By Jesse Turner
For what seemed like the hundredth time in the last year, I got into an argument with someone over the use of the R word. And for the hundredth time I got the excuse, “Well, I would never call a retarded person retarded.” This person was also using gay as an insult, again remarking, “I would never call a gay person a faggot.” I then told the person that I am not straight, and things got very awkward very quickly. I asked them, “Would you ever use bisexual as an insult?”
“Of course not,” he replied. Of course not. You would never use those words in the presence of the people they are meant to describe. Because that way, you don’t have to face the consequences of your hurtful words. I work with a young woman with a developmental disability who is brought to tears almost every day from bullying. She has heard the R word too many times.
But I’m sick of it. I’m sick of having to tell my life story to try to persuade people to stop using hurtful language. It should not matter the company you’re in and the ties they have to vulnerable and underrepresented populations. You should not use those words as insults because people are people and you’re not awful. Your desire to use certain words should not trump people’s feelings. Your vocabulary should be abundant enough that you do not need to reduce an entire population of people down to an insult. And if you need help, here are some alternatives:
Instead of retard/retarded, use:
Get even more terms from Terri Mauro’s “225 Substitutes for the R-Word”
Instead of gay, use: