The Phelps Family: Speech and Slippery Slopes

I have a new article up at Global Comment

We live in a heterosexist society that largely creates homosexuality as deviant to maintain its undeserved privilege. All of the agents of socialization are dedicated to promoting this imbalance of power on a systemic level. This translates to discrimination in housing, employment, marital rights, medical coverage, and can lead to acts of violence. This kind of bias is socially constructed and is maintained by language. We have a tendency to underestimate the value of language but in truth what we choose to communicate forms discourse and this maintains our disharmony in worth and value.

When we use phrases like that’s so gay, we are necessarily attributing negativity to homosexuality and yet many continue to understand such common colloquialisms as not necessarily prejudicial. Calling gay and lesbian relationships “lifestyle choices” while continually using language that sets heterosexuality as the norm reifies difference.

There are those that are not content to employ what have become universal standards of “othering” in reference to homosexuality. The Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist Church are renowned for their vicious hatred of gays and lesbians. They proudly bare placards with the words “God hates fags,” and have gone as far as to claim that the Iraq war is a punishment bestowed upon America for its tolerance of homosexuality. In the United States this kind of language us protected as it is deemed free speech.

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