Sticks and Stones

Wednesday July 06, 2016

I came out in the very early 1990s. A child of the AIDs era, I grew up knowing that being a gay man made me hated. I grew up with name calling, because coming out for me was just a little redundant. Only my size protected me from worse, and only once I reached high school.

I don't mean this post to come out as passive aggressive. I know it might, and that makes me sad, because that's not my intent. This is about an incident, at once silly and profoundly hurtful, that happened this weekend.

Now, as a gay person, as any person in a target group, I endure a certain amount of name calling and microaggression daily. Whether it's someone asking my wife's name after seeing my wedding ring, or asking what my kids do, or the thudding "Oh." when I name my husband, I am told dozens of times a day that I'm not normal. That my life isn't normal. That I'm less.

I mostly shrug it off.

But a few weeks ago years of shrugging it off suddenly mattered when the younger generation of gay people found out what I'd known and ignored for a long time: People seriously think we're better off dead, enough to kill us. To say Orlando affected me is an understatement. One of the victims had been a co-worker, some years ago. We hadn't kept in touch, but at the same time, the usual defense of making it faceless was futile. I knew that face. I knew that person. I liked that person.

So yes, I've been more sensitive to the sort of casual discriminatory language and microaggressions are affecting me more. I've started speaking up. This weekend that went badly for me.

It was a post made in frustration, and I get that. People's ability to think about what they are saying, as opposed to what they mean, gets shrouded in fog when they're angry. But the post, essentially, said that the UK was getting to experience what it meant to bottom.

Silly? Maybe. If it had said "get f*cked" or even "screwed up the a**" I probably would have let it go. Because people do those things, and not just lgbt people. But being a bottom is a specific thing. In some countries it is only being a bottom that makes you gay with the associated hatred. It associated being gay (specifically a bottom) with pain, betrayal, untrustworthiness and a number of other nasty things.

Now I live in PC central, and I despise PC for PC sake attitudes. I also have a thick skin. But this day I felt the pain of that statement and I said something. Politely.

It wasn't the post that infuriated me. It was the response. Not just dismissive, but actually suggesting that it was okay for an agent person to say homophobic shit because "everyone knew she didn't mean it that way." Well I'm not everyone, but her response told me with certainty that she did mean it that way. The response of others supporting her reminded me of when I was a kid being called a fag and beaten under the seats of the school bus. It reminded me that even our allies hate us a little bit, without meaning to.

Sticks and stones don't have anything on words. They can be the most painful of all.

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You can find Ashavan at his website. He also sends out a monthly newsletter to subscribers.

Until July 10th, enjoy the Freedom Rings Sale at Dreamspinner Press. While all of Ashavan's titles at Dreamspinner are contemporary romances, The Byte of Betrayal deserves special mention. It's a story about catfishing, perhaps the epitome of words being the most painful thing of all.