Friday, April 25, 2014

10 Life Moments That Built My Character #5

5// Learning the influence of language and word choice

It was the Halloween haunted house at my high school and I was in the medical ward room with a group of my friends.  This haunted house took up several hallways and the gym of our school and was a really popular weekend event.  In-between tour groups, we would sit on the medical cot and around that area and talk about life. We were talking about something and I said, "those shirts are gay." Immediately my friend Keith punched me in the arm and just stared at me.  I then realized that I had "slipped" and used the word gay in a derogatory fashion in front of a dear friend who is gay.  I put slipped into quotation marks because before that I don't remember necessarily being aware of what I was saying.  People tend to be cautious around others to monitor their language when it affects that person but otherwise they don't necessarily care.  It was in that moment that I realized that it absolutely was not okay to use a harmful word.  I wasn't trying to be politically correct, I just wanted to be a good friend.  It is never ok to let degrading or demeaning words into your vocabulary because they carry a history of harm and cruelty.
In the high school example I used earlier, their words and actions hurt me and they believed it was ok.  Hurting other people for your gains and amusement is bullying.  I choose not to use words like gay and retarded because it puts people in a box, instead of celebrating who they are.

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