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Op-Ed

7 Offensive things said to LGBT people (And yes, they matter!)

As a lesbian, contributing writer Tamsin Wu encountered a lot of common words used mistakenly in Filipino consciousness regarding LGBT people. “While the Filipino society is relatively ‘friendly’ to queers, it still uses a dumbed down language in understanding LGBT people,” she says. “This needs to be addressed if we ever want to see an advancement with queer rights in this country.”

Out of civilization came the birth of language, and out of language came the evolution of civilization. There are thousands of languages used today including the variety of dialects spoken in each country and culture. Sure enough, language is a creation of man. If observed more closely, language also creates the consciousness of man. As such, it is crucial that language is spoken, written and utilized effectively for it is a very indispensable tool for man to comprehend the surrounding universe.

Languages differ in kind, structure and style. It varies from one country to another, from one culture to another, from one medium to another, and from person to person.

You can say a lot about a person based on how s/he talks – the accent, the body language, facial expression, the choice of words and the intention behind them. You can get a good idea of that person’s background, personality and whether or not you can stomach listening to him/her during a casual conversation. On a macro level, language says a lot about society – its character, its values, its predominant intellect and its progress. This can be seen in reality, as well as in fiction. Think about 1984 and The Giver. Both stories depict a society wherein the government or the elite controls language in order to manipulate humanity. They know that language can oppress, seduce, liberate and program the human mind.

The structure and style used in language is the flavor to the meat that is the choice of words. In Philippine society, there are a number of language subcultures used by distinct types of people. For example, a Jejemon can be spotted one text away; a conyo known when they start talking with their ghastly usage of Taglish; manyaks walk by as they throw a vomit-worthy leer and a grotesque, inappropriate comment about a lady’s physique; professionalism recognized in a person through the words s/he uses; and so forth. Whatever language you use and however you choose to use it paints your reality. Used collectively, it shapes the prevailing sentiment of human organizations.

As a lesbian, I’ve encountered a lot of common words used mistakenly in Filipino consciousness regarding LGBT. While the Filipino society is relatively “friendly” to queers, it still uses a dumbed down language in understanding LGBT. This needs to be addressed if we ever want to see an advancement with queer rights in this country. People need to get educated. Well, education IS a huge problem in this country, but I digress…

Thus, I present seven common idiotic questions and comments made by people who, unfortunately, do not know better. These things are listed below with sarcastic explanations, seemingly directed to the person who says such comments, as to why they’re offensive because clearly the Almighty Being has not made humans intellectually equal. Let us forgive them. But more importantly, let us awaken them from their backward thinking and poor tongue. They have been misguided, uninformed, misinformed, intellectually deprived.

  1. Tomboy.
    It is simple English. Why you no understand?! Tomboy refers to girls who act boyishly or who enjoy activities or styles considered masculine, but it doesn’t necessarily mean lesbian. Lesbian, on the other hand, refers to a girl who is attracted to another girl. Plain and simple. Do not call a clearly feminine woman, regardless of her sexual orientation, a tomboy. If you’re into labeling someone, be smart about it.
  1. Sinong lalaki sa inyo? (Who’s the guy in the relationship?).
    Uh… last time I checked, we’re lesbians because we’re both girls in a relationship. I wonder how you passed Elementary without knowing the difference between the genders. One more thing you should know, sexual identity is not synonymous to sexual orientation – i.e. sexual identity (Male/Female); sexual orientation (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, et cetera).As the saying goes, “Asking who is the MAN or the WOMAN in a same-sex relationship is like asking which chopstick is the fork.”
  1. ‘Di yan lalaki, babae yan (He’s not a guy, but a girl).
    Refer to #2, you poor thing.
  1. It’s just a phase.
    You’re implying that an important part of my identity is just a temporary stage in life, something flaky. That all my struggles to rise above the ignorance of society are just a trivial moment in life.You are saying that I am too dumb to figure myself out. You are telling me that my lovely relationship is not going to last long because we’re gay. Surely, gay relationships don’t last long and straight relationships do!What I hope that’s a phase is your ignorant mentality. Bless your empty-headed soul!
  1. Sayang ka (You’re a waste).
    Obviously offensive but some people feel they have the right to say it. So my existence is a huge waste because I’m gay. It doesn’t matter what success I have, what character I’ve shown, what capabilities I can offer, what good intentions I have with people. The meaningfulness of my life boils down to my sexual orientation.That comment also shows how narrow the tunnel is that is your brain. Oh no, don’t follow it with “ ‘cause you’re pretty or handsome”. What is your point? That all straight girls are beautiful? Clearly not. Are all straight men handsome? Nope. That I should also follow the worn out path of getting married to the opposite sex and have babies because that is the path to true happiness? What a foolish thought. Following an insult with a compliment doesn’t make it less of an insult. You gorgeous, dumb- fool, good for nothing, you.
  1. You just haven’t met the right girl (to a gay person)/guy yet (to a lesbian).
    I could say the same to you. You just haven’t met the person who’ll turn you gay. Better yet, you probably should find the right person who’ll crack your skull open to let the light in. And ye shall be enlightened!
  1. You don’t look gay.
    What does gay look like? Oh, wait, I know you. You’re one of those people who fall for stereotypes. Those who think that all gay people look like Vice Ganda and all lesbians look like Aiza Seguerra. Clearly, you haven’t lived enough. Go out and see that people can look however they want to look regardless of what gender they fall in love with.I know that lesbians aren’t represented well yet in our local media. Hence, allow me to introduce you to a few known lesbians who fall in a spectrum of looks that comprise the female race. Yes, you’re welcome!Miss Spain 2008 Patricia Yurena Rodriguez 

    The Real L Word cast representing the many faces of lesbianhood Financial guru Suze Orman

    Iron Chef Cat Coras with her wife and kids

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    And of course, who can forget the power lesbian couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi?

It is sad to say that, at times, the above comments are also exclaimed by some queers. Regardless of sexual identity or orientation, the use of wrong language is due to a dire lack of knowledge with regards to expressing the appropriate words. The serious effect of which is the spread of mistaken descriptions about the psyche of the LGBT community. It’s one of those reminders that I’m living in a society filled with flawed thinkers. I’m aware that sometimes it is just said for comical effect – a bad, senseless joke. However, this does nothing but propagate the false notion of narrow-minded people that we are uncertain with our sexual identity, and in turn, uneducated people are left further confused.

So, please, speak only true and affirming words. Be aware of the false semantics used only to ridicule.

Lesbian author Rita Mae Brown said, “Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.” It is the key that can speak to people’s minds and hearts. Words can rule and destroy nations. It can hypnotizethousands to kill, to worship, to help, to hate. It can encourage the soul to flourish, to love, to open up.

It can lead to change. It can lead to a better, enlightened tomorrow; or a mindless, mediated society of consumers. Think about it.

Think about the words you use next time you are so curious in getting to know a person who happens to be gay. That person has a story. That person has substance that’s much bigger than his/her sexual orientation.

If you can think about that and understand, then good for you, as well as for the rest of humankind. If not, remember that silence is golden. Stop your contributions to noise pollution.

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