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Kergan Edwards-Stout

Views & Voices

Is it ever okay to call someone a ‘Pansy?’

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My partner and I are white gay dads with two amazing sons, both of whom are African-American.

This season, we finally gave in to their many years of begging that we allow them to play tackle football. We’d previously refused, thinking them too young. We were concerned about not only the possibility of physical injury to the boys, but also the enormous time commitment it would take.

Now 10 and 12, we decided that the time was right, and finally acquiesced. What we failed to consider, however, was how our unique family structure might factor into the dynamics of such a macho team sport, and the potential for consequent emotional injury.

While the kids have practiced the last several weeks, loving and hating every grueling moment, last night found one son’s team on the field, in the middle of a drill, when one of the assistant coaches yelled, “What are you? A bunch of pansies?”

I heard his words, echoing across the grass, and felt like I’d been punched in the gut. All those taunts through the years stay with you, even if you’ve risen above them. I immediately walked over, called my son off the field, and told the coach we were done. We were going to switch teams. And he let us go…

As my other son’s team finished their practice, I sat with my 10-year-old, explaining why I’d taken such action. We talked about what the word meant, how it is used, and why such words can be damaging. We talked about how such taunts, even if in jest, can haunt a person and make them feel less-than. Finally, we talked about African-Americans, the struggles for equality that they’ve faced, and how one single word can sear into your soul. He seemed to understand.

Following practice, we received apologies from both the assistant and the head coach himself.

Bafflingly, the assistant coach didn’t seem to understand how the word “pansy” could be offensive. I shared that I was gay and found the word personally offensive, and also how that word and other similar terms had driven kids to suicide. He promised to never again use the word.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in classrooms or playgrounds; it occurs on football fields, too. There are other ways to motivate athletes, which can both strengthen and toughen them, but still preserve their fighting instincts.

Too often, however, the negative terms are casually tossed about, and those hurtful expressions lodge deep within, slowly affecting one’s sense of self and, I would argue, one’s confidence on the field as well.

After posting about this incident on Facebook, I received much praise and support for my decision to pull my son off the field. Indeed, I was the only parent to do so.

But I was surprised by one friend’s comment, which essentially said that I’d overreacted. Such roughness was part of the sport, he stated, and should be tolerated. While his comment in and of itself wasn’t surprising, I found it odd that this comment actually came from a gay man, who I know had experienced his share of bullying as a youth.

I’ve always believed in living authentically and helping to create a better, more loving world, and I can’t understand how calling someone a derogatory term can possibly help anyone. Have we gotten past the point where such words hurt? Does a comment such as that belong on the sports field? Am I being overly sensitive?

What do you think? Is it ever okay to call someone a “pansy”?

© Kergan Edwards-Stout.
For more by Kergan Edwards-Stout, click here to visit his blog.
Opinions and advice expressed in our Views & Voices columns represent the author's own views and not necessarily those of LGBTQ Nation. We welcome opposing views and diverse perspectives. To submit a article, column or video, contact us here. Due to the volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee publication.

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42 more reader comments:

  1. no ..never

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:39pm
  2. It’s never okay to use words to hurt, the wounds don’t heal!

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:40pm
  3. People shouldn’t say it, but I also thing people get too sensitive over verbal abuse. I’m gay and have been called so many names, but why should I let that stranger ruin my day?

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:40pm
  4. mm..im gonna play devils advocate and say Yes.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:41pm
  5. I didn’t even know what that word meant ’till right now.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:41pm
  6. Amazing

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:41pm
  7. I’m tryin to figure out how I would feel if someone called me a pussy …

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:42pm
  8. Yeah It Is Far As I Care…Especially If The Person Is A Damn Coward…!!!. I Know Several & They Couldn’t Fight Their Way Outta Shithole…!!!.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:44pm
  9. Only if her name IS Pansy, after that no!

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:45pm
  10. Sure, if they’re a flower.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:45pm
  11. you can call me a pansy if ican call you a nazi

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:46pm
  12. I just realized I used to play a game growing up called “smear the queer” – sorta like footy, whoever has the ball you smash em… little did I know when I was little the meaning behind it. Crazy and ironic how I had NO idea as a kid it was offensive in any way.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:49pm
  13. People need to get over themselves. I have described someone as a pansy–I have never thought of the word as a gay derogative, rather weak, yellow-bellied…a wuss.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:50pm
  14. Interesting enough the pansy worn on the lapel was a code so gay men could find each other back in the REALLY homophobic first half of the 20th century. Though many offensive words get “owned” by the community and a re no longer hurtful…some still hurt. Pansy is one of those words that has never lost its negative connotation. It is NEVER okay to call anyone by any name that is hurtful to that person.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:51pm
  15. You can call me Viola … or Heart’s-Ease …

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:52pm
  16. if you’re calling them a tough little thing who can survive anything.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:54pm
  17. only ok if they are talking about the flowers…

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:58pm
  18. Panbies are beautiful flowers….

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:58pm
  19. When they’re being one, sure.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 4:58pm
  20. Its an older term, rarely use it here. I prefer dirtbag & sh*tbag.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 5:03pm
  21. No, it isn’t OK under any circumstances, contrary to the opinion of some here.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 5:13pm
  22. grow up. you’re going to make your kids resent you. Some people have thin skins. Other people have thick skins. Some people are secure enough to see the affirmation and love driving you to do better from a Coach. If the coach didn’t care about kids he wouldn’t be a coach.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 5:14pm
  23. Sure it is. Stop being so sensitive.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 5:16pm
  24. Can someone please msg me a list of words I’m still allowed to use anymore? I’m getting confused. And running out of words.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 5:17pm
  25. I’m going to politely ask the LGBTQ community to stop “owning” words so that I do not have to keep changing my vocabulary to avoid offending thin-skinned folks.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 5:53pm
  26. pansy ? what is this, 1955?

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 6:03pm
  27. No, unless they are colorful small flowering plant.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 6:07pm
  28. personally hate it. what if we embraced it? i love the flower. am a gay father also. ready? pansy.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 6:22pm
  29. yes if your 5 and dressed like a flower in the class play

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 6:28pm
  30. As with any word, it is the context in which it is being used, and by whom,and directed to whom.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 6:30pm
  31. It doesn’t seem as if the couch was being purposefully harmful and was filling the role of “tough love”. I understand teaching your kids about the meaning behind words so they are socially competent but sometimes thin skins rip too easily. Choose your battles.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 7:40pm
  32. NO

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 7:48pm
  33. NO

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 7:56pm
  34. You did the right thing, first for taking your son off the field and second for discussing why you did it.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 9:07pm
  35. I don’t like calling people names, and after going through the process of coming out I don’t really associate “pansy” with homosexuality. However, sometimes when being descriptive about somebody’s behavior, that is timid in approach, persnickety and/or makes me we want to scream “just do it”, a negative comment like this may slip.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 9:54pm
  36. Maybe if you mean they are a sweet fragrant and beautiful flower. But it really is a stupid insult.

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 11:50pm
  37. Maybe if you’re a little flower that’s tougher than nails when it comes to frosty fall nights when everything around you wilts from the chill…

    Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 11:53pm
  38. For my friends in the LGBTQ community or for those who support them and their inalienable human rights- check this out. Nathan Parks has spent his time making and publicly distributing this video on his public facebook profile, youtube, and in various groups with the specific intent of bashing and damaging my friend and his father who he refers to by full name. If you think this is wrong- why dont you take a second to let him and facebook and everyone know and bring attention to this matter. People only behavie like this because they think they can get away with it! STOP HATE! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4tezWmZ5_g&feature=share

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:00am
  39. Everybody with sense knows that pansies are pretty flowers……

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:41am
  40. I think the author here was being a bit too sensitive, but that’s just me. I’ve never heard the term “pansy” as a derogatory term towards people that aren’t straight. In sports, people acll each other “pansies” just to make you play harder, not in a truly offensive manner.

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 8:55am
  41. NO

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 12:41pm
  42. it is not right

    Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 12:41pm