Thursday, December 03, 2009

Words Have Consequences

'Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me'.

We've all heard that old nursery rhyme. However, if you pay attention to the ebb and flow of historical events, one constant is that words have consequences and ripple effects for real people.

It is the words that precede the sticks and stones breaking our bones, and guns and knives being used to kill people.

The words of Adolf Hitler jump started the series of events and actions that led to World War II and the Holocaust.

Words led to the lynchings, riots and obscene levels of violence directed at African-Americans centuries before and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's.

Words led to the genocides that took place in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 90's.

We have seen the Catholic Church since 2003 under the influence of Vatican adviser and transhater Dr. Paul McHugh adopt a increasingly negative stance toward transgender people.

It has had ripple effects in not only increasing anti-transgender violence in heavily Catholic areas of the world, I believe it has increased intolerant behavior and attitudes toward trans people as well.

And as the hate filled rhetoric of fundamentalist preachers, fundamentalist Muslim clerics and the Catholic Church ratchets up, so do the body counts of murdered transpeople around the world.

Words can hurt. Words can incite someone to kill.

So yes, we should be extremely concerned as transpeople about the increased level of and the volume of transphobic rhetoric coming out of the mouths of people that profess to be leaders in the world's major religions.

Because as I painfully know from my people's history in the Americas, words do have consequences on the lives of marginalized people.

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