I am learning something about words. Something that, as someone who uses a lot of words, didn't know. This fact has been bubbling around just below consciousness for a long time but finally came to light over the controversy over Yunel Escobar a Toronto Blue Jays baseball player who wrote, in Spanish, "You are a f*ggot" in white on the eyeblack on his face. Until this happened I didn't know that that swatch of black that players put on their faces underneath their eyes was called "eyeblack" and was used to help stop the sun's glare. But the existence of a word for what that was didnt' surprise me, because up until now I thought there was a word for everything that was and anything that isn't now but will be soon will have a word assigned to it. I thought that was kind of how language worked.
But the apology, or really non apology, by Yunel Escobar taught me something else. (I say non-apology because he essentially said it didn't mean anything and he was apologising only because he had to not because what he did had meaning.) In hearing the story and hearing Mr. Escobar say that f*ggot is just a word ... and not only that a word that didn't mean anything ... I realised that this is exactly the argument that people who use words like the 'r' word and other similar words use.
"It doesn't mean anything."
Ah ha! I realised. Here's my problem. I think that words have meanings. But apparently I am wrong. There are words that have no meaning at all! Who knew? What an odd concept a word that's a word but isn't a word at all! So that would mean that Mr. Escobar, when he chose to write those words ON HIS FACE, thought that it would be fun to write a bunch of nonsense syllables as a kind of manly make-up.
In reading about this kerfuffle I did have a laugh out loud moment. Mr. Escobar stated that he had gay friends who weren't offended and mentioned specifically the guy who decorated his house and the guy who cuts his hair. Talk about playing into stereotypes! Talk about not acknowledging power, people employed by those with power are NEVER offended by what their employer does because offence would mean firing or punishment. So I guess 'POWER' and 'PRIVELEGE' and 'STEREOTYPES' are words that have no meaning in Mr. Escobar's vocabulary. With a vocabulary of sounds, not words, I wonder how this guy orders a burger.
In case I was wrong, I did do some research before writing this blog today and I looked up the term "f*ggot" in my dictionary and was surprised that it didn't say: a two syllable nonsense word having no meaning. In fact it stated clearly that it was a word with meaning but also with intent: hurt.
As a gay man I react almost viscerally to that word. It is a word that has the stench of blood attached to it. It's a word that has killed and maimed. Dead teens tie a rope to the word and hang dead dangling from it. It's a word that bruised me in spots still tender from the damage.
Mr. Escobar, I, for one, do not accept your apology. I, for one, call you on your lie. You did what you did with intent. You used a word with the intention of hurt. You refused to apologise for what you did. What you wrote had meaning, what you said after in apology did not.
Here's a word.
Look it up.
It has meaning.
And to the Toronto Blue Jays. I am deeply ashamed of having the name of my city attached to your team. Deeply. Ashamed.