by Mr Wainscotting
It’s been two weeks (to the hour) since Tau Henare promised a response to my call for his apology regarding his homophobic slur on twitter a week earlier.
I’m sure he’s busy off sitting on committees or whatever it is that politicians actually do, so I’m going to keep giving him the benefit of doubt, and patiently await his response.
In the mean time, I thought I’d share with you the letter I sent to him:
To the Honourable Tau Henare,
Last week you sparked a heated debate on Twitter after criticising a teacher who wants to ban the use of the word gay in a derogatory manner from his classroom, by yourself using what many considered a homophobic slur.
I think it is important for you to understand how such derogatory, homophobic comments in schools affect LGBTI, queer and questioning youth. Students at secondary schools who are attracted to the same sex or both sexes are three times as likely to be bullied at school, with over half of them reporting being hit or physically harmed. 20% of same/both sex attracted students have attempted suicide, compared to 4% for opposite-sex attracted students. [Source]
While I understand that your opposition to the teacher was in defence of the ideal of freedom of speech, such a binary perspective does not acknowledge the feelings and experiences of those whom are affected by such speech every day. Because gay predominantly means homosexual, and has done since the 1960’s, the use of the word in the pejorative is both insulting to gay people and can be distressing to same-sex attracted youth. Sure, there are many people who identify as gay who don’t mind, or even use it themselves, but this makes it neither ok, nor can it possibly cancel out the offence and hurt it can cause to others.
As a member of parliament, I feel you should not be dismissing such concerns or efforts to reduce the use of gay in the negative. And you certainly should not be doing so by engaging in the very slurs that we are trying to prevent. Furthermore, when members of the public point out to you that they were offended by your statement, you should certainly not call them liars and dismiss their offence as “bullshit.”
For this reason, I believe you should offer an apology, not only to the people you directly offended through Twitter, but also the others who were indirectly offended and the many LGBTI, queer and questioning youth who are affected by such speech daily.
I look forward to your response.