Other that some passing linkage, I haven’t weighed in on the controversy surrounding actor Isaiah Washington and his use of the F-word twice in the last three months on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” and at the Golden Globes. The New York Times summarizes the events. Given that there has been lots of commentary, I think I should say something.
For me, the use of the words “faggot” and “dyke” are as unacceptable as using the N word. Having been the victim of a violent hate crime in which I was repeatedly called a dyke (an event where I was threatened with death and where I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be killed) I’ve had a particularly strong reaction to the word ever since, no matter who uses it (I’m still pissed as hell at that being called that recently, and still intend for there to be some accountability for it eventually.)
There are souls out there in the universe for which the words “faggot” and “dyke” are the final words ever they heard as they were beaten and killed. For that reason alone, I don’t think the use of them should be taken lightly, and I think trying to “rehabilitate” the words diminishes the suffering of those souls.
People who use these words with malicious intent should be shunned in the same way that we ostracize and revile people who use the N word. I care about free speech too much to suggest that there are words that should never be used (I think the fact that we censor “swear” words is egregious to say the least) but I do think we can institute social consequences for bad behavior where legal ones are not appropriate.