Don’t Excuse Me, Please.
You may have seen the furore caused by Labour Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn’s use of the word ‘choose’ twice in a speech to the LGBTQIPA community recently. I have traced an interview with JC and the speech in full, in which the wording and context become clearer. The Labour Party press office spokesperson stated in a comment to Pink News that “Jeremy clearly doesn’t believe that being gay is a choice. He obviously meant people should be able to choose how they live their lives.”
That is not good enough for me and more saddening was the litany of excuses that people were coming out with to explain and minimise, to excuse and, in the end, to silence those people who were angered by the wording. The litany in and of itself shows the importance of the use of language and the meanings both implied and inferred. That’s what this blog is about.
Here are some quotes from just one debate on Facebook, as an example and without use of names to protect the guilty (all sic):
“Bollux..this is just another way of turning people against him…fuck sake , however he chose to word it is his way..people are sometimes too bloody sensitive to speaking PC language”
“ …and it is a choice.. we are born and make choices…whether it be sexuality, diet, thoughts, behaviour ,musical taste…”
“Jezza is coming from the place he feels passionate about. He’s not a bloody God, he’s human and if he worded something ‘slightly’ different from how other people would then so be it. Stop nitpicking at everything … His intentions are in the correct place. Grow the fuck up people. Peace!”
“Being attracted to men or women is a choice…spirit/emotion of a person is what your own spirit connects with.”
“We should all be mindful of not becoming too petty over an unfortunate choice of words / deliverance .. and stay strong ,supportive of his overall intention surely?”
“A shitty ‘mistake’ but we need to keep striving for the ‘bigger picture’ and not getting so overly sensitive to and distracted by pettiness.”
When those making such comments are questioned about their words, responses included:
“I respectfully disagree [to someone stating Jeremy Corbyn’s use of the words was casually homophobic terminology]. And for the record im absolutely not homophobic.”
“I hear you, yes, however maybe focus on healing your own strength and internal peace instead of looking for someone to blame … 💖 That’s how it comes across sometimes.”
“I’ve just had attacks in my direction for expressing something I think to be fine. If that has been misunderstood then I can’t help that, I haven’t meant to offend . This is why fb fucks me off.. keyboard warriors . #misunderstood”
“I have no problem at all with any of it. seems as though you enjoy the whole victim vibe and are ‘assuming’ I mean something I don’t. even now.”
“What I see here is you enjoy the platform of attention and arguing. And right here mocking what I’m trying to explain, like I’ve stated in other topics with other people, I guess I’m a bit crap at explaining myself in a way that is understood.”
“Your attitude is like that of a bully, and I know youre not that. That’s how it’s coming across ..you know who I am so I ask that you don’t label me as being and meaning something that’s not true.”
“And to add to your sentence about when you told me you were ‘gay’ , so what? I don’t care who or what you are..your choice.” (my bold)
“Ahhhhhh privilege….that’s the next argument then ? Us and them Etc… Well I disagree….and maybe you could wind your neck in a little too…. I’ve had plenty of stuff I’ve had to stand for that I’ve been bullied/persecuted for over time…..or are you saying your situation is more important than mine ?”
Read through the above quotes carefully. Look at the wording, comprehend the implications, and the inferences you may be making. Note how any challenge to the inferences is met with turning around on the person challenging, without stopping to take a moment to try to reflect on what the people challenging who are of the identity about which the wording ‘choose’ has a direct oppressive effect. It’s an insular, ego-centred form of thinking which is not partisan in politics or ideology. All of us, including me, have this propensity. For me, it lacks empathy which is what I consider the fundamental condition of us as humanes (‘e’ deliberate).
Note the use of words such as ‘petty’, ‘mistake’, ‘unfortunate’, ‘PC language’, ‘too bloody sensitive’, wind your neck in’, ‘looking for someone to blame’, and my favourite, ‘grow the fuck up, people’. This comes from people who define and present themselves as left-wing, open-minded, caring people who don’t hold any form of bigotry within themselves.
Don’t make excuses for this or any other type of benign bigotry, because that is an oxymoron. No bigotry is benign. Don’t do it for even the most liberally and/or left-minded person. Don’t do it especially for them; it’s a creeping toxic subconscious bigotry which begets and legitimises the more extreme actions and words). Don’t make assumptions about what a person ‘might’ have meant, you don’t know that context and you can equally assume the worst with just as much validity. Don’t excuse me or anyone else, please.
Don’t even say JC meant it was about the choice to live openly as an LGBTQIPA identifying person. The use of choose or choice in the language used is still problematic because it is still about stating one has to choose to live one’s life in honesty and openness with oneself and those around you, and all the crap that comes with it through prejudice. This doesn’t happen if you choose to live true to yourself if you are straight.
It is privilege not to recognise the impact of the words. They are harmful.
Living true to one’s sexuality should NEVER be a choice or have to be expressed as one. Telling anyone that their truth to live who they are is in any way a choice takes away the responsibility of anyone privileged not to be in those discriminated against groups to examine their own attitudes and understand what they are saying, believing and the impact it has on other’s lives. I am shocked that this is not being understood. That shock too, is my privilege.
We all have some form of privilege. Don’t excuse actions or word because of that privilege. We may not be to blame for our privilege but we do have the responsibility to address it. Don’t excuse me from my responsibility, that just puts the responsibility on those who are discriminated against. You must not, you should not and you cannot.
Whether I am leader of the Opposition or Prime Minister, your friend, your family, your parent or your child, don’t excuse me, please.