"The Three F**s Checklist of Floatplane Flying Could Save Your Life!"—thus reads the cringe-worthy title of an otherwise benign article written by pilot Philip Mattison for Midwest Flyers Magazine.
The piece itself is a first-person recount of a past experience with flying a plane, but the acronym that Mattison boasts in the piece has caused discomfort. In reminding pilots check "flaps, airspeed, gear, and seatbelts," Mattison employs a defamatory slur that is often invoked in instances of anti-LGBT violence.
Dave Weiman, president of Flyer Publications Inc. and editor/publisher of Midwest Flyer Magazine, insists that the publication's use of "f**" is neither offensive nor a slur, referring to it as a mere acronym that has "a similar slang term."
When LGBT advocates from the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA), of which there are more than 2,000 members, reached out to Weimanto discuss the magazine's offensive transgression, Weimanresponded [emphasis not added]:
We apologize if the acronym Mr. Mattison uses for his personal pre-landing checklist offended you in any way, but he created it as a tool so he would remember it. It was not used as a slang term to mean something else, nor in a derogatory sense. In fact, Mr. Mattison states that it is an acronym which stands for Flaps, Airspeed, Gear, Seatbelts. He is dead serious about the importance of using checklists, and his article was a public confession that he made a mistake that cost him his aircraft and nearly his life. . . .We hope that the positive and constructive use of the acronym distracts from any negative connotation that may be associated with a similar slang term. The true definition of the word according to the dictionary supports the premise that even though checklists may be tedious, they are necessary.
"There is no difference in using this word than if you were to use any other derogatory remark to reference any other minority, and it is quite disturbing," said Steven Moore, Executive Director of the NGPA. He added, "There's no place for homophobia in aviation, or anywhere for that matter."
Moorealso explained that an acronym already exists to convey this checklist. The acronym "GUMPS" (gas, undercarriage, mixtures, props, and throttles) does not spell a slur, and according to Moore, "Every pilot is taught this from the beginning of training. Above that, every airplane comes with an aircraft specific checklist supplied by the manufacturer."
I was recently reminded of a conversation that took place in my 9th grade English class. Members of the school's Gay Straight Alliance came by, and a classmate of mine argued to our class that he should be allowed to use the word "f**." "It could also mean a cigarette, or a bundle of sticks," he said. "It doesn't have to mean 'gay.'"
Attempting to reassign the word does not erase the harm it has caused and the power it holds for people who are LGBT. Dave's attempt to discredit and invalidate LGBT readers' responses to the article is reminiscent of the argument from a defensive 14-year-old boy.
Weiman mentioned being "sensitive to [the] concerns" brought to his attention and has recently agreed to publish a formal apology. However, to listen effectively to LGBT employees and consumers requires a demonstrated interested in chipping away at a culture of anti-LGBT violence, rather than looking for rationalized opportunities to perpetuate it.