Columnists » Mickey Weems

Cussing Your Parents

by Mickey Weems
Thursday Jul 31, 2008

Young people have two reactions when loved ones refuse to accept their orientation or trans expression. The first is hurtful withdrawal. The second is in-your-face anger expressed in aggressive language.

Of the two reactions, hurtful withdrawal is the most dangerous because it can lead to a dead young person. Internalized, unprocessed suffering can become self-hatred, metastasize throughout the consciousness and plunge the soul into darkness from which there is no escape.

Reasonable conversation is the best way to handle the ignorance of homophobic kinfolk. But sometimes the walls they set up are so thick and sound-proof, the only thing that can get through to the other side is anger. And when we get angry, many of us cuss, a move that can upset everybody, including those family members who are on our side. But using swear words is not the end of the world, and may actually clear the air when nothing else works.

It is infinitely preferable for young people to respond with obscenities than with a suicide note and follow-through.

Cusswords have power. They are signals that the cusser has had it, that the normal channels of civil communication are no longer sufficient. Swearing also releases pent-up rage, frustration, and most importantly, heart-rending hurt in the direction of the people who hurt them.

If you are a young queer adult who can no longer handle the homophobic nonsense your kinfolk give you, the first rule is personal safety. Don't let your mouth put you in a situation where you could suffer a physical attack. The best response to family members who resort to violence or threaten your life is not to say anything, JUST GET OUT. There are support groups who can help you if you are in danger.

If you do utter a few #$%&* and your folks criticize you for using foul language, tell them to take a look at themselves as the source of your anger. The real obscenity is lack of loyalty to LGBT children, not whatever trifling cusswords you employ.

Use Only Low-Level Cusswords

When Mom or Dad push you too far, respond with soft cusswords such as "crap." Direct your words to behaviors rather than the person: "All of that stuff you say about Gay people is crap" instead of "You're full of crap." That gives your parents the chance to back off without losing face.

The problem with retaliating against the person rather than the behavior is not so much what it does to your folks, but what it does to you. Once said, those words sear the memory of both parties and cannot be undone.

Giving a Good God Damn

If you come from a religious family, a healthy "God damn it!" can do wonders getting your parents' undivided attention. Using the Lord's Name in vain lets them know that fire-and-brimstone devil-talk will get them nowhere. It may also give your parents a heart attack, so avoid God-damning if possible.

Dropping the F-Bomb

Like "God damn," only use "fuck" as a last resort. Once again, aim your rage at the behavior, not the person: "That's fucked up and you know it" instead of "Fuck you."

Words to Avoid Altogether

Stay away from calling your parents "bitch" or referring to them as sex organs. Refrain from "tool," "dick," and above all, "cunt," even if they throw "faggot" or "dyke" at you.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Let's say you lose your cool and unleash DefCon 1 words, dropping F-bombs like rain and even describing family members as tools, or even See You Next Tuesdays.

This experience may hurt you even more than it hurts your targets. There is a good chance you will regret speaking like that with family - and regret is okay. But don't beat yourself up too much. Keep this in mind: you did not create the conditions that summoned your rage in the first place. Forgive yourself. Do not take on complete responsibility for a fight you did not seek, else you might embark on the path to self-loathing and even worse.

Advice for Adults Who Came Out Years Ago

Your folks have had plenty of time to catch up with our civil rights movement. The uninformed attitude they had when you first came out should not remain unchanged. If you have never used obscenities with them before, you might consider tossing polite language out the window and express your intolerance for their chronic ignorance with epithets you reserve for people who cut you off on the highway.

Dr. Mickey Weems is a folklorist, anthropologist and scholar of religion/sexuality studies. He has just published The Fierce Tribe, a book combining intellectual insight about Circuit parties with pictures of Circuit hotties. Mickey and his husband Kevin Mason are coordinators for Qualia, a not-for-profit conference and festival dedicated to Gay folklife. Dr. Weems may be reached at


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