Oh, Gentle Reader. I do not want to write this post. In a life littered with hangovers, this doesn’t approach the worst; there was no nineteen-year-old beside me, whose name I still don’t know; no “ghost” had vomited in the bed; I know my name, the date, the season, and the city. However, frankly, I am exhausted, and swinging towards my function wherein I consider myself the worst writer in the world. It’s entirely possible that the next several days will bring posts about how vile of a human being I am, and how I ought to be either locked up or shot. You’ve been warned.
I’ll avoid discussing the events of last night, as is my policy, except to say when I took justifiable umbrage at the casual use of the word faggot, being bandied about, two minutes before midnight, mine host followed me outside, was very apologetic, and promised to not use that word in the future. Color me impressed – I had retreated outside, so as not to make a scene. I thanked him, waved him back in to his guests, and spent the crucial moment alone, fuming, and smoking my fag. I also had a veritable magnum of champagne to myself, as well as some moonshine. Moonshine!
The last time I was called a faggot, I was out at dinner with the ex-husband, and Miss K. We were trying a new restaurant, decorated with whiskey barrels, and were not much impressed. I was casually dressed for a winter evening – jeans, t-shirt, pea coat – except for my rabbit fur scarf. No make-up, none of my eccentric jewelry, none of the ridiculous, fabulous, enormous hats for which I am well-known. Leaning against a fence, smoking, alone in the dark, as three twenty-something men walk by. One spits, the gob landing near my scuffed boot. Another says, sotto voce, to his mates “Looks like they let fucking faggots in anywhere.” They wander into the yawning mystery of the parking lot. I was astonished, appalled. This casual hatred, from strangers, for the crime of being alive – I was more shocked than hurt, more bemused than anything. When I told Ex-Husband and K. about it, when I came back inside – K, who can be a terrifying force, leapt from the rough vinyl of the booth, intent on committing murder. Ex-husband’s hands were balled into fists, and his eyes were red. I kept both of them from leaving our booth.
In my mother’s world-view, this sort of thing is to be expected. You don’t have to like it, but you have to be careful, to be safe. It’s a world where the dominant can casually, cruelly, be angry and hateful, not at you, but at what you are. That’s just how it is, and nothing can be done about it.
It’s the world that activists have been fighting for more than a hundred years.
It’s a world of less than, a world where you’re not an individual, but a thing, belonging to a different class and classification.
It’s a world where you can attend a party, and the host, your friend’s boyfriend’s brother, can say the word faggot, and not mean anything by it, or, indeed, direct it at an actual gay person, and you still have to go outside to calm down, because your hands are shaking and a panic attack is tap-dancing its way up your spine. It’s a world where I’m pathetically grateful for his apology. It’s a world where I have to apologize myself for being pissed off about something that’s not meant, that’s “not a big deal, man.”
It’s a world where a teenage boy can’t come out to his family or friends, because he was born in the wrong part of the state, the country, the world.
It’s a world that I refuse to tolerate. It’s a world I’m damned determined to change. Words have power. Casual hatred, not of individuals, but of an entire category of people, can kill. If you see or hear people displaying attitudes or using words that are wrong, do something.