic and transphobic are not the single clearest words in the English language. Transphobia and homophobia are not phobias in the sense that arachnophobia or triskaidekaphobia are.
Not that this stops phobes from telling juries that they got so freaked out by finding out that a person was gay or trans that they just had to kill them. This even as a name and a Wikipedia article – the gay panic defense.
Most English-speakers associate phobia with this kind of psychological fear (terror, dread, etc.) – so, if a phobe says he isn’t afraid of trans* people, he thinks that’s his get out of phobe free card.
Now here’s your dictionary back atcha. Merriam-Webster does not define the word transphobia, but it defines homophobia thusly:
irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
See that last bit? That’s the part you’re evincing, fucknugget. Has English had to expand its understanding of phobia a little because of concepts like transphbia and homophobia? Yes. But English shed some the understandings of phobia when it adopted this word, too. For instance, φόβος, the Ancient Greek root word, also meant fleeing as well as awe. Words change.
The dictionary defense is horseshit. And ya know what? You’d think that people who discriminate against whole groups of people because of some characteristic or other would be proud of it. I mean, why would you spend millions of dollars and countless hours of your time to preserve and propagate hate if you weren’t proud of it?
Might transmisia (trans-hatred) and homomisia (hatred of homosexuals) suit you better? Well, if you love rooting around in those old Greek dictionaries, you go right ahead. But don’t tell me, until you decide to adopt these words, that hating trans people makes you anything other than transphobic.
The following are words my friends, I and others use around concepts of gender and sexuality on a daily basis which do not appear in Merriam-Webster.
And all of the following had sucky definitions:
gender bender: a person who dresses and behaves like a member of the opposite sex
asexual: devoid of sexuality
drag queen: a male homosexual who dresses as a woman especially for comic or theatrical effect
femme 2: a lesbian who is notably or stereotypically feminine in appearance and manner
Isn’t it neat how people with power can write us out of dictionaries and then use their dictionaries to point out how we don’t exist but somehow simultaneously they’re totes chill with us?