The Things Context Can’t Excuse

I did a bad thing today. I lacerated society’s face.

Before I get to that though I need to talk about another incident that happened last week in a Dublin Spar shop. A lot of you may be familiar with this event, but for those of you who aren’t here’s a summary:

Spar Guy

Spar Guy

A man, ‘Colm’ was in queuing in a Spar shop when another customer called him a f***** whilst his girlfriend sniggered on. That customer and his girlfriend were then refused service by a Spar employee – who’s now known as  ‘Spar Guy’ after ‘Colm’ posted the story online afterwards.

You can see the description ‘Colm’ posted on the right.

Colm, the target of the slurs had his own set of  select phrases for the aggressor – “D4 Head” and “Scaldy Hun” – which he has since apologised for, but you can understand his feelings when posting. Being publicly ridiculed for being who you are is not okay, so fair play to the Spar employee for standing up for him.

This week I perpetrated my own act of homophobia, despite being accidental, and unfortunately it was by no means an isolated one.
I was in a lecture hall during a break, with a bottle of juice, Volvic fruit juice with a ridiculously large lid opening at the top. I proceeded to complain about it, quipping the only two ways I could drink it risked spillage or risked looking like a f****t. You can guess the slur there.

I didn’t mean it in an offensive manner. I didn’t mean it as a way to ridicule homosexuals. I simply meant that it misrepresented my own sexual preferences.
The context behind my usage of the phrase was by no means deep rooted in a dislike or even disrespect for gay people, it was just a horrible one that the world around me uses and that came to mind first. Which is not excusable.

I spent the entire day embarrassed at the word I’d used. The joke itself got laughs which was pleasing for the short term but the long term consequences were guilt and shame. I spent the entire day embarrassed. I knew for a fact there were gay people in the room, some openly and possibly others still closeted.

That simple little throwaway comment could have vastly deferred or even  stopped altogether another person coming to terms with their own identity. It could have forced them into a life of denial.

It’s not  a sign of hatred all the time, just a relic of a past state. Homosexuality was illegal 20 years ago in Ireland, and that is where the “D4 Head” got his attitude from. In my case it was growing up in a country that deems it okay to use slurs on a whim as if they meant nothing.

Let’s look at this in terms of how far we’ve come in the last few decades. There’s been a revolution. The attitude of a nation, at least on the face of it, legally and socially has taken U-turn. But despite all that’s changed there is a lot of residue, a lot of hatred and ignorant bigoted attitudes left over. The children reared in the habits of the last generation are the parents of this so some habits were likely to slip through the cracks.

I am absolutely in the corner of Homosexuals, Bisexuals, Pansexuals, Transexuals, Asexuals and every other colour on the spectrum I haven’t specified. I think it’s great that they can finally be who they are without fear and it should never be any other way. I think all of us should be able to express ourselves without society looking down on you.
There was no harm intended by the word I used, but more could have come of it than I possibly could have conceived at the time it slipped through my lips.

I’m using this piece as an apology to all of you out there who I may have affected. I owe something to society from it.
I’m also writing this to emphasise the importance of  consideration of what words you use. Sometimes you just can’t cite ‘context’ as an excuse, that’s a cop out. You wouldn’t use the N-word anymore, so why would the homophobic equivalent be acceptable?

To some of you out there, I’m truly, deeply sorry. To the rest, I must appeal to you; Eradicate these terms from existence, acceptance. Because as long as we’re using them, society will never heal.

If you liked this piece, please follow and share! If you have anything to say I welcome comments.

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