“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” – Natsuki Takaya
This quote says a lot more than its mere 16 words. It truly can be as simple as one word spoken by a person to you that can be completely benign or even funny, the same word can bring a sense of relief from someone else and finally the exact same word uttered by another could cause you significant pain. Not to mention the impact that tone and context have on how a word is received.
I read another great quote the other day attributed to Louis C.K.. “When a person tells you that you hurt them; you don’t get to decide you didn’t.” I love this because it speaks to the heart of this blog post. No matter how you or your loved ones identify in either both gender and/or sexuality i.e. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, cisgender, straight and so on words can and do hurt others; be that intentional or unintentional.
How is it possible to overcome this conundrum when it comes to the use of language especially language that relates to the LGBTIQ+ community? Particularly for people being introduced to the LGBTIQ community for the first time how is the best way to know what is OK to say?
Perhaps you are a parent and you are working out how best to communicate with your LGBTIQ+ child or how their language may be impact on you. What may cause offense and also what language may be difficult for you because it is unfamiliar and possibly makes you uncomfortable?
Start by taking the time to learn about language and terminology while understanding what your own reactions are to that language. There are so many resources including two of my favourite links I have provided below. The “No Homophobes” link below allows you to look at the use of homophobic language on twitter over a selected period of time. I have chosen one week for the link. Now admittedly not all of this would be used in a homophobic manner however I can’t help be shocked each time I check this site; just how pervasive these words are. No wonder these words are becoming part of everyday language. The “Terms and definitions” article is a fantastic list of terms and their definitions currently used. It is by no means exhaustive but if you are looking for some reasonable definitions this is a good place to start.
Once you understand the language be open and honest. Ask your child or loved one what they are comfortable with, do they have any particular preferences for pronouns or terminology? A simple example of this may be that it may be really important to your loved one that you refer to their significant other as their “partner” and not their “friend” when introducing them. It is also possible that they do not want to use any defining or labeling terms – not everyone does. Remember and reinforce that you are trying your best to understand and that you want to share your feelings also.
What if you get it wrong? Apologise and be honest that you made a mistake and you are willing to learn. If you receive an apology – accept it and reconnect!
It all starts and ends with connection!