Ever notice that white, cis, hetero folks (although they’re certainly not the only ones who do this – they just seem to be the majority) tend to preface a ridiculous amount of people in their lives? Ever hear from a white/cis/het person say:
“So Bob, my black friend from work”
“Hey guys meet my gay friend Joe,”
“Remember that Hispanic girl, Mary?”
I’m pretty sure we’ve all encountered verbiage like this and odds are we’ve even done it ourselves, but why do we feel inclined to preface someone? Despite the movement towards breaking through labels, we will always need something to define us which is why we managed to create significantly more labels in the process of breaking binary boundaries. As we try to teach the world there is no longer just him/her or boy/girl we’ve introduced zie/they/zim/zir/hir/em and more in the process. No matter how hard we try some type of identifier will always be needed either by yourself or by society in general. In this context a label or an identifier of some kind is understandable but society has taken it to the next level by using these identifiers as a means of pigeon-holing someone who is “other.”
“WHEN WE PREFACE SOMEONE WITH AN IDENTIFIER WE’RE ESSENTIALLY SAYING THEY ARE LESS-THAN.”
When we preface someone with an identifier we’re essentially saying they are less-than. They are not on par with us and therefore would need a qualifier for someone who is on our level to understand what we’re talking about. When people preface the LGBT community they are removing us from being “normal people” like them and putting us below or in a lesser status.
I have a co-worker who constantly does this and it drives me insane. They will always say “My gay friend…” Initially, I thought it was done in an effort to say “Hey, I’m friends with gay people and I’m totally open and supportive of the LGBT community.” Even if that was the case it still isn’t entirely appropriate to do. However, I soon learned that this is how they always refer to their friend – this friend is always prefaced with “gay” before his name. In doing this it makes it seem like the only reason they’re friends with them is to fill some imaginary “gay quota” and to let the world know you’re “with it.” It could even be perceived as reverse name-dropping where someone who knows someone important will drop their name frequently just to let others around them know they, too, must be important. As the LGBT community is a hot topic right now it could be an attempt to ride on our coattails without having to deal with the negative aspects we face. In general, though, it’s a subconscious method of suppression.
“THERE SHOULD BE NO REASON TO USE SOMEONE’S SEXUALITY, RELIGION, GENDER, OR RACE AS AN IDENTIFIER WHEN SPEAKING ABOUT OR INTRODUCING THAT PERSON.”
There should be no reason to use someone’s sexuality, religion, gender, or race as an identifier when speaking about or introducing that person. Most importantly sexuality and gender should never be used because you are ‘outing’ that person without their consent. While you may think it’s cool to have a transgender friend, outing that person as such could open them up to very dangerous situations that you’re completely unaware of because you’re so far removed from the LGBT struggles. In an era where the push for true equality is on the frontlines, these small and seemingly unconscious social-slurs are demeaning and oppressive.
If you find that you do this, now is a great time to be more aware of how you speak and try to catch yourself before doing it. If you find that someone speaks to/about you in this manner it’s time to stand up and let them know that this is not acceptable. You are Bob, Mary, James, or Angela – you are perfect as you are and need no special preface bestowed upon you by a suppressive society.