There’s a reason I use the word “fuck.” I was raised without the word and several others like it by conservative, religious parents and a grandmother who said “h-e-double-hockey-sticks” when she meant “hell.” But as an adult who valued the full richness of not just my own mother tongue but that of all languages, I came to resent limitations placed on my use of certain words for the sake of other people’s (real or feigned) linguistic fragility (I don’t worship your god, and mine don’t care which words I use).
To some extent, that fire has mellowed, though I do still actively defend my right and that of others to use the entirety of whatever language we’re speaking. I also believe minority language preservation and propagation is crucial to understanding the full range of human expression, past and present. That’s at least part of the reason for my interest in Gàidhlig and Gaeilge.
I learned yesterday that the Trump administration has cast the authority of the presidency behind the removal of certain words from the Center for Disease Control’s official discourse. Those words are: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” Having just described my love for language and my insistence upon using all the words I can speak or write, I still do not believe I can adequately express the depth of my horror and outrage at this. That a government would forbid the use of certain words. That it would forbid an organization whose mandate includes the protection of human health from using words necessary to that endeavor. It’s a gut punch, an insult to my core values, a sure indication of fascism.
There will be no easy solutions to the complex problems created by Donald Trump’s destructive tenure in the White House, which are themselves only a part of greater, more global tensions. But I know something about this one. I know the importance of using forbidden words, so I plan to keep calling a fetus a fetus, protecting the vulnerable, valuing diversity, defending transgender rights, insisting upon evidence-based and science-based research, and discussing entitlement in all of its various contexts. I also plan to keep using the word “fuck” because it’s mine and because sometimes it’s exactly the right word.