“Homosexual” is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it.
— H. Havelock Ellis, “Studies in Psychology,” 1897
Tag Archives: language
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.