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September 17, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Bent

INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE & QUEERDOM: HOW NOT TO OFFEND PEOPLE

Last week VUWSA members voted at the shockingly well-attended SGM for the student union to officially support marriage equality. Why is this important? Because the legal discrimination against queer people, and queer students, is an issue for all. VUWSA is now empowered to campaign for equality on this issue by supporting the bill. Thank you to everyone who voted in favour! It means a lot.

Inclusivity in language is important. It’s important because unless you actually pay attention to the language you’re using, it can be very easy to exclude or discriminate against groups of people. That’s why we’re campaigning for marriage equality, rather than same-sex marriage or gay marriage. Maybe people who identify as genderqueer, or intersex, or bisexual, or pansexual, or trans*, or agender, or homoflexible or any other identity that doesn’t fit into the sexual absolutes society currently uses, want to get married too.

Sexuality and gender identity form a rich and complex landscape. Things are rarely as simple as they seem. Sexuality can be fluid without being a choice, and there is a pressure implicit in the language we use that says it is important to find a sexual identity and stick with it.

There is a double standard in society where if a girl who ‘seems’ straight kisses another girl then that’s hot, but she’s still well up for it. If a guy who ‘seems’ straight, however, kisses another guy, then he’s gay. No question. Aside from the double standard, it’s wrong that absolutes seem to be the only two options. What if the girl grew up under pressure to appear as heterosexual as possible, but is only just beginning to explore her sexuality properly and will eventually identify as a lesbian? What if the guy identifies as heteroflexible and is comfortable with exploring his sexuality? What if one of them is trans* and hasn’t come out yet?

It’s not for other people to decide someone’s sexual or gender identity. It’s an immensely personal thing, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a secret thing. It’s experiences that define a person, and being comfortable enough with yourself to try new things is important. Try not to assume someone’s sexuality based on the way they look or act. It’s their discovery to make. Try not to use gendered language and especially not gendered insults. Calling someone of any gender a bitch is sexist and belittling. Using ‘gay’ as a derogatory term is harmful. If someone identifies as non-heterosexual, queer is an increasingly accepted umbrella term and one that UniQ encourages.

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