Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
3 minute read
3 Jun 2021
9:24 am

Why straight people can’t use the term ‘alphabet gang’

Kaunda Selisho

The term 'alphabet gang' seems innocent enough but may be perceived as a form of disregard for the humanity and dignity of queer people.

Mohale and Somizi Mhlongo-Motaung at the 2019 JHB pride event. Picture: Instagram

Can straight people use the term “alphabet gang”?

The short answer is no. For most people, the next question would then be “why not”?

Well, for the same reason you cannot use racial and ethnic slurs in reference to an ethnic group you do not belong to, it is hateful and offensive to those people. This is even if those people use that term, phrase or stereotype in reference to themselves.

It has been hard enough getting the world to understand that black people are deserving of basic human rights and that those rights need to respected. Now it seems we have to do that work all over again just for people to understand why members of the LGBTIQ+ deserve to have their human rights respected.

The term “alphabet gang” – often used as a way of avoiding stating all the correct letters of the acronym used to identify the community – seems innocuous enough but may be perceived as a form of disregard for the humanity and dignity of queer people.

When a straight person uses the term in reference to queer people, the act can be considered homophobic.

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Some may argue it is okay to use the term because some queer people use it in reference to themselves. However, it is common knowledge that one cannot simply co-opt a potentially offensive phrase just because one feels like it. Especially not when the person using the phrase comes from a privileged position in relation to those it is referring to.

“Privilege” is a word that causes many to immediately shut down. However, we need to move away from perceiving this and other words as accusations.

Straight people enjoy privilege over queer people and by virtue of that fact, straight people are in a position to oppress queer people. Straight people should, therefore, not use anything other than the correct, respectful words in reference to queer people.

Words carry weight and that is not something to be taken lightly.

Respecting the gravity of words should not be perceived as self-censorship. Instead, there should be a shift in perspective with the aim of being a better person.

Being offensive under the guise of speaking one’s mind, being unfiltered and being real contributes nothing to the betterment of society.