Some of you may have noticed that Nolan uses a lot of different words to describe himself and people like him that may seem hurtful. Words like queer, pervert, homo, faggot, and pansy, among others. What’s up with that, you may be wondering? I mean, Nolan is gay after all. So why does he use all those nasty words?
But keep in mind the story is supposed to be set at the very beginning of the gay revolution in America, at a time when homosexuals were just emerging from the closet and starting to fight back against bigotry and discrimination. And the thing we tend to forget is that gay people did not have any language of their own back then. The only language they had was the language of those who despised and hated them.
And the language those people applied to gay people back then was designed not only to stigmatize them but to be hurtful as well. There was no way they wanted gay people to feel good about themselves.
It took a while before gay people were able to evolve their own language. In fact, at the beginning, what gay people mostly did I’m told was to try to develop thick skins. Later on, with thicker skins, they tried to take the sting out of some of those hateful words by adapting them in various ways. Think of that slogan that emerged in the early 1990s: “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!”
Hard to believe that it took more than twenty years after Stonewall before something like that emerged.
Now Nolan is a pretty bright kid. He understands that a lot of the words used by others to describe him are deliberately designed to be hurtful. But, the thing is, he is a 16 old kid, not a gay activist; and he is also totally disconnected from the emerging gay community. So while he understands what’s going on with words and the power they have, he doesn’t know how to deal with that quite yet.
So he tends to fall back on the only language he really knows. But give him time. He’ll learn.
Now some people might say something like this: “I mean, yeah, sure, but you’ve changed other things in the story. You moved the discovery of the HIV virus back to the same time as when people are starting to come out of the closet. And those words can be hurtful after all. So why not change that as well?”
And the truth is I thought about that. But I decided to keep the words, at least at the beginning of the story, as a way of honoring all those people who struggled so hard so long ago to change the language so that the words gay people use to describe themselves today are more positive and affirming. Or carry less of a sting.
If you have any thoughts on this you would like to share, feel free to comment below. I’m not locked in concrete regarding this story. It can be changed if enough people want it to change. But, for the moment, that’s the way I’ve decided to go.
And, oh, by the way, have a really nice weekend. Because I know that’s what I’m going to try to do 🙂