I have a gay friend who doesn’t like the term homosexual: “It sounds too clinical…it makes me feel like I’m in a laboratory.”
He also doesn’t like the term queer because it makes being gay sound aberrant or abnormal.
So I ask him, “What term can I use?”
“I don’t mind fagot.”
“Sure. I mean, as long as it’s not a slur.”
“…but isn’t it?”
“Sometimes…of course. You can tell by the way one says it. You can just as easily call someone a homosexual derisively as calling them a fag. It’s all in the intention of the speaker, not the words itself Just call me a fagot, and I’ll know what you mean.”
The next day I happened to be wearing a very violet shirt and he made a comment about me “switching sides” to which I replied, “No way, I’m not a fagot.”
He gives me a wink and walks out the room…and it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
In fact, it felt great. Neither of us had any verbal barriers between us anymore. As long as we respected each other, the words carried that respect…regardless of the words we chose to use. Of course, in other circumstances I can’t do that…and won’t, but it was nice to be in a situation where someone was listening to the intentions of what I was saying rather than being distracted by the power they themselves assign to the words.