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Driving up the M1 on a Tuesday morning and my radio is tuned to BBC Radio 2. It’s breakfast and Chris Evans is playing his usual song of the day, ‘How do you like your eggs in the morning‘. There’s a line in the sound that suggests mayhem would be caused if a hug or kiss was not exchanged. The lyrics, along with a smile, made me think about how innocent songs once were, and about lost words and lost meaning.
The word used is mayhem, one we seldom hear these days, a state of disorder or disruption in a song about eggs. The closest we have to that purity these days is the innocent sound of Katie Melua, and even she can get a little sexual, teasing us with fingers running through her curly locks. Songs once seemed similar, not like the “sexually imposing” (to put it mildly) thrust of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred lines’. In times gone by songs even used the word gay in, with gay under its more traditional meaning rather than men who sleep with men. Lost words and lost meanings got me conversing over how our language has changed today from forty or fifty years ago, especially the word gay.
A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to be asked to take part in a radio debate on homophobia and hate ‘crime’. The first question asked was ‘what do we think hate crime is?’. Several variations of the same concept were discussed. Abuse, both verbally and physically, an offence caused, or intimidation that makes someone feel uncomfortable about who they are, people who feel victimised, all because of their sexual orientation, race, gender, age, disability or religion. In discussion the question was raised around name calling. Is it a crime or a petty act of someone’s self-indulgent behaviour to intimidate someone through words? Well, I think it is all dependant on the word itself.
One example given was of being called gay, and how the connotations of the word lead to it causing offence. To me, being called gay is just slightly antagonist and someone wanting to get a reaction, or stating the obvious as much as calling someone who is straight, straight, right? I mean why should the word gay be seen to be offensive anyway?
These days the adopted phrase ‘that’s so gay’ still does the rounds as one to describe something deemed stupid or ‘lame’, but think back to the original origins of the word gay. Jolly, happy, jovial, a positive term of celebration. So gays unite, c’mon, why not reclaim the word that had such an innocent meaning years ago?
Now I’m not saying that sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me, that’s simply not the case. Research shows that offenders of hate often start with verbal abuse and lead on to physical violence. Words do hurt, but is it a crime, or an excuse for us to say hey, you’re the stupid one and ‘that’s so gay’ is a compliment? Maybe we need another mainstream artist like Rihanna to write a lyrical masterpiece on how wonderful the word gay is and how wonderful it is to be gay, unless of course she wants her music banned in Russia. Let us say to those who throw the word as an insult to us, that we don’t care, because we are neither lame or stupid, but we are in fact proud to be who we are.
Let’s confuse society even more and use the word gay in its former meaning, and stand proud as you speak it aloud. In fact I challenge you to drop into conversation five delightful words of which we just don’t hear used in 2013. #wordsrevival
If you do think you have been on the receiving end of abuse or bullying because of who you are, it’s always important to report it. Reporting doesn’t have to be as a crime to the Police if you feel it isn’t warranted, there are numbers to call in confidence where your incident(s) can be logged too.
The London Lesbian and Gay switchboard has more information on reporting homophobic and transphobic abuse at www.llgs.org.uk.