How to be on the right side of history

Dirk Schnoes, Staff Writer

I remember my older brother bullying me when I was little. I remember him calling me and my little brother gay, and I remember not responding because “he just wanted a reaction.”

Except then he would laugh and say, “You’re not denying it!” and he and his buddies would go absolutely nuts with laughter while my little brother and I, too young to know what it meant to be gay, but old enough to know it wasn’t a good thing, went off to hide somewhere so he would leave us alone.

It’s sad to think about those memories, but it’s worse to know that they aren’t just memories.

People still do this. People still think it’s okay to say “that’s gay” or “what a fag” or make any number of derogatory comments just because they feel like it. Even worse, a lot of people don’t realize how offensive they’re being.

Using terms like “queer” goes with the same principle as the n-word—I’m white, so I won’t use it. The n-word is a reclaimed term, which means only those who have reclaimed it can use it without being inappropriate. If someone who wasn’t part of the LGBT+ community yelled, “Hey, queer!” at me, it would be uncomfortable, at best, and lead to a fight, at worst.

Think about white people using the n-word—that cringe it gives you? Same thing when straight people call someone “a queer.” If you’re not queer, then please, for all our sakes, don’t make an idiot of yourself by using our term. You wouldn’t say “what a Jew” or “that’s so black,” so don’t do it with our terms, either.

Aside from using derogatory terms, a lot of people often let their curiosity get in the way of their manners.

I’m transgender. I bind, I wear baggy clothes, and I’m boyish. People mis-gender me a lot, which is annoying, but I don’t always pass and that’s okay. What isn’t okay are the invasive questions about what “parts” I have or what “parts” I wish I had, what my “real name” is and “when I decided I wanted to be a boy.”

These are very real, very rude questions I’ve had posed to me, and I’d like to point out that unless you want in my pants then you don’t need to know what’s already in there, and if you were trying to get in my pants, asking me about my “parts” is a very quick, very permanent way of ensuring that you never have the chance to find out.

Now, maybe this all sounds a bit harsh, but there’s really no other way to say it. My body is my business, no one else’s, and unless we’re all going to start asking everyone about their “parts,” then it is NEVER appropriate to ask. Even if you do want in their pants.

Honestly, wouldn’t it make you uncomfortable if suddenly people were doubting your anatomy?

So whether you’re questioning someone’s body or misusing a term, and whether you mean to be offensive or not, you’re going to come off as entirely bigoted and phobic. Maybe no one would have noticed a decade and a half ago when my older brother was in high school and thought being mean was cool, but this is 2015, and it’s about time we all got our act together. Understanding that some behaviors aren’t acceptable is the first step.

Don’t be on the wrong side of history.

Terms to Note

Queer: 1) An umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTQA people to refer to the entire LGBT community.

2) An alternative that some people use to “queer” the idea of the labels and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc. Similar to the concept of genderqueer.

It is important to note that the word queer is an in-group term, and a word that can be considered offensive to some people, depending on their generation, geographic location, and relationship with the word.

Transgender: This term has many definitions. It is frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system.

This includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueer, drag kings, drag queens, two-spirit people, and others.

Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond, or outside of those two genders.

Please Note: It is very important to respect people’s desired self-identifications.

One should never assume another person’s identity based on that person’s appearance.

It is always best to ask people how they identify, including what pronouns they prefer, and to respect their wishes.