Recently when I was visiting The Medium office to pitch an article idea to a friend I was confronted with an unpleasant situation. Two individuals sitting at the center desk in the office were casually using homophobic language.
“Don’t be a fag” one said.
“That’s faggy” said another.
I wasn’t sure the context of the conversation but I instinctively interrupted from across the room to make them aware of my discomfort anyway:
“That language is inappropriate, please don’t use it” I said. “It’s offensive”.
What happened next was utterly unexpected. Before the people I’d addressed could respond, an editor from the Medium spoke up:
“Excuse me, but did you really need to do that” he said. “You can’t police the world. My friends were having a private conversation and what right do you have to interrupt.”
We debated this subject in the office but I would like to share my opinion again here.
The use of casually homophobic language, while the intent is often not to be homophobic is offensive and does have the potential to really hurt people. That is why I feel it is necessary to interrupt: so that offensive and hurtful language does not continue to be perpetuated in everyday vernacular. It is important to be conscious of the power of words and that words like fag can be triggering for members of the LGBTQ community. Personally, I have had the word yelled at me from car windows, had it used with an accompanying threat because I was holding my partners hand on the street and had it used to tell me I will burn in hell. It’s been used to make me feel like I am ‘other’ and that I am less than human because I love who I love. The word makes me feel unsafe, uncomfortable, unwanted, and that is why I feel compelled to actively disapprove of its casual use. Perhaps I could of used more tact in my disapproval and not spoken up from across the room, but I firmly believe it is important to speak up and hope others like me will continue to speak up, so that one day no will have to experience that feeling of being unsafe, uncomfortable or unwanted especially in a space like The Medium which should above all else be a positive space, both for ideas and for people.
Before I close this letter I would like to state for record that the Editor who spoke up was arguing against my interruption, not necessarily defending the use of the words and that the two individuals whom I had interrupted, interrupted our debate to apologize, and seemed sincere in doing so. I bare The Medium no ill will over this incident, but I felt it and the underlying subject matter needed to be addressed.