People are introduced to a wide array of ideas while growing up. When a person is younger, all they can hope to do is sift through all of these ideas with input from family, friends and the society around them, picking and choosing which ideas are the most reasonable to them. In a perfect world, as we continue to grow, we will temper these ideas that we’ve acquired with the experiences we’ve endured outside of the classroom and our living rooms. The end result, ideally, is a well-rounded person always balancing both an idealistic and a pragmatic approach to the world, realizing that very few things in life are black and white and that no single idea ever exists in a vacuum.
I’ve been a lot of things in the past decade of my life; A passionate atheist, an internet libertarian, and someone who supports the freedom of speech so much it would make Penn Jillette blush. A lot of my views over the past have changed, sort of. They don’t really completely change or morph into other ideas, so much as they begin to change shape based on what I observe in the world around me. You find out, as you grow older, that the ideals that you hold to be true don’t always play out in predictable ways in the real world, which is why it becomes necessary to allow experiences to shape the way you perceive and interact with the world you live in.
If you’ve seen any interviews with me in the past 2-3 years discussing my views on language, you’re most definitely familiar with my position on offensive language. Have any of my personal views on language changed in the past year or two? Idealistically, no. Pretty much every thing I’ve said I still stand by, ideally. One thing I’ve learned, more than anything else as I’ve grown, is that we do not live in an idealistic bubble. So why bother bringing it up if my views are more or less the same?
Let me tell you a story. Maybe you can relate – maybe you should relate to it but you don’t even realize it, yet.
About a year and a half ago I was chatting with a few friends. These are guys that I’ve been friends with for a long time and, for the most part, they’re great people. We’ve played games together, talked and joked together, watched SC2 tournaments together, so on and so forth. However, after one of them started making a few too many gay jokes, I noticed something about him that I didn’t really pick up on before – he was genuinely homophobic. Not homophobic in a “I want to vote against gay marriage and murder gay people!” sort of way, but homophobic in a “I would never be friends with a gay guy and I genuinely think that being gay is a negative personality trait.” I distinctly remember one of the lines he said towards the end of the conversation, “Wouldn’t want to be a faggot now, would we?” followed by the usual laughter before we all departed and went our separate ways.
I was really uncomfortable thinking about things that night. I’m sure I’ve made similar statements in the past. In fact, I’d wager that I’ve said probably those exact words at one point or another in my life. I’ve used faggot as a pejorative, a term of endearment, a random, nondescript adjective…you name it. I’ve always felt okay saying it because I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t a homophobic person. I have the classic “I have gay friends” card up my sleeve and I can even pull the “I have gay friends who constantly use the word faggot and support me saying it” card, as well. I have all of my views on language that I’ve detailed over and over again in the past to support me being able to use that word, and I’ve never felt out of place arguing its usage in public.
I don’t like the fact that legitimately homophobic people might find comfort in me using the word “faggot”.
I am a very inclusive person. I would never imagine turning someone away from either a fan event or a group of friends or a conversation just because they’re of a certain race or sexual orientation. And I’m saying that because I have always been like that, not because I run some team and I want you to write good things to my sponsors, not because I’m trying to win any public fan contest, not because I support diversity, not because my boss or manager is telling me to say it, but because I legitimately love playing games and talking about music, and if anyone shares those hobbies with me I want to have the chance to talk with them about it.
I’ve said it a few times on stream that I’m working my best to cut some words out of my vocabulary from now on. Of course if you watch my stream enough you’ll still hear me slip from time to time, but I’m only human and this is a really hard habit to break. I’m just not comfortable knowing that there are genuinely racist or homophobic (or transphobic or anti-anything) people out there who feel like they are finding acceptance of their asinine and inane beliefs due to a word I might use. It’s something that’s so upsetting to me that I will go a bit out of my way to avoid it happening.
I’m not really looking to change anyone’s opinions or argue with anyone over their own personal beliefs. A lot of people believe that you should be able to use whatever words you want, and that words are only words and shouldn’t hold any intrinsic, negative power. Others argue that the history of a word can be so powerful that the impact of saying that word is inescapable, regardless of context. While I believe both sides have legitimate points, I’m not addressing either side in my post here. I’m not even going to attempt to make a case for either argument.
I’m only offering you perhaps a different way to look at things, and maybe the opportunity to look at the things you say in a different light.