13 June 2006

What About The Word "D*ke"?

Previously, I denounced casual use of the word "queer" by Gay people.  I could've included the dreaded D-word in that blogpost, but I felt it was necessary to address this slur independently. Why? Well, there's an urban myth going around that the word "dyke" as applied to women was not originally pejorative. The story goes that it was the name of a noted woman from antiquity who was revered for her masterful ways. It didn't take much investigation on my part to discover that this story isn't true.

The woman this urban myth refers to was not named "D*ke!" Her name was Aglodike, and she was a 4th century Greek physician. Female doctors were unheard of in her day, and legend has it that she masqueraded as a man in order to practice. After her ruse was discovered and publicized, outraged men are said to have abbreviated her name and used it to stigmatize any woman who behaved in too "masculine" a manner.

This etymology of "d*ke" can't be confirmed. I don't find it credible, because the Greek and English pronunciations of that spelling are quite different. Even if they were the same, the manner in which Aglodike's name is reputed to have been used was still disrespectful and derogatory.

Another theory about the etymology of "d*ke" sounds much more probable to me: That it's a corruption of the term "hermaphrodite," which at one time was used to refer to people of homosexual orientation. A hermaphrodite is a life form of indeterminate gender. So, as far back as we can trace it, the word "d*ke" has been employed by ignorant people to question the authenticity of womanhood. With that in mind, consider this excerpt of a news article that currently appears in the online edition of The Advocate:

The Right to Own "D*ke"

It’s taken three years and the fight is still not over, but members of the country’s most famous group of biking Lesbians are finally winning the right to own their own name.

Formed in 1976 by a group of Lesbian motorcycle enthusiasts in San Francisco, D*kes on Bikes has been the leadoff contingent in the city’s (Gay) Pride parade every year since. The popularity of the group led to the founding of similar D*kes on Bikes chapters across the country and even overseas. In 2003, when a Wisconsin woman planned to launch a clothing line using the name D*kes on Bikes, the motorcycle group felt compelled to protect its name.

“We absolutely wanted to keep it from being used for monetary gain,” says Vick Germany, 49, president of the group. But federal trademark attorney Sharon Meier had a different view of what, or who, needed protection. She rejected the group’s application and two subsequent and well-documented appeals because she considered the word "d*ke" to be disparaging toward Lesbians, calling it “scandalous” and “vulgar.”

“I am a d*ke. I’m damn proud to be a d*ke!” Germany says of her reaction to the rulings. “There was no way I was going to let them tell me that word could hurt me.” Under pressure from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, in December 2005 Meier (who did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment) relented and approved the D*kes on Bikes trademark.

God bless Ms. Meier. At least she tried to do the right thing! Wouldn't it be ironic if she were heterosexual? (In all likelihood, she is.) A Straight woman, exhibiting more Gay Pride than the Lesbians involved in this case! How sad that Lesbians would so internalize society's hatred of their sexuality, they'd actually fight for the "right" to express that hatred themselves . . . and to have it recognized by the United States Copyright Office!!! It makes me want to cry and puke at the same time!

You know, there are heterosexual African-Americans who've begun to say that the Gay Rights movement is not a legitimate Civil Rights struggle. They argue it has nothing to do with the original Civil Rights initiatives of the '50s and '60s, and has nothing in common with the noble goals of Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, Jr. Chief among The Kings' goals was a desire to spotlight the dignity of Black people. Theirs was a movement to uplift humanity. What are Gay people trying to uplift?

Up until now, I always believed that Gay rights were indeed Civil Rights. However, I'm having second thoughts. If what Gay people are fighting for today is the right to call themselves f*ggots, d*kes and queers . . . if that's what the Stonewall rebellion and the Pride marches and the years of political engagement really boil down to . . . then those African-American critics are absolutely correct! Lesbians and Gay men don't have a clue what a Civil Rights movement is really all about.

We might as well spit on the graves of Bayard Rustin, Barbara Gittings, Magnus Hirschfeld and all of our other courageous forebears. What a miserable way to honor the martyrdom of Matthew Shepherd and Harvey Milk. What an insult to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us . . . to want to "own" a name given to us by Satan! Could there be ignorance any more profound? Could there be any greater sin? Surely, God is not pleased.

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