Do You Realize What You Say?
This is going to be a serious blog. Again. Before delving into this idea I want to offer an opportunity to have a chuckle. Check out this Wanda Sykes video. It’s kind of relevant to what this piece is going to be about- Do you realize what you say?
When I was a kid, calling someone “retarded” was a pretty big insult. I remember when my mom sat me down and explained to me why that wasn’t acceptable. I remember doing the same thing with my nephews as they were growing up- giving them guidance in what was and was not acceptable to say to someone. And I remember when my oldest nephew corrected one of his friends from saying “gay.” I guess some people are taught this, others learn by experience. Learn by being in a category and feeling what it’s like to experience the word as it bounces off all the hurt inside.
Where am I going with this you ask? Well a few months ago I listened to a very engaging podcast on The Lesbian Talk Show called “Warning! We Are Talking About Trigger Warnings” (check it out here). It was an interesting idea and I actually didn’t know that authors were putting warnings on their stories. I mean it makes sense- movies do it, TV shows do it, music albums do it, why not stories? But what to identify as a trigger? According to dictionary.com a trigger is: “anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions.” Some of the suggested trigger warnings in this podcast included violence, which for me makes sense. I’m sure it could make sense to a lot of people. It’s a broad topic though.
How does that relate to how this blog started? Well, for one thing, that whole childhood chant of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!” is a load of doo-doo! Words are incredibly powerful! As we all know from reading. I think that is why most of us delve into books and sink into escapism. Words can give us characters to love and hate, places to image, ideas to consider. And it is in these words where triggers may exist without even thinking about it.
One such trigger is suicide. How many times have you complained about a task to the point of saying something along the lines of, “it was so horrible I wanted to slit my wrists.” or “I was ready to throw myself out a window.” or “I wanted to blow my head off.” Here is my public service announcement. STOP SAYING THESE THINGS AND STOP WRITING THEM! It hurts. It hurts those you don’t even know you are hurting. Most people who have survived suicide (which means they know someone who has completed suicide) do not walk around telling people such a story. Because it hurts! This is not a joke and yet in our society it seems to be. It is casually thrown around in conversations on movie screens, TV screens and pages in books as a joke. It is not a joke. It is painful and does not inspire the least bit of humor. Or it shouldn’t. The same way it would be unacceptable and completely inappropriate to say such things as, “Just rape me.” or even closer to the current state of our country, “just come into the school and shoot us all dead.” You have no idea if someone has suffered such abuse in the past and to make such a casual reference to it is inconsiderate, painful, and definitely a trigger.
So the same way my mom had to tell me not to use the word “retarded” and my nephew had to help educate one of his friends about using the word “gay” please take this as a kind moment to adjust your thought process and not phrase the idea of suicide into your casual conversations as a joke or emphasis for something being bad. I don’t know why or how suicide ended up being such a casual reference in our society but it does not belong. It does not belong in conversations live or fictional. You may not be a survivor of suicide but that does not mean you won’t be because suicide is not only prevalent in the LGBTQ community it is on the rise in our older generation. Check out this link to see thoughts and statistics (here) about suicide in older adults. It is scary to think that those numbers might be your mom. Maybe that will help you to accept, suicide is not a casual conversational joke about a bad day. It is real and it affects every generation. So please, please stop using it. It is so much more than a tough day, a difficult client, or a boring meeting.
I realize that this blog did not discuss any LesFic stories, I’m sorry about that. There are a few I’ve read that have used survivor of suicide as a pivotal piece of a character’s history well. If you would like to discuss some of those I would be more than happy to relay some in the comments, I just did not feel it was appropriate to mention them at this time.
If you are a survivor of suicide, there are some wonderful resources out there. Here is a starting point in finding ways to heal.
If you are someone who is suffering and contemplating suicide please, please ask for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. There is also an online chat here.
I am a survivor of suicide and this means a lot to me. Thank you for understanding.