Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So Gay, So Lame

I recently posted on Facebook: Do not buy lame attempts at damage control - we want repeal of DADT, DOMA & equality. Nothing less is worth our votes and dollars. Stand up. This was in reaction to an announcement that the President was going to sign an executive order granting partial benefits to gay federal employees.

So I was rather surprised when JGM, a known liberal and peace & justice advocate responded with: I find the phrase "lame attempts" to be insulting. I thought that he was simply being such an Obama supporter that he found my criticism of POTUS offensive. How do you think we have been feeling lately? I countered. I had gone to bed when the conversation continued and apparently heated up.


JK, an LGBT activist, chimed in: I think calling the offering of federal employee partner benefits a "lame attempt" is being overly kind to the administration. The lame attempt itself is what's actually insulting in this situation, given the language in the DOMA brief.

JGM: As a person with a disability, I find that talk like that insults me. I try to be as open minded and inclusive as possible, and then this occurs. Sigh.

JK: I'm sorry you're insulted. I refer to myself as "gay," so when someone says something is "gay" in a pejorative sense, I get offended. If I (and millions of others) didn't identify as "gay," I wouldn't care if people used it negatively. But if you identify as "lame," then I'm truly sorry.

JGM: I am not lame, but have many friends and colleagues who have an impediment to their walking. I care when people use words pejoritively (sic).

Ah. I got it. While it is a pity that JGM took offense on behalf of his friends and colleagues, I am not sorry for my choice of words because “lame” to me does not identify or equate to a particular group of people. The word was a perfect adjective for the action being taken by Mr. Obama. “A lame excuse” for instance is a well worn expression. Thus my surprise at JGM’s reaction. Suspecting that we were not the only ones having this exchange, I googled “people with disabilities ‘that’s so lame’,” and the first link I got was to a thread on this very topic.

Apparently, someone had written:

… does anyone actually use “lame” as an epithet for the disabled? I understand offense toward use of the word “retard,” “cripple,” and lots of other offensive reductive terminology used exclusively toward people with particular conditions. But “lame” is a valid and, frankly, potent and important descriptor that does not merely attach to a class of people … lame has important connotations that have nothing to do with perception of disabled people. When someone says “man, that was so lame,” there is not even an intimation of: “I link that in my mind to someone with a disability.” Whereas in a phrase like “don’t be such a fag,” the original epithet, though arguably not the primary intent (and even if you don’t buy that defense, as I usually don’t, I believe people are genuine when they employ it), is still completely linked via a complex system of homophobic associations …“Lame” is too evocative and useful to be deemed off-limits for a “secondary” offense (toward disabled people) that simply has no powerful connection in the minds of people who use it to that particular target.

I’m disabled, and roll my eyes so hard at people (usually the able-bodied) lecturing people about using the word lame. According to the great internet dictionary, this is what lame means: disabled so that movement, especially walking, is difficult or impossible. That’s me. I’m lame, and no, I’m not offended if you say that Creed is lame. Or hell, even something that is good, like cake, is lame. I wish people would stop splitting hairs over minor (and kind of meaningless) things like this, and focus on the ways in which people actually do discriminate against disabled people.

That is so lame is not quite the same as that is so gay.

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