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Some Lessons Learned from Employing the “S” Word

I received two negative comments about employing the S word in my recent article on gun control, both from gay men. One was truly fiery and somewhat over the top; the other was more gentle and went like this: “Oh man I got called sissy a LOT growing up as a gay kid in the south. I wish the reverend – whom I love – had chosen a different word. (Since this is social media please let me add that I am not “outraged” or “offended” – it just stings a little).” My response was this: “My effort is to turn the tables on uber macho gun ideologues.  It’s irony.  Don’t take it personally but as satire.  People who need guns to strut their ego are the sissies, not gays.”

Actually I was alerted by my web person when she first saw the article that some gay people might find the “s” word offensive. But I insisted on using it anyway because I wanted to make a point—or points. What is that point (or two or three)? First, that I am very reluctant to commit to censoring words or to political correctness and especially in communities that have suffered cultural oppression. That can be the easy way out.

I think it is a more sound political rebuttal, rather than to shut down our vocabulary, to turn it around. That is what I was doing in that article—it was an Aikido-like move—I was taking a term that had been used in a derogatory way against gay people and turning it back on the perpetrator types. The “s” word of course is the word sissy. I have learned that, while not surely as offensive as the “n” word toward black people, it causes some of the same wounds to be opened and thus can be hurtful. I am of course sorry if any reader was hurt by my use of the term.

But again, language is highly political and we do need to be sensitive in our use and we do need to be careful of surrendering words for others to interpret and misinterpret. Being sensitive is not always the same thing as doing nothing or hiding words; sometimes to be sensitive might mean to take the word back and use it on those who are actually deserving of it. And that is what I did in my article—I took on the uber macho attitudes of the gun lobbyists and their enablers (Marco Rubio, Governor Scott, etc) who don’t dare to question the pseudo power trips of those who relish and apparently need for their miniscule egos an AR15 in their hands for some reason or other. I called them sissies and I still do. These politicians do not have the moral or political courage to stand up to the shadow side of the gun lobby.

“Sissy” is a strong word; that is why I am reluctant to turn it over to others. Let us take it back and apply it where needed. Refusing to stand up against guns that kill kids deserves some strong words. Politicians basking in their hypocritical pious words about “thoughts and prayers” while they vote 100% with the NRA deserve some strong words. A coward is a coward, cowardly morality is cowardly morality. Such people are moral sissies.

When I was called “sissy” as a kid I would usually try to punch the perpetrator in the face or wrestle them to the ground. I don’t remember always winning the fight but at least I shot back. That is what I was doing in addressing the gun lobby as sissy.

Meister Eckhart said: “Don’t be upset if someone is angry at you; be upset if you deserve their anger.” So I would say to people who in their past have been called sissy, “Don’t be upset about the name calling; be upset if you really are living out of fear; and change that.” That’s what we have control over after all, our own responses to words, our own choices in life. And keep your sense of humor including sense of irony. I was purposefully employing irony and satire in challenging fearful NRA supporting politicians.

I invite those who were offended by my verbiage to take a harder look at the internalized oppression they may have taken in over their lifetime. Yes, gay and lesbian people have been an oppressed minority; but yes too, there has been an effective fighting back in our lifetimes (of which Stonewall marks the moment of a cultural shift). There is still inner work to do to clean up the hurt.

I have learned from this exchange that some gay people are still carrying a lot of pain from the “s” word. So my counsel is to work on that, do some cleansing and letting go, create a mantra about letting the “s” word go as it was applied to you; and chant the “courage” word as your new mantra. And practice courage. Turn your wounds inside out. Burn them as your fuel in developing your own inner strength. Be a wounded warrior, a spiritual warrior, a bearer of compassion. Harness your anger to serve the continued battle for justice.

Read Matthew Fox’s article: The ONE sure way to stop future school killing atrocities – NOT with sissy promises of “thoughts and prayers”

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