There is a petition campaign underway to recall our County Sheriff. Sheriff Arpaio; known locally, by friends and foes alike, as “Sheriff Joe”, has been described as controversial and has become known nationally for his actions here in Arizona.
I have no intention of blogging about Sheriff Joe. To my mind, support for the Sheriff is among those rarest of all political issues; a clear case of right vs. wrong. There is so little basis for common ground that the debate is futile. He is hugely popular and was overwhelmingly re-elected to a 5th term. We live in a society with (relatively) free elections so I express my values at the ballot box and hope for better times to come. It also helps to watch “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” for the 200th time so I can hear Ms. Hepburn say my favorite line; “People who think that way are wrong to think that way. Sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always, ALWAYS wrong.” But I digress…..
Larry Klayman, an attorney and Arpaio supporter with ties to the Tea Party and ‘Birther’ activists (movement?… community? – I’m not sure how to refer to ‘Birthers’ collectively), has been threatening to mount a legal challenge to the recall effort. In a recent email, Mr Klayman referred to William Fisher, chairman of Respect Arizona, the group organizing the recall challenge, as a “Homo”. Mr. Klayman followed the epithet with a euphemistic reference to his own testicles. Respect Arizona is calling on the Sheriff to denounce Klayman’s comments. Uh huh; I don’t see that happening.
This and other current events, prompted me think about anti-gay ‘hate-speech’. I don’t know Mr. Fisher’s orientation. <Insert Tallulah Bankhead quote here.> I don’t think Klayman was really talking about Fisher’s sexuality. It’s just one of those things some people say to show disrespect; a term of derision. Some day we’ll live in a society where political discourse rises above the level of elementary-school-playground name calling. As I said, better times to come.
Mr. Klayman didn’t intend his email to be public. I don’t think that matters. We’ve heard worse spoken directly into the microphone by activists with a lot more prominence than Larry Klayman. And this kind of polemic is not limited to one end of the political spectrum. ‘Right-wing’ folks are more likely to use epithets relating to sexual orientation or race but I’ve heard activists from the ‘left’ use terms to describe evangelicals and NRA members that could hardly be characterized as high-minded eloquence.
As a gay man, of course, I have a heightened sensitivity to the use of homosexuality as basis for derision. But, candidly, as ‘hate-speech’ goes, “homo” is pretty tame. He could have used the “F- word”. I think that is easier for many homophobes to say than to write. They look really dumb when they spell it wrong.
Hate-speech is bad for many reasons but what offends me most, in this case, aside from the whole acting-like-a-12-year-old thing, is the banality. “Homo”? Really?? Surely Klayman could have chosen something with a little more panache.
‘Fairy’, ‘Poofter’, or ‘Bum Chum’ would have been whimsical but I don’t think he was going for a light-hearted tone since the following sentence, after the reference to his testicles, was “Let’s Go to War”.
I’ve always liked ‘butt-pirate’ and ‘bum bandit’. They have a swashbuckling character and conjure a sense of adventure. That’s probably more romantic than he was hoping for.
‘Nancy-boy’ conveys a continental sophistication and Python-esque wit but it assumes the reader understands ‘nance’ as a verb. This is not a common usage in Arizona.
‘Queen’ is an option but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that term used to describe a gay man by someone not also ‘in the club’ <nudge nudge wink wink>. That, along with his apparent focus on bringing his testicles into the discussion, might have sounded some warning bells at Tea Party Central.
I checked the Online Slang Dictionary for other possibilities. I was surprised by the number that I’d never heard. In some cases, like “shirt lifter” or “peter puffer”, I understand the reference even though I’ve never heard the term used. Others, like ‘jobby jabber’ or ‘lemon'; are completely inscrutable. If the reference is too obscure for me to understand it is unlikely the average Tea Party activist would have gotten the meaning; making the testicle reference that followed even more bizarre.
I noted three others; ‘bear’, ‘cub’, and ‘girlfriend’. In all three cases I think using them would have implied a level of familiarity with the gay community he was probably not hoping to convey. (See ‘Queen’ above.)
I guess he was going more for directness than literary style. That makes sense. He is a serious, conservative political activist talking about important issues. I guess ‘homo’ was the best choice afterall.