Gay Identity in Literature

Start Free Trial

Explain why specific uses of language can be seen as so loaded in terms of describing sexual identity.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Language, in general, is vitally important to the social and personal construction of one's identity.  This is true in any realm.  For example, there is considerable debate over what George Zimmerman said under his breath in his 911 phone call to authorities on the night he shot Trayvon Martin.  Did he say "goons" or another term that has been commonly used to describe African- Americans in a pejorative manner?  In this case, one can see how language, the use of a mere word, holds power.

This is true in the issues surrounding homosexual/ transgendered identity.  For example, the term "queer" was something used in a derogatory manner.  It was meant to be "different" in a bad light, a form of language that was an insult that non- homosexuals used to criticize those who were homosexual.  Yet, the gay community reappropriated the term in making "Queer" something that they owned and they began to use to describe themselves.  In this, language is loaded because it represented at first marginalizing insult, and then it represented self- describing statement of pride.  In this instance, language can be seen to be as "loaded" or highly significant.

In the modern setting, the use of the word "gay" as a negative is another example of how language is loaded.  "That's so gay" or "You're so gay" are examples of how social constructions of language have hidden agendas used to demonize or marginalize others.  When people use the phrase, it comes to mean that being "gay" is something bad or something negative.  It is a form of homophobia because it constructs a reality where being "gay" is something wrong, outside the norm of accepted practice.  It is similar to the term "fairy" or "dyke," in that both are used to demonize others, for the most part, representing how language can be used to construct notions of identity that operate on both social and personal levels.  It becomes "loaded" for this reason.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team