Well, hoe-lee crap did my last column thwack a hornets nest or what?! The angry responses are still swarming in.
The column was called, “Sons of Lame-Archy.” In it, I razzed the concept of biker clubs and gangs. The part that caused the brouhaha was a digression in which I lamented that none of the gay biker-gang names I saw online had any of that queer flair I love so much, like—and I don’t mean to re-inflame—“Hell’s Anals, The Sodomites and The Mangols.”
I meant no offense. They were just the kind of flamboyant biker-club names that I thought celebrated homosexuality, the kind of gay-biker-gang names that said, “In your face, homophobe! We are no longer going to ride in the closet!” The kind of biker gangs I would join if I happened to be gay or even entice my hypothetical gay biker son to join when if he was old enough.Among the swarm of angry emails, tweets, Face-pastes and blog-floggings were several responses from staffers of San Diego Gay and Lesbian News (SDGLN), including publisher Johnathan Hale, who reported my column to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and assistant editor Morgan Hurley, who tweeted that “There is NO appropriate context for those types of words,” and wrote a column in which she criticized me for, among other things, not apologizing. That’s when the bees really started buzzing.
And while I received a lot of support from members of the LGBT community, a lot more sent very angry, accusatory missives, all of which boiled down to one or all of the following questions 1. Is Ed Decker a homophobe? 2. Is it ever permissible to use bigoted epithets? 3. Does Ed Decker owe an apology?
1. Is Ed Decker a homophobe? Not even close. My queer-friendly street cred is airtight. For starters, I have written dozens of columns in which I ferociously argued in favor of gay rights and viciously attacked its enemies.
Second, I, too, have been a victim of homophobia—in the workplace. True story: The company for which I worked at the time had transferred me to a new store. For reasons that don’t matter here, I was favored by the supervisor (who was thought to be gay), and an assumption spread that I, too, was queer. It didn’t take long before I was uniformly outcasted, ridiculed, sabotaged and—get this—poisoned.
Last on my list of pro-gay cred is the fact that—wait for it—some of my best friends are gay. Yup. I said it. Some of my best friends are gay. Why shouldn’t I say that? If I hang out with gay people, it sort of defeats the whole homophobe concept, no? Cases in point are two of my closest friends in the world, Danielle LoPresti and Alicia Champion (founders of San Diego IndieFest), who have appointed me as godfather to their newborn son, Xander Lucian, and have asked me to be a bridesmaid in their upcoming wedding. I haven’t decided whether I should go in drag; regardless, if a man agrees to be a bridesmaid in lesbian wedding, well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be long before he gets kicked off the Fallbrook Annual Aryan Homophobic Apple Bob and Barbecue Planning Committee.
2. Is there ever a time when it’s permissible to use bigoted epithets? Great question. Answer: Yes.
Ms. Hurley likened the FGGT-word to the N-word, which is a reasonable comparison. She also said that it was “never, ever” OK to use these words, which means I need only one example to prove her wrong. Of course, I have many (such as Louis CK’s hilarious and obviously non-hateful bit about the FGGT-word), Lenny Bruce’s various uses of the F- and N-words, but my favorite happened about a year ago, in the live-music bar where I worked.
That night, we had a touring band consisting of members of different lineages—two Africans, two Mexicans, an Arab, an Asian and a couple of crackers for good measure. When the night was over, the band and some of their friends drank at the bar while we bartenders stocked beer and closed shop.
Once we were all sufficiently intoxicated, one of the band-friends pulled out a camera-phone and announced that it was time to play the “Shout the Most Offensive Racist Slur You Can Think Of” game. Apparently, this is something they did after every show on the tour. It was an easy-enough game. Everyone took turns shouting the most outrageous racial aspersion they could think of, followed by a round of uproarious laughter, hugs and backslapping.
I don’t think I’d ever laughed that hard. There was something so freeing about it—especially the shouting part—as if the slurs were ostrich eggs we cracked against the wall and watched all the hate and anger—the yolk—of those words harmlessly dribble onto the floor.
When the camera pointed at me, I stopped what I was doing and shouted, “Niggers don’t tip!” The two bruthas leaped up from their stools and high-fived and hugged and complimented me for such exquisitely hateful hate speech—all of which felt so good I wanted to leap over the bar and make out with them both.
3. Should Ed Decker apologize? No, he should not. Because it would be the most bigoted thing he could do.
After having spent the last 17 years razzing Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Scientologists, Africans, Asians, Arabs, Latinos, Caucasians, Republicans, Democrats, athletes, musicians, sports fans, pot snobs, beer snobs, snob-snobs, women, men, cats, dogs, bikers, bar customers, bartenders, waitresses, MYSELF, my writing, my looks, my family, my friends, flight attendants, cartoonists, parents, children, cheerleaders and guys named “Chaz” without a single “sorry” to share between them, wouldn’t it be patronizing to apologize now? Wouldn’t that assume gays and lesbians need coddling or special treatment? I mean, yes, absolutely, I am “sorry” that my words have been hurtful to some, but I do not apologize, because I did nothing wrong.
That said, I don’t want any apologies, either. For those who called me a “homophobe,” “bigot,” “hater,” “enemy to civil rights,” “ignorant” and “filth peddler,” warned me to “watch my back” and spread my column around the country to stoke a response—no apologies necessary. In fact, I’m stoked by the ferocity of your response. I’m stoked that you mobilized against what you perceived to be a hateful voice, stoked that your days of taking shit and cowering in shadows are over, that you’re increasingly more willing and able to shout, “In your face, homophobe!” Honestly, I’m so happy about that it makes me want to leap over the bar make out with each and every one of you.
Epilogue: The letter from GLAAD
After I’d written the first draft of this column, I received a cordial, non-reactionary letter from GLAAD’s senior media strategist, Adam Bass:
At GLAAD we believe that a couple of your fictional gay biker group names used terms that were unnecessarily offensive. The satire of the column was not lost on us, but we believe the jokes could have used different words to get the same point across.
The letter went on to ask that I not use words like “faggy,” “sodomite” and—this one took me by complete surprise—“homosexual.”
Because of the clinical history of the word ‘homosexual,’ it is aggressively used by anti-gay extremists to suggest that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically / emotionally disordered…. Please avoid using ‘homosexual’ except in direct quotes.
Here is my unabridged response to him:
Thank you for your fair and reasonable letter. As a life-long hater of homophobia, I understand why so many in the LGBT community took offense to some of the language I used. However, I must respectfully decline your request as I am a firm believer that what really matters in these situations is context.
A good example is the revelation (to me) that the word “homosexual” is now on the list of words I am not permitted to use.
First of all—and again, I say this with utmost respect and with no desire to offend—I do not recognize GLAAD’s authority over my vocabulary. My opinion is that there is absolutely nothing offensive about “homosexual.” It is—by its etymology—exactly what it defines, with zero innuendo. Homo means “same” and homosexuals are people who are sexually attracted to members of the same gender. It just couldn’t get any less offensive than that.
I mean, if we’re going to start indiscriminately banning words, I can think of one that is far more offensive than “homosexual,” yet is embraced by the gay community. The word is “homophobe” and here’s why.
I think you would agree that the word “homo”, as a noun (not a prefix), is currently considered as one of the more offensive anti-gay slurs. Well the word homophobe takes the word “homo” puts it in front of “phobe,” creating a word that means “fear and/or loathing of homos.”
Whoever coined the word “homophobia” didn’t know what they were doing because an etymological breakdown of the word shows that the word is actually made up of a prefix (homo as in “same”) and a suffix (“phobia” as in fear) without a root word.
Technically, homophobia means “fear of the same” which doesn’t make a lot of sense, unless, you know, it is applied to someone with an irrational fear of cloning.
But that’s not what the coiners were doing. Whoever coined it was using homo as a root word – as in, “that guy is a homo” – and attached it to phobia, making homophobia more of a slur than homosexual. However, it doesn’t have any anti-gay baggage so it remains acceptable – proving that context is what matters.
I also took issue with the reason GLAAD says “homosexual” is off the table, that it was “aggressively used by anti-gay extremists.”
Well, sure , any word can be aggressively used by extremists, even polite ones, or, in this case, clinical ones. That’s the point. It’s not the word; it’s the context. And the reason that “homosexual” is the next word on the chopping block is not because there is something wrong with it; rather, it’s that there is something wrong with the way some people use it.
If we ban “homosexual” and make “gay” the appropriate term, bigots will eventually start saying “gay” with contempt, and in 10 years we’re back to the same place, banning “gay” this time in favor of the next acceptable word, and the next—killing word after word without understanding that no matter how many words we kill, the bigots live forever.
Thank you so much for your letter and the cordial tone with which it was written. I have great respect for GLAAD and its endeavors. Let me know if you need the gratis services of a spunky writer—I’d like to chip in.
San Diego CityBeat