Part of why I write is because I think words are important. They are similar to songs in that the right one in the right place at the right time can absolutely change your life. Words are not meaningless or forgettable, no matter what Depeche Mode might claim.
By Jaime Lees
I was writing a preview for Elton John's latest tour. And while I was doing research, I was reminded of a word that makes me absolutely crazy.
I swear, in nearly every single article I read about Elton John, the writer calls him "flamboyant." Clearly, the dude is flamboyant. In fact, he might be the flamboyant-est. But to call him flamboyant (especially when that word is put into quotes) usually reads less like an accurate description of his stage show and more like a "wink-wink" comment on his sexuality.
Maybe you think I'm exaggerating, but I'll be damned if I can find more than a few articles (ever) about Elton John that don't use that word. A Google search of "Elton John" + "flamboyant" turns out almost 1 million results -- and that just reflects the items searchable since the Internet became a thing. He had a career, and an untold amount of press, for 20 to 30 years prior to regular Web documentation.
Because it is applied almost exclusively to homosexuals, "flamboyant" is one of those words that rides the line of being offensive. Like many other words in this complicated language, it carries a subtle meaning far deeper than its dictionary definition. How much weight a word carries usually depends on the context. And in the context of Elton John or any other homosexual, "flamboyant" is a dangerous word. It's a literary limp wrist.
When articles say that he is flamboyant (or "fierce" or "fabulous"), it frequently comes across as cheap writer shorthand for "I did mention that this guy is a queer, right?" Though he is, proudly, all of these things, these words subtly perpetuate stereotypes and it both bores and angers me to constantly see them in print.
Normally, I'm not really down for too much political correctness. (I'll choose humor over good taste any day, trust that.) But the fight for gay acceptance and equal rights is ongoing and important -- and I think it's something that we should all be supporting. But if you want to outright call Elton John a faggot, that's fine with me. Do it. Then I'll know that you're a hateful ass and that I shouldn't value any of your writing or opinions. But don't hide your discriminatory bullshit behind barely concealed innuendo.