Over the weekend, I attended my first hockey game. I loved it. The atmosphere was intense and exciting and the players played a good game.
However, when it came to school spirit, it was the “Unofficial Spirit Club” that could have cleaned up its act.
Besides the profanity shouted at ear-splitting decibels just a few feet away from where children were sitting with their families, members of the “Unofficial Spirit Club” were shouting anti-LGBT slurs and holding posters to the same effect.
I know the response –- what should a student section do, if not harass the other team? They are, after all, just words.
But we use words, our language, to convey many things – information, ideas, our likes and dislikes. Words, quite literally, define our very being.
People need to think about what they say before they say it. It may be cliché, but words do hurt. If they didn’t, then insults would not exist. What would be the purpose of calling someone an idiot if the word had no power?
Without that power, insults have no meaning. Without meaning, they cease to be words and are nothing more than noise.
Words can hurt, and they can even kill. The suicides of LGBT teenagers that we see in the news come from a long and hopeless struggle these people have faced against the abuse and slander of their peers.
If we call our rivals “gay” and if the things we don’t like are “gay,” then the word “gay” must mean something bad. So when a student or a peer comes out as gay, then there must be something wrong with them, too.
This is of course untrue, but that is how language works. It allows us to interact with our world in a very narrow way, with our experience giving us ready-made definitions of the things we don’t entirely understand.
This problem is by no means limited to the LGBT community, either. There are sluts, and there are dorks, and there are worse words to call a woman, a person of a different ethnicity or anyone even a little bit different.
Language is where we start to define our differences. Language has to be where it ends.