ManTalk: Say what you will

I’m an honest person. Well I like to think I am. I often get in trouble for saying what I want, where I want and not thinking about the consequences of it. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying someone has a nice bum and not thinking about how they or others will react.


That’s why I always find it strange when people are afraid to say what they feel for fear of offending someone. I recently spoke to a friend who told me about her experience of the same problem. Her friends would not call someone black in front of her, she herself being black, in case they would upset her.


Perhaps this is because of the perceived notion that terms and phrases that have been appropriated or re-appropriated by, for example, the gay or black community, exist solely for the use of these people.


Who decides who can use these terms? I’m aware that some terms carry with them long histories and connotations that have changed through the work of the communities that use them freely now. In the creation of these communities, certain fantasy themes are developed, with the birth of fantasy terms that carry a shared meaning within the community. That is why I might say something, as a straight white man, that could offend others, even accidentally.


But are all members of these communities allowed the same access or freedom of use of these fantasy terms? Is one gay man allowed to use a word but another gay man, outside of the defined community, also given permission to use the same word? Would I, as an ally, also then be allowed to use it? Or are there different rules for each letter of the LGBTA?


People should not be afraid of what words they are or are not allowed to say. To quote the good book, that is to quote Harry Potter, “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself”. How can one culture accept another if it has to tiptoe around it?


Chris Kennedy

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