Sunday, January 09, 2011

redefining homosexuality

There was nothing offensive in this love. That is to say, it wasn’t homosexual.

That’s from Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan. The narrator is referring to Salo the Tralfamadorian’s love for Winston Rumfoord. Salo is an alien robot. A sexless alien robot, the text is at pains to emphasize. Rumfoord is human. The novel was published in 1959.

Homosexuality was, by definition, offensive. It’s true that Kurt Vonnegut frequently has a tongue lodged in a cheek, so one might suspect that Vonnegut was being over the top intentionally in equating homosexuality with offensiveness. That he was being ironic, even. On the other hand in 1959 few would have gotten the joke, if joke it was. Most readers of the time would have just nodded, or, perhaps, felt relief that the love being spoken of was not that nasty kind, but the kind purer even than het sex, the kind in which no sex is involved.

These days we gay folk refuse to be considered offensive merely for existing. We’ve made some progress. Though the abundant use of words like faggot and cocksucker and the ubiquitous That’s so gay! to denote the offensive, the unacceptable, the pathetic, the disgusting, means that Progress requires an asterix. Yes, we can legally marry in a few states, but our essential beings are still definitionally wrong. It’s a cultural embed so deep some who use the words just mentioned will claim they mean no insult to gay people, the words, they say, have nothing to do with homosexuality! They’re just taking advantage of a word everybody knows is bad, disapproving, ugly, that, in fact, that’s all they mean to express – disapproval, condemnation, disgust.

Well. You can be stupid. And stupider. And stupider yet. But how much brain damage do you have to sustain to be that stupid?


Art Durkee said...

Hear, hear.

What offends me the most is that so much of that stupidity is by choice. Ignorance can be fixed by education. WILLFUL ignorance has no excuse. It's just bigotry at that point.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Indeed. The people who insist on their right to be wrong with an ugly vehemence and pride in their incompetence get to be president sometimes.

Art Durkee said...

Breaking blog news, thought you might want to know about this:

martine said...

A very interesting post. Language is very powerful and the words we choose to use or not to use and the words we hear used around us impact in all sorts of subtle ways. I tell myself I should challenge people more when I hear that kind of language but am often nervous of sounding sanctimonious.
best wishes

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I followed your link, Art. Ugh. You waded into the idiots' den there. Oh, the Left! The Left! I've never heard vitriol like that from the Left! Oh it fair made my heart beat fast! Frank Wilson & Paul Davis, added to my Don't Bother to Read list.

Martine, I think many a queen has chosen the right strategy in using the cutting remark to fight back against the belittling remark. Vicious sarcasm does not come off as sanctimony.