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Dear Planet,

Words have meanings. Let me highlight three.

When you use “gay” to mean stupid, you are hurting people. People identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual or with other non-heteroconforming sexual orientations suffer because of your language. These are people who often have to hide their identities for fear of being harmed. You are responsible for this.

When you use “lame” to mean bad, you are hurting people. People who find movement, including walking, difficult suffer because of your language. These are some of the most vulnerable people in society. You are at fault for making their lives harder than they have to be.

When you use “retarded” to mean unfair or bad, you are hurting people. People with mental and/or physical delays suffer because of your language. I don’t have a link for this one, just a story. I had this friend – she’s still around, we just haven’t seen each other in years – with severe mental and physical retardation. I met her when she was eight. She looked about four and behaved younger. When I was with her, I felt a sense of this bright young lady struggling to communicate her emotions and internal experiences, but we didn’t have the tools to communicate about her inner life very much. She was very aware of the attitudes towards her. You are diminishing my friend and others.

When you use these terms in such a manner, you are making it okay for those around you to do the same. You are allowing other people to think that oppressed people are fair game. By taking over language, you are erasing very identities. By increments, you are normalising oppression. When you’re horrified at reports of hate crimes, do you think about what you’ve done to foster the environment in which these acts are committed?

Do you not get this? Do you not listen to what comes out of your mouth? Do you not live in a diverse world? Do you understand?

Personally, I always call people out on using ‘gay,’ ‘retarded’ and ‘lame’ inappropriately, except for two or three occasions last year, which is something I regret.

Privileged people get to say things like, ‘you’re being too PC. Just let it go.’ When you’re a marginalised person, you do not get to walk away from the difficulties you face. Tossing around loaded terms makes people’s lives worse. You are further burdening those who are already struggling.

You can forget it, you can leave it be, you can go on with your light-hearted day and then merrily commit the same offence again. For some of us, your insulting language sticks in our heads and comes back to haunt us in our daily life. If you don’t get it, make an effort to see what I’m talking about. Do a little research. I don’t want to waste my time and energy dealing with basic, obvious rubbish like this. I hope you never have to feel the way I do about this.

Kind regards,

Chally