Editor's Note: Our greatest ally and enemy


Words are powerful; use them unapologetically and see them as your ally, not your enemy

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Image by Annie Watson

By Matthew King

Writing this is difficult. I have always disliked any writing that concerns discussing myself. An Editor’s Note is conventionally just this – a few hundred words about my thoughts and “how far I’ve come” and how I’m so proud of the edition we’re putting out. Whilst I can give myself a tap on the back for “how far I’ve come”, and I could write pages of how high the level of quality of this online edition is, I feel like this space should be used more effectively.

I thought for some time how to use this note for a better purpose, and how to put something in writing that others can benefit from, not just myself and my Grandma who would inevitably love me to have written something about myself and my achievements.

Firstly, I would like to comment on just how important words are – a belief that has led me to put so much thought into a piece only four people will probably read. Despite this, words inevitably have power, and it's not just because I’m English student that I have this golden view of language. What we say and what we put out into the world in black and white is perhaps the most powerful tool the human race possesses, and the misuse of these words, even in small-scale platforms such as this, have devastating consequences. With that in mind, I will not misuse the words on this page, nor will I resort to turning this note into a self-serving prose.

Instead, in lieu of what I have just said, I want to talk about words – their misuse, power and how we grow with and against them. Even though I said I didn’t want to talk about myself, I think it would be beneficial to discuss why this is important to me. When I was growing up, words were strange. They seemed to work against me more than help me – I found reading and writing hard, I was very shy and often couldn’t verbally express myself because of that. But mostly, words singled me out.

Gayboy. Fag. Do you want to be a girl?

These words infected my growth, and they followed me throughout my childhood, and in some way this affected how I saw language. I saw it as something that was against me, an ally of those who found pleasure in bringing me down. Even now that I am fully comfortable in myself, I still shudder at the word “gay” – and even though I now proudly identify as bisexual and with the LGBTQ+ community, the word still holds a power against me. It is this growing up with words which has taught me their power and danger.

Despite this, now that I have grown a thicker skin, and excelled more in academia, language has begun to turn more to my side (think Russia in World War Two). I have realised that despite how much I thought words were against me, we can still use them for good. But this is a conscious effort we all must make. We can’t just use words and think they’re good because they don’t actually say anything – passive words are the new enemy. I want language to become something powerful, and purposeful. I want the young children who grow afraid of language to see it as something they can use too – that it is not owned solely by their aggressors.

Think about what you say. Think about how you say it. Think about who you say it to. For you, the words may simply be scribblings on a page or breath in the air; for others, those words hold weight and severity. If we all take this conscious effort to use the power of language for good, then I truly believe that our world will gain so much more happiness and acceptance.

Again, I want to try something different (and, again, I don’t think it will work because people probably won’t read this), but underneath this article we have a section for comments. You can write a comment either anonymously or with your name next to it. I would really love to see people use this space to express something in writing – to start reclaiming language in some small way to help themselves and others.

Write anything, write powerfully but most importantly, write unapologetically. Use this platform to take control of your words, and from here take that power with you and see language as an ally, not an enemy.

Thank you for reading this far in – I’ve spoken for far too long. Now it’s your turn.