Radio Noon - January 20, 2011
An Open Letter to a 21-year old university student in Corner Brook
Hi there Newf89, coffee_nut, Whitney... unfortunately I can only address you by the pseudonyms you've used on the internet. I'm a 35 year old gay & out writer, actor and volunteer arts administrator living in St. John's.
I think the fact that your complaint to the CBSC was acted upon is harmful to the level of public discourse in the country. I think the best way to counter bigotry is through education. I do not think we can bring an end to bigotry and discrimination by removing the opportunity to examine instances where they occur. I do not believe that taking away the words often used by homophobes and bigots to denigrate others has any significant impact on the hurtful views that inspired their use in the first place. Our understanding of the gay rights struggle is informed by the stories and experiences of our friends who witness injustices - to take away their ability to express what they have seen and felt directly hinders understanding the pain and hurt caused by homophobia.
I see from your comments in a number of forums (The Globe & Mail, CBC, RockAAA.com) that you do understand how the word in the song was used - that Knopfler was speaking in character, that the character's use of the word is meant to emphasize his ignorance - but it seems to me that for you, the fact that "the slur possesses a meaning of hatred", overrides Knopfler's desire to illustrate the hypocrisy of speaking from ignorance. Obviously I disagree. I want people to know, as viscerally as possible, how gays were perceived & portrayed in the eighties, and throughout history. I want people to know the scorn that has been aimed at homosexuals. I am a gay male who has been on the receiving end of that slur (and worse ones). I don't know when you have been subjected to that slur specifically.
I hope you respond. However you should know that your actions have had consequences larger than you probably intended - for example, international attention, a lot more use of the offensive word in question, and invective directed at the LGBT community (based on the erroneous assumption that a majority of homosexuals agree with this censorship). When you presume to speak for the entirety of a group composed of millions of people with diverse opinions, you must understand that it comes with responsibility. My rights to express myself have potentially been incrementally diminished, and just as you feel passionately about your cause, so do I mine. Do not think that this will go away. I am actively making efforts to find out who you are so you can publicly explain your intention, and answer for having a hand in encouraging less critical thinking in the public regarding what is broadcast.