Please note - this post contains profanity. Please stop reading if you are offended by foul language.
I was out driving today and stopped at a stop sign. Another car then pulled up to the stop sign to my left and, having the right of way, I went first. Unfortunately, as the other car pulled up to the other stop sign, they continued right through it and nearly hit the rear end of my car as I pulled around them to make my left. As I realized they weren't stopping, I hit the accelerator and nobody was hit and nobody was hurt.
The driver and passenger immediately started shouting at me, "You had a stop sign!" repeating that over and over. I looked at them and said, "Yes, I did. And I stopped for mine. What did you do for yours?" pointing to the stop sign that they had blown. The ever so polite response I received was, "Fuck you, you faggot. You're a fucking faggot." The passenger then echoed the driver's words and the car sped off before I could say anything. Truth be told about my love life, it hasn't been that exciting lately, so I suppose they were only half right.
I was in shock and absolutely enraged. All I could wonder was how two black people could use a slur. I wanted to ask them, "Don't you realize that as long as you keep trying to put people in a category and marginalize them with words, people will keep doing the same to others, possibly you. It doesn't stop until we ALL stop it. How long do you want people defined by the n-word?" But my shock over their use of the word combined with their hasty retreat in order to have the last word made me unable to ask them.
Being one of a handful of half-Puerto Ricans in a predominantly white school (approximately 98%), I was both a "Spic" and a "Faggot" growing up. I couldn't escape either word, especially in high school, and was glad to graduate and reach the real world where I could reclaim them and make them mine with the full knowledge that harassment suits work (or so I thought). But to this day (many, many years later) I cannot abide by it when someone tries to take them back to use them as a weapon.
But now I contemplate the double standard that sexuality gets compared to race. Had I retaliated with a racial slur, which someone else in my position might have been tempted to, retaliatory violence against me would have been "understandable" to the many of the straight world the way our society is structured. So what makes it OK for some random person off the street to call me a "fucking faggot" and get away with it?
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't advocate any negative word or action in such situations, but I raise the question of what kind of society punishes such hate-filled speech against one minority, but allows, even promotes the same type of speech against another.
The answer comes in the form of people like Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle and other elected officials who persist in neglecting the fact that their constituency is made up of all types of people, not just people like them. Mayor Naugle showed those Fort Lauderdale residents who verbally bashed me that it was allowable by promoting stereotypes in order to further his own political goals. He made us less than and apart from society, and because of him and people like him, we continue to receive the same treatment from others. If the mayor has the right to marginalize gays, doesn't everyone?
When politicians promote the stereotyping of minorities, they help to institutionalize marginalization and bigotry. We know this from the 1960's and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It took government intervention before equality could ever be achieved in society. I never liked the comparison of the modern gay rights movement of today to the civil rights movement of the 60's. I never saw the correlation between something as private as sexuality and something that has the possibility of being as obvious as race can be, but now I do begin to see that it's the concept behind them that is the same.
Until the government recognizes our equality and repeals the laws that have created inherent inequality in familial status, until politicians can understand and have compassion for the inherent struggles that we as minorities will face during our lives, until someone who speaks for the general public says that even though we are outnumbered they will not let the majority hurt us, until all of these things happen, we will need a movement, we will need representation, we will need mobilization.
Keep fighting back.