The Inherent Power of Words to Describe Oneself
By Alice Collins
Words are a powerful thing. I’ve struggled with them a lot over the years. Especially with trying to find the right descriptors. There’s lots of continued learning involved, it’s a natural part of language evolving. It takes a while for a new word to catch on, and even longer to find one that is descriptive enough to describe the previously indescribable. It’s very tricky finding appropriate words. Even when you do, you may find it changing some years down the line and that’s ok! However, there are many people that I’ve run into IRL and on the internet bemoaning the use of new words to refer to people. I’ve always been curious as to where the idea that language is somehow a static thing came from, rather than it being an ever-growing thing. Take a look at slang, how often do you hear people saying, “That’s the bees’ knees,” when it comes to describing something cool now in 2019? When it comes down to it nothing ever stays the same, it continually changes. The most exciting part of this process is the finding of new adjectives to describe oneself.
I think the first word I had for myself was, “weird.” It’s what I was called by many people, my parents included. I chose to see it as a good thing. I called myself weird so often that my second grade school teacher called my parents in for a meeting to discuss why I called myself that. I figured it was much better than the boring trappings of normalcy. I labeled myself as a weird geek because it was more fun. Yet, that still didn’t encompass everything, it was just a portion of me. So, I had to search out more words, and in a few cases wait for them to be created. It’s been a never-ending process and I suspect I’ll always be on the search to find new words to describe me as well as running from certain words that I’d rather not have attributed to me. Especially those that have been used to name-call, bully, harass, and marginalize me in the past.
I got called names a lot as a kid, I found other weirdos like me, they were few and far between, those that truly understood. Mainly they were my solace at sci-fi and horror conventions. There wasn’t a whole lot that I was able to do socially except for go to cons. They became my safe space. Everyone there was just another weirdo on the fringes of society, people of all types. I found that this wasn’t a place where I would be called names. There were even panels discussing nomenclature and etymology of certain words, as well as gender, and sexuality. It was in these spaces that I felt most comfortable expressing myself and learning how to be myself. I found other queerdos and talked with them. Some of the words I learned at these conventions scared me, especially when thinking about how I could use them to describe myself. My brain was not ready to accept a lot of them. I was scared and downright terrified. I’d seen how pretty much everyone on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum was treated. Those were SCARY words. Deep down I knew what I was but wasn’t ready to admit it to myself.
As I grew older, I became more and more obsessed with the horror genre. I was brought into the world loving horror, but it wasn’t until I was a pre-teen that I really got into it. I was quickly running out of good Sci-Fi to watch and it was around this time that I discovered a small show on TNT called “Monstervision.” I’d always been a fan of horror hosts, I loved what I’d seen of Elvira. “Mystery Science Theater 3000” during their original run started on my local cable access and stayed in production in MN throughout both the Comedy Central and Sci-Fi Channel eras. I watched it all the time. So, moving on to Monstervision with Joe Bob Briggs was perfect for me growing up. He showed a bunch of horror movies as well as some deep dive sci-fi classics that I never would’ve found otherwise. It was my kind of show. To this day, he calls his die-hard fans his “Drive-In Mutants.” Something inside my brain clicked. I have spent a lot of time at the Drive-In. Many of the other Mutants I met were just like me, going to cons, chilling and watching cheesy and fun movies. They were just all-around freaky weirdos with an undying love of the genre, and they had their own quirks as I had mine. They were absolutely wonderful and accepting. I’ve never been attacked by a Mutant, only accepted. The only thing I’ve ever argued with a Mutant over was an opinion on a movie. I can’t say that about any other kind of person I’ve run into. On top of being a Drive-In disciple I read a lot of comics growing up, my favorite being the X-Men. They were cool, they had super-powers, AND they were mutants too. There’s no possible way it can be seen as anything but a positive for me.
So, I LATCHED onto Mutant immediately. It felt pretty descriptive enough to refer to every bit of my weirdness, my quirks, my kinks, my sexuality, my gender, and other things. Even though it’s a different word to most people, for me it’s the perfect descriptor. Something that I can’t have used against me. The way I see the word Mutant as an all-encompassing word for myself is definitely not the norm. In polite company, I’d probably use some kind of combination of poly, kinky, queer, trans, lesbian, degenerate, and weird to describe myself. You can use any of these words to marginalize me and be a general jerk. Yet with Mutant, you can’t do that. My brain finds it impossible to see it as anything but a positive. It’s as if the word was meant to be used to describe me.
To this day over 20 years later, there are still things within me that I’m struggling to find the words to describe. Things that don’t yet have a word, or that I have to figure out still. Finding oneself is a lifelong process. Some people know right away how to describe themselves, others don’t. There isn’t a linear, easy to describe Point A to Point B for me, I’m all over the place. Mutant is still there as the only one that I feel adequately describes my brain meats and it satisfies that innate human need to label things for me. I’d say that it says everything you need to know about me, but to the public at large it most certainly is not enough. There’s so much context behind the word that I am really only able to use it with a certain group of people. So, I’ll continuing learning new words, listening to what is being tried out, and maybe I’ll find another word that I can use around normal people to describe me. Until then, please call me a Mutant.
About Alice Collins
Alice is first and foremost a horror fanatic but overall a fan of the “lesser” genres. Please give her your trash, your b-movies, your low budet/nobudget weird/kung fu/sci-fi/fantasty stuff. She’s also a writer, musician, Your Horror Tran, and an all around general weirdo.
You can find Alice on twitter at @VampAly. She is a staff writer for Infinite Frontiers, a columnist for Bloody Disgusting and a contributing author for Films and Fishnets as well as The Collinsport Historical Society.