Our words have deeper meanings

After reading James Boutilier’s letter below, I found myself thinking what I have said to countless others. The use of homophobic slurs, regardless of the intent behind them, is inappropriate. Period. The fact remains that the words, whether used in casual conversation or with the intent to harm, carry serious negative baggage that no one should be subjected to.

I hear students shout for equality and respect, and then turn around and use words that hurt others on the same grounds. It is unjust, and sometimes you need someone as bold as Mr. Boutilier to point a finger.

I find it particularly unnerving that students and even younger people are hurting each other in this way. University is supposed to deepen our knowledge and broaden our understanding, not make us shallow and narrow-minded. Nowhere more than at UTM are we introduced to people from all walks of life, and everyone here eventually learns the meaning of respect and acceptance—except, it seems, in the case of the LGBTQ community.

It’s often argued that terms such as “fag” and “gay” aren’t derogatory because they’re said without consciously attaching them to a group of people, just a behaviour. As comedian Louis CK said, “You call someone a faggot for being a faggot”; he didn’t even know that the word referred to gay people, let alone that gay people existed.

But it’s hard to swallow the idea that we are so naïve when we say these things. The words have a history and a connotation—one that hurts the people they’re associated with. As Mr. Boutilier expressed in his letter, as I’m sure most LGBTQ can attest to, it made him feel “less than human”. I can’t imagine how that feels, but I do know that every time people discriminate against a group they slap a label on them, to be used thoughtlessly and to make them seem “less than human”. As Toronto’s own Margaret Atwood wrote, “A word after a word after a word is power.”

It pains me that this incident took place in The Medium’s office. I should make clear that the two individuals taking part in the conversation were neither our staff nor our volunteers. I hope their apology sticks—and that they understand the effects of their words.


Michael Di Leo

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