Annoying words

I struggle with the aesthetics of words.

Homosexual is an ugly word. It sounds ugly. It has no euphony, no harmony.

It has the antiseptic ugliness of medical jargon. It sounds like a heading in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Which it once was.

It’s even got an ugly etymology: faux Greek spliced onto faux Latin.

And it’s the word that the intolerant love to use.

I’ve never liked gay as euphemism for homosexual.

It’s not as ugly as a word. But it was a delightful word that I used to describe myself – before I realized I was gay. I hated that it was appropriated to describe something that took the gaiety out of my life.

Even now, I have a hard time with gay  – and particularly gay woman – to describe myself. Yes, it’s up there in the header (“God-fearing gay geek girl”), but for its alliteration. But I think of gay as a word for men.

When I was in the closet, I didn’t like lesbian, either. I’m not sure why. I thought it sounded ugly and antiseptic. Not as ugly as homosexual, but ugly. Not as antiseptic as homosexual, but antiseptic.

Maybe it was just the baldness of, “I’m a lesbian.” No matter how firmly I say it, it sounds like I’m admitting to a sexually transmitted disease. (My Love likes to joke that if you ask a Harvard undergrad where he goes to school, his answer will sound like he’s admitting to a sexually transmitted disease.)

But I’m reconciling to lesbian. I’ve come to like it. I like the sound of it, now. I like the baldness of, “I’m a lesbian.”

Then there are queer and dyke and faggot. I hate those words, absolutely.

I understand that people use them self-referentially to denature them. I understand that people use queer to encompass the whole range of non-heterosexuality.

But they are plain ugly words, hateful words that I’ve heard, spittle-flecked, through clenched jaws. Maybe I hate them out of shame that I protected my closet by not objecting to them.

The funny thing is, this blog is the only place that I regularly use any of those words. It’s not that this is the only place I’m comfortable with them.

I’m fully out of the closet. I’m not ashamed of what I am. I’m happy to admit it, to confirm that I love – am engaged to marry – a woman. Everyone at my firm knows I’m a lesbian. Everyone in my family. All my friends.

I don’t make a point of it. I don’t need to. I don’t feel a need to correct people or to get annoyed at heterosexual assumptions. After all, heterosexuals outnumber us somewhere between ten to one and fifty to one, even here in New York.

Perhaps this blog is the only place where it’s an important part of my persona.

At work, the primary element of my persona is engineer. Lesbian or even woman is irrelevant. To my landlord, the primary element of my persona is tenant or rent. At church, it’s Christian or member. To my Love, it’s fiancée or sweetie. To my family, it’s daughter or sister.

I look back through the posts on this blog and see that I am becoming more and more comfortable with lesbian. I’m beginning to like it.

Maybe it’s that I’m only now beginning to think that I’m entitled to use it. It’s been less than a year since I first allowed myself to think of confessing my secret to another woman. And now that woman is my fiancée.

Maybe it’s that other bloggers that I follow – or that follow me – are so comfortable with lesbian. You’ve been using it a lot longer than I have. You seem happy with it. You seem happy to let me use it.


20 thoughts on “Annoying words

  1. I love this, because just like you I had so much problem with words. I used the word “gay”, well “gay girl”, for many years, since I felt the word “lesbian” was incredibly… well, vulgar. I’ve changed my mind now and I can use gay and lesbian interchangeably which for me is very nice. I still don’t like the word homosexual though. :/ But like Belinda Crane said: we are free to use whatever words we want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think that you’re describing assigning words to your coming out experience. Even words that are pejorative have a different ring as you embrace who you are, how you see yourself, and how you relate to others in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. True. Although I first heard lesbian used pejoratively (by my mother), I never thought of it as an insult. But embracing being a lesbian has also resulted in embracing the word.

    I don’t think I could ever embrace homosexual. It’s just too ugly as a collection of sounds. Besides, as Ellis said, the etymology is just barbaric.


    • It certainly is! Two years ago, I’d not have thought so. A year ago, I was just coming to understand that the concept that it embodies is beautiful. Now, as I’ve written elsewhere, I wouldn’t want to be anything else.

      And I’ve come around to loving the word, “lesbian”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I went through the same progression of labels and who I wanted to see when I looked in the mirror. I’ve written about many of them. I still don’t have myself all figured out, but I’m accepting that it’s okay to try labels on for a while to see how they fit. In the end I guess I don’t care what you call me, as long as it isn’t Late For Dinner. Ha!

        Liked by 1 person

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