Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The words we choose to use can do more than hurt!

I am revisiting a blog I wrote the other day re Mr Key’s use of the word ‘gay.’ I know he has offered an apology of sorts, but I have had time to think more about what he did and I am still uncomfortable.
I work as a counsellor and I regularly hear my clients use the word ‘gay’ in the same manner in which Mr Key did. I also know that many of the teachers in the school try on a regular basis to challenge kids when they hear the word used in the same context; that is to put down an idea or an action of a fellow student.
Mr Key is correct when he says that ‘gay’ is used in a throwaway context and that it is now in common usage. I also know that many people have informed him of his mistake and something tells me that he may well think before he makes the same mistake.
I want him and others to realize the negative effects this ‘usage’ has on a significant number of our young people, never lone other sectors of our people. What do you think a young person, struggling with their sexual identity (and believe me, there are many in this position) or who has a gay parent, friend or relative, thinks?
That simple abuse of the word can damage and hurt, way beyond the intent of the speaker. I deal with students who are self-harming because of their battle with their identity and the feedback they get from others significant to them. When they hear this ‘misuse’ they are knocked back, put down and further threatened.
I can hear people saying that young people should ‘toughen up’ and get on with their lives. These people need to remember their own teenage years when they had doubts about ‘who they were,’ and I am not necessarily talking about sexual identity here. Why would we want to add yet another ‘obstacle’ to young people’s already difficult journey, when the answer is with us--- think before we talk?
There is another more cynical side to my thoughts. John Key went along to the ‘Big Gay Out,’ an annual event held in Auckland where people gather to celebrate diversity and to gain strength and support. Some of our politicians go there. They know that the ‘Pink’ vote’ is a sizable one, so they attend and hope that their presence will translate into votes. I suggest that the gay community will take a bit of convincing that Mr Key is genuine when he attends the next one, if he dares.
OK, we need to move on, but please Mr Key, as leader of our country, try to create a positive example for all sections of our society. I know you have apologized and I think you will not repeat this stupid mistake. For the rest of us; let us continue our fight to have all members of our society included in a way that values all. For those of you who want to stick your fingers down your throat, because my words represent a ‘softness’ that you are incapable of feeling --- go ahead. You may feel better for it!

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