The article in the Pasadena City College Courier seemed innocuous enough: Vandalism Takes on New Look. I read it at lunch yesterday with only half of my attention, until I came to the following:
Perhaps the most appalling and perverted form of vandalism was a recent report of male students drilling peepholes with electric drills into restroom partition walls. These holes, which are conducive to the insertion of the male genital anatomy, are known in the underground fetish world as "glory holes." While one male utilizes the peephole, a willing participant in the next stall performs oral favors.
Faci lities Director Richard Van Pelt said, "The situation kept repeating itself in certain stalls on campus. Apparently this is not unique to PCC; it occurs at other institutions as well." In order to protect against this destructive and perverted behavior, extremely strong and durable stainless steal partitions were installed in the problem stalls.
Far be it from me to defend those who vandalize our sacred campus property. Destructive? Of course. Appalling? A bit of a rhetorical reach, but the sort of overkill one might expect in a college paper. Perverted, used twice? Pure, undistilled, bigotry. (I could also quibble with the characterization of these glory holes as characteristic of a "fetish world" -- most folks in the community use "fetish" in a different sense, but I'll let that pass.)
I have fired off the following missive to the editor of the paper:
I am writing to express my profound anger and dismay at a phrase employed by Micah Flores in his article entitled "Vandalism Takes on a New Look" in your November 12 edition.
Writing about "glory holes", Flores chose the following words:
"In order to protect against this destructive and perverted behavior, extremely strong and stainless steal (sic) partitions were installed..."
I will not defend the destruction of property. But to characterize consensual sex behavior as "perverted" is to employ the language of hate and intolerance . It has absolutely no place in a college newspaper. Flores could have condemned the damaging of bathroom partitions without condemning the motives for that damage. He chose not to, and wittingly or no, chose one of the ugliest of slurs to attack the gay and lesbian community.
Had Flores merely used the word "destructive", his point would have been made. But by using the inflammatory and hate-filled "perverted", he turned an otherwise innocuous article on vandalism into an ugly attack on our most vulnerable minority group.
I ask the Courier to issue an immediate apology to the gay and lesbian community on campus.
We'll see what comes of it. We have a very small and relatively quiet GLBTQ student group (the "Rainbow Alliance"), and they have many battles to fight and not many weapons to fight them with. They shouldn't have to respond to this sort of thing alone.
I don't know if many hetero folks truly understand the power of the word "pervert". Since the early 20th-century, when it replaced "invert" as an epithet of choice for LGBTQ folk, it has taken its place alongside "faggot" as one of the ugliest of terms in the anti-gay and lesbian arsenal. Even if one were to defend the article by suggesting that only anonymous restroom sex was being labelled "perverted" (rather than all forms of male-male sex), the hate-filled history of the word makes it impossible to use in an objective context.
Note: You can submit your own comments to the Courier here.
Or have I overreacted?