Saturday, June 8, 2013
The Power of Words
One of the most powerful things on this earth next to ideas, are words. Words enable thoughts and ideas to be spread, emotions to be shared with others, and they allow us to communicate and coexist with others. Words can raise or topple empires, inspire vast populations to action, or convey the love someone has for another. I'm sure all of you already know these things, as we've heard this before in popular culture.
What got me thinking about this topic was an article I read in the Huffington Post recently, which talked about Sexual Orientation. Now, being a Lesbian myself, whenever Sexual Orientation is a part of a news story, I try to find the time to see what is going on. I'm nosy, and I like to stay current on what is happening in the world today, but mostly I'm nosy. So, this article among dozens was your typical discrimination story about a young, newlywed, gay couple who were being persecuted by small town, narrow minded, bigots, the usual. What caught my attention was the use of a term, Sexual Preference, instead of Sexual Orientation. Now I have seen this tactic before, typically used by people who are against gay rights. They try and supplant Sexual Orientation with Sexual Preference, that way it sounds more like a lifestyle choice, and less like a biological happenstance. So, I decided to surf your average Republican, Right Wing media to see if I could locate other such similar usage of this particular term, and sure enough, almost every right wing article I could find threw out terms such as; Sexual Preference, Lifestyle Choice, Gay Agenda, with a very heavy emphasis on Gay men and almost no mention of Lesbians, with the exception of painting us all as a bunch of man haters who were sexually abused growing up, but that is a different argument for another time!
Instantly, I knew exactly what was going on here: Conservative, Right Wing focus groups realized they were not going to win the battle against gay rights, so long as people believed it was a natural, biological inevitability among any given population. The only way they could possibly sway the undecided public was if they could paint sexual orientation as a choice, or preference, rather than as it truly is; an orientation. So, Sexual preference here, lifestyle choice there, and the words act as cue's for people to continue thinking that being gay is a lifestyle choice, making it much easier to demonize, ostracize, and persecute. I mean, how do you attack someone for being born the way they are?
That got me thinking, why do so many Gay and Lesbian people still use that terminology, when it is so obviously harmful and patently untrue? I suppose it could be a cultural habit, if someone were born into or raised in a community where Sexual Preference and Lifestyle choice were the most common ways of describing Gays and Lesbians. I think it is important for us to be cognizant of the words we use, because there is a complete difference between Sexual Orientation and Sexual Preference. Now, it is true some people are bisexual and some of those who are bisexual may have the ability to choose which sex they wish to be involved with; However, most bisexuals as well as those who fall in the heterosexual and homosexual sides of the spectrum are how their biological makeup tells them to be. Sure, they could force themselves into the opposite role, for example; a Gay or Lesbian person could enter into a heterosexual relationship, as a means of attempting to "fit in" or out of fear of being discovered, but this doesn't change their inner sexual orientation. In fact reputable, scientific and medical studies have shown people who engage in relationships contrary to their sexual orientation suffer emotional, and psychological damage as a result of living the lie. It is sad, people still feel the need to do this to themselves, out of fear of being honest for who they truly are. As a society we should be ashamed.
So words do have power. Talking about Sexual Preference, instead of Sexual Orientation is enabling ignorance of the issue to continue and if you want to talk about a lifestyle choice, religion is a lifestyle choice. Why should someone’s religious lifestyle choice, affect my ability to have equal rights because of my sexual orientation? Being a bigot is a lifestyle choice, being a Republican especially in today's Teapublican Party is a lifestyle choice, being a Liberal is a lifestyle choice, being vegan is a lifestyle choice, being gay is just how we are born. We put our pants on just like everyone else, one leg at a time, except when we do it, we do it with Style!
Kinsey, (2009, March). Kinsey's heterosexual-homosexual rating scale. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction Web site: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/research/ak-hhscale.html#what
University of California - Riverside (2009, June 17). Same-sex Behavior Seen In Nearly All Animals, Review Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/06/090616122106.htm