I am a believer there is a gatekeeping to language.
That gatekeeping is powered by experience and by preference. This is why saying one word in the company of people you know, and people you don’t know will have different results.
This is why nicknames for certain people only apply to certain intimate circles, will get you fought outside of them.
Gatekeeping of language is a tightrope for writers, but it is a necessary one! It is how we convey thoughts, reconcile written conflict, and make our experiences visible!
When I as a writer whom has the intersecting identities of Black, woman, and writer say, “you can’t say that” I am saying you–whom may not be Black, woman or writer–do not have the authority or lived experience to comment on what I know to be true of my own life.
You can’t say that corresponds to three things:
1.) Violation of boundary. If I asked you not to say something, and you do–that’s a violation.
2.) Ignorance of meaning. You really have no idea what you said and why it’s problematic.
3.) Implied intimacy. There are certain words that are only applicable if you are born into a culture, not just immersed in it.
One of the secret jobs of a writer is to preserve language, which allows a portion of culture to continue. Some things, just aren’t for you. And never will be.