3:45pm: Whangarei woman Deena Pawson's dismissal from her job at The Warehouse because of entries on her Bebo page regarding her employer highlights how gay and lesbian people are maligned through the use of abusive words, says the manager of a leading LGBT support network. "Although the user does not recognise any sexual connection to the word [gay], it is still there and the word is still as harmful when commonly used as a tool against a minority," says OUTLine NZ's general manager Neil Denney. Pawson's Bebo page had stated that having to work after midnight was "gay like the management," and an employment lawyer has been quoted in the NZ Herald saying the word 'gay' might have been used to mean 'crappy'. "Ms. Pawson sees the word as having no sexual connotation or ill-harm - however she then aligns it with the meaning "crappy" or no good," he explains. "If the modern interpretation of the word 'gay' for Ms. Pawson is that it is 'crappy' or no good, then by her very definition she is saying that being gay is crappy." Gays, lesbians and transgender people struggle each day with the negative perceptions and homophobia associated with our sexual orientation, Denney points out. "As an organisation, OUTLine NZ cannot agree that the word 'gay' has a meaning of "crappy" under any circumstance." Denney says Pawson's comments demonstrates that New Zealand still has a long way to go before stereotypes about LGBT people are broken down. "Ms. Pawson obviously does not realize the harm words can do not only to an organisation but more importantly to an individual, especially when the individual is struggling to find their own identity as a gay man or lesbian woman in society. "Use of the word gay in Ms. Pawson's context can do great harm... She needs to rethink her interpretation of the word and see how harmful it can be. An exercise she can do would be to use a word describing any other minority in place of her use of the word ‘gay' and see if she still thinks it is not offensive."
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Thursday, 20th December 2007 - 3:37pm
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