Bil Browning

I have a problem with faggots

Filed By Bil Browning | October 26, 2009 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Balloon Boy, buju banton, derogatory slurs, faggot, gays in the military

I have a problem with faggots.

"I look up in the tree. What do I see? I see a faggot trying to pee on me. I pick up a rock. Threw it at his cock." -- Balloon Boy and his siblings rapping in a YouTube video now removed from the site. (10/18/09)

The first time I was called a faggot was in first grade. A stray dog had crawled under our porch and had puppies and I wanted to take my favorite one to school for show and tell. I carried a Boy-with-puppy.pngsmall black puppy the half mile up our gravel lane to the bus stop, but the driver wouldn't let me on with a dog. Bawling and screaming, I ran back home carrying the puppy with the bus driver and my brother in hot pursuit. Mom met us at the edge of our property, took the dog and sent me back to the bus with the driver. Still crying, I took my seat and the high school jock in front of me turned around and disdainfully said, "Shut up, you stupid little faggot. Boys don't cry." The entire busload of kids laughed at me and showered me with a chorus of "Faggot!"s. It took me three days to find out what it meant.

I didn't touch that puppy again. I insisted we keep the small brown one instead.

I have a problem with faggots.

In fifth grade we did a production of Swiss Family Robinson and I was picked to play the father. I was proud to be chosen for such an important role and practiced every night. During rehearsal SwissFamilyPic.jpgone day, I was giving it my all and using hand gestures to dramatically illustrate the character's dialogue. While I earned praise from the teacher, when I took my seat again another boy two rows back whispered "Faggot!" loud enough for the class to hear, but not the teacher. The class twittered and giggled at me.

I couldn't say the words anymore. I would stand on stage, my cue long past, the words frozen by that single, whispered word. Another boy took my place and I was relegated to a non-speaking role. I pretended to be sick on performance night so I wouldn't have to watch him do my part. Me. The faggot.

I have a problem with faggots

"Faggot Kid! You don't know what real marriage is!" -- a teacher at Glen Waverly Secondary College to a student who questioned why the teacher was ripping down posters for a gay rights rally. (10/20/09)

I started piano lessons in elementary school. I was a quick study and became quite advanced for my age. The music teacher found out from my mother that I played piano and asked me to play in front of the class. In a panic, I chose the most masculine piece I could think of - the Marine's Hymn. boy_playing_piano.jpgApparently it wasn't butch enough.

Walking to the bus after school, a classmate tripped me and sent me sprawling on the sidewalk. "Faggot," he said as he passed me laying on the ground as the other kids laughed and pointed at my scattered books and seeping tears.

I refused to play again until I was a high school senior even though I won several contests across the state. I made sure it was a love song I could perform with a girl - Somewhere Out There. I even dated her and tried desperately to make it work - to make the square peg fit the round hole - but I couldn't deny what I already knew. They were right; I was a faggot.

I have a problem with faggots.

"This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs 'there is no end to the war between me and faggot' and it's clear." -- homophobic Jamaican singer Buju Banton last week after an unknown assailant released pepper spray during a concert. (10/16/09)

When I was a teenager, my boyfriend and I shared three newspaper delivery routes for the afternoon Gazette. bottle_cap_06_pepsi.jpgOne day he didn't want to do the deliveries and stayed home and I had to deliver almost 200 papers by myself. As I'd finished up the job - proud of myself for handling it all on my own - a Ford LTD went past with a load of other students in it. As they passed someone threw a glass Pepsi bottle at me and screamed "Faggot!" as it shattered on my handlebars, cutting my arm.

I rode home leaving a trail of blood drops and quit the paper route the next day. That night I thought about suicide for the first time. Who'd miss the faggot?

I have a problem with faggots.

"Everyone in the military says 'faggot' and 'homo' every 10 minutes. It's like a synonym for 'buddy.'?" -- Quote from a soldier in an Advocate cover story on gays in the military (November 09 issue)

I stayed at a homeless shelter only once. Three men raped and beat me, calling me "faggot" over and over and over as they shoved my head into a bucket of dirty mop water until I quit struggling. I stared at the pockmarked concrete floor of the utility closet while they took turns fucking me and hitting me with a broom handle until I lost consciousness. Bruised and bleeding, I came to myself and crawled into the hallway where I met one of the attackers walking out of the restroom. "Get on your feet, faggot," he said to me as he hit me across the face.

persecution.jpgI spoke to the police. They did nothing. Men can't get raped. Since I was a "faggot," I'd probably begged the attackers to rape me.

That night I attempted suicide.

I have a problem with faggots.

I've forgotten how many times I've been called a faggot; the memories have blurred into one long mesmerizing stream with various incidents standing out more sharply than others. I wish I could forget them all.

I have a problem with faggots.


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Wow. These are stories that we've all experienced in one form or another. Please tell me this is either fiction or at least a compilation of stories that happened to various people. The idea that all of this happened to you or any one person is heart breaking.

I agree with Rev. Steve! And yet it's all too credible, isn't it? In the year and a half since I've discovered Bilerico, I can't think of a post that has disturbed me as much as this. The hatred is always personal, even when it's directed at someone else, we still receive it deep in our own hearts, minds, and bodies. Dear Bil! Thank goodness you kept hanging on to life. I've called you and Jerame heroes before (along with your colleagues) for your demo at the Indiana Legislature, but it's no ways redundant to call you a hero again!! Thank you so much for writing this, for sharing it.

I like the word queer, I use it all the time. I have never felt the slightest wish to "reclaim" the word faggot, too much hurt. too much anger!

I liken the word "faggot" to the "N" word black people use frequently. Yes, the black community has supposedly relaimed the word, but to me it hearkens back to the days of slavery where that word was bandied around quite commonly. It's extremely offensive to me (but what do I know? I'm white!) and it grieves me to hear people use it so flippantly. It's derogatory, demeaning, and demonstrates, to me at least, that many in the black community don't regard each other as equals on par with the rest of the human race. This may or may not be true, but that's how I feel about it.

I think of the "F" word in the gay community in exactly the same way. It lets people outside the community know that we don't respect each other. Disrespect means we're willing and ready to sell ourselves short just so we can try to fit in with the rest of humanity.

I refrain from using either the "N" word or the "F" word. I want, more than anything, for these terms to disappear from our vernacular so we can call each other human beings, people, not less-than anyone else.

I also equate the "F" word with the "N" word. It disgusts me. I yell at people when they use either of them.

This was an awesome article and it really made me think of how much abuse and hate is still out there.

The same goes for "tranny" in the trans community. (At least, among trans women.) A long history of hate and violence behind it.

Wow this was rough. I learned to be able to put an end to being treated this way. It took a few times of absolutely physically demolishing a phobe but it did get to the point where I was safe.
I hope that you have reached a point where you feel safe.

Bil - I am torn between anger and tears. I had no idea these things happened to you. The next time I see you, I'm going to give you a big hug! But you know what? You overcame it all to do something so wonderful for yourself and other people! You survived - but more than that, you have taken the lemons and made the best lemonade out of them! I am proud to say you are my friend!

deep and very very moving

the_czarina the_czarina | October 27, 2009 2:45 AM


unlike annette, i do not have the honor of being your friend.
but i do know that i am not in the least torn between anger and tears: i am raging with anger and adrift in tears; completely in the moment experiencing a myriad of emotions.

we 'met' here the other day: i'm the rabid old bitch of an activist ally.
i thank you for your fearless courage in sharing this with us.
the world must bear witness to the obscenity of homophobia and homophobic violence.
Never Again.
and since it is happening every single day, right now in 2009, i will continue to scream Never Again.

i believe that straight allies have a necessary and crucial, if ancillary, role to play in ending the insanity.
total GLBTQ rights IS the civil rights movement of our times.
and i won't rest, and i won't STFU until the slugs crawl back under their rocks, and it is done.

Rick Elliott | October 27, 2009 3:09 AM

The word was a little different for me. It greeted me not long after I began school. "Sissy" was the East Texas equivalent of "faggot." It took me until I was almost 40 to realize they were right. It made me cry. that, in turn, elicited more taunts. I learned not to cry. It's taken me decades of therapy to learn how to "feel" again By high school "faggot" had entered the East Texas vocabulary.
I read the solution one of us had: to beat the crap out of a taunter. I took exception to a taunter once. He told me he'd "meet me after school." When I saw him I remarked that when someone is challenged to a duel, the one challenged had the choice of weapons. Then I told him, "I choose words." The oaf was addled by the remark--so I took the time to walk away. But he never hassled me again, nor did any of his cronies who were looking on. I consider that a real victory.
By the way--I don't use "it sucks" as a pejorative. I think suck is something pretty special.

Our generation did not grow up with positive LGBT images... we saw extremes on TV and the rest were non-existent, hidden and closeted...

We grew up hearing the shame of the word "faggot" and even not admitting it to ourselves, we felt that shame deep in our hearts...

I have a problem with faggots too... and I will always carry scars to remind me... literally and in my heart... thank you for this post...

beautiful piece, bil.

my kids don't say faggot. nor do their friends in this house. I caught one saying that's so gay and after my raised eyebrow look, never again.

Bil, reading about your experiences broke my heart. This certainly isn't comparable to what you went through but I'll share anyway... When I used to live on Bolivar Peninsula (pre Hurricane Ike) I would take the dogs for a walk along the shore each day. It was a red-neck area, lots of confederate flags and Baptist churches. Since our house faced the water, people were always driving along the beach and looking up at the seaward deck. They'd see me and my partner sitting outside, enjoying the view. One particular group of teens in a pickup started shouting "Die Faggots" and "Suck me, faggots!" whenever they drove by. It also happened when I was walking the dogs. They'd throw empty beer cans at me and then speed off. After about a dozen times I called the constable's office and they sent someone over. After explaining the situation, the first thing he said to us was, "Well, what were you fellas doing?" Like somehow this was our fault.

For our whole lives we'd dreamed about living on the beach. But when that started happening it just ruined it for us. (Sorry for the long post.)

Jesus, Bil, you always know how to get my crying.

Gawd. Faggot never got to me in school--mostly because everyone seemed to be called 'faggot' about equally. We had to wear a uniform, and inevitably, all of our uniform tops had that little loop on the back affectionately called a 'fag tag.' I was less bothered by my interactions with others, than I was with my inner demons. When I was called a 'faggot,' I knew it wasn't actually being used as 'gay' but just 'stupid.' But inside something else was going on. I didn't wait til my teens to attempt suicide. Luckily, when I did, I thought I could do it by jumping into the Huron River. Pretty ineffective way to kill yourself, as its more like a creek than a river. When the camp counselors came for me, I chalked it up to just feeling like taking a swim.

I think I did so much beating myself up, God or karma figured I'd been through enough, so when I came out, it went without issue. All of those years of self-hatred, and I had friends trying to defend me to myself when I was coming out! I think there is balance in the world. This was in Catholic School, in blue collar Detroit, in the 90s. For all intents and purposes, I should have been shunned and tormented, not elected to Homecoming Court.

No, I had done plenty of destruction to myself--wishing for death every day from the age of 8 until I was a legal adult. I think its quite fair I didn't get my fair share of 'smear the queer,' that the rest of us got.

Bil, thanks for sharing this. Its impactful, and inspirational. We have to do whatever we can to end the torment that our youth have to go through every day in school. School is a warzone--we have to make it better.

Thanks for the kind comments. I want to acknowledge contributor Austen Crowder for her assistance in proofreading the post and making a few suggestions on how to improve it. I really appreciated the time she spent on the post with me. (I've been writing it for a week.)

Please continue to share your own reasons to have problems with faggots. I've enjoyed reading as some of you have told your own stories.

In answer to the above questions, yes, all the experiences were mine. They're true. But they just made me a stronger person.

I don't want to be insensitive to these horrible stories. My reaction to the body of this post is much the same as the other commenters.

However, the repeated "I have a problem with faggots" line bothers me. Don't you mean, "I have a problem with the word 'faggot'"? As written, it sounds like you're saying that the hatred directed at you in the past has created problems in your relationships with other gay men, now.

I'm a faggot. I don't have any problem with the word. I'm one of the reclaimers. I respect the views of those who feel the word should never be used. I won't call you a faggot if you don't like the word, but I do use the term for myself. It's not self-hatred. I simply choose to deal with the trauma of my similar childhood experiences in a different way. I love words, all words, and I won't let anyone take this one away from me. It's mine now.

Both of our views are valid. But as written, it sounds like you have a problem with me, rather than the word. I don't think that's the case. I think we're on the same side. We have certainly experienced many of the same things.

What, exactly, do you mean?

Great question, Christian. I wondered if anyone would ask.

I think it's a little bit of both, don't you? Obviously the word has negative connotations for me - after being called "faggot" all my life, it's a word that really triggers deep feelings. But I deliberately didn't put the quote marks around "faggots" each time I wrote it so it wouldn't just be the word...

Because, let's be real. Why would the word bother anyone? It's just a word - and as you point out, some people have chosen to 'reclaim' the word. So if a word is just a word, what is there left to have a problem with?

What the word represents.

In another version of the post, I had a segment about "what a faggot is" that went down the road of all the derogatory things "faggot" represents. I chose not to include that portion though, because I thought it took it too far. My problem with faggots was because I tried so hard not to be one. I didn't want to be known as a "faggot" with all the word's implications.

So in having a problem with "faggots," don't we also have a problem with faggots? It's all intertwined in an unhealthy mix of emotions, preconceptions and low self esteem, isn't it?

Yes, I see what you're saying. I suspected that was the idea you wanted to convey. I am interested that idea and I would like to read it explored further. I worry that it was a bit lost in this piece, however. We were on the same page, but I was using assumption and conjecture to get there. Though your syntax is artful, such a nuanced concept is better conveyed in clear terms.

It's quite a battle overcoming the self-hatred we develop due to not conforming to society's idea of "what men should be." Personally, I detest the way "butch," "masculine," and "straight acting" gay men often look down upon those who are more effeminate. Must we always feel superior to someone, somehow?

Maybe my own use of "faggot" is not entirely healthy. Knowing ourselves is far more difficult than most admit, and self-destructive motivations take a long time to ferret out. I'm lucky I have health insurance that covers most of my therapist bill! For now, it feels like the word represents self-love to me. Pride is acknowledging that I am all of those things for which I was once taunted--and that's a good thing.

I'm glad you draw strength from these awful experiences. I hope one day you don't have a problem with faggots anymore--because at the end of the day, good and bad, we're all just human. We have more in common than we do differences.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 28, 2009 7:45 PM

Bill, thank you for writing this thought-provoking, gut-wrenching piece. While I don't share your sentiments around the word "faggot," nor "faggots" themselves, I totally respect your feelings and understand, as well as anyone can who did not go through your experiences, why you feel the way you do.

I am so, so sorry you were treated so cruelly by so many unfeeling people. I'm glad you've drawn strength from the experiences. And thank goodness you never succeeded in killing yourself!

Christian, thank you for writing your comments. I actually share your sentiments, if not your experiences.

Dane B. McFadhen | October 27, 2009 11:36 AM

I'm a Gay writer. I've written two books now (in the middle of the second). The first book is all true, about my teaching stint in China. I did a coming out story that you can find on my Facebook site under "Notes". It's called Ms. Dictator.
I hope it gives some of you inspiration.
My second book is fiction.

After reading from these brave people I can only hope that my writing heals some of us.

Keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Dane B. McFadhen

Wow what a story. I grew up straight and never had to deal with drama like that. Plus one for being straight I guess. Every gay story I hear comes with so much unnecessary drama I don't understand why people would bring that on themselves.

Every gay story I hear comes with so much unnecessary drama I don't understand why people would bring that on themselves.

What do you mean "bring that on themselves?"

By bringing that on themselves I mean they have a choice. They have the choice to conform to the norms of the society they are living in or to be different and invite the drama that goes along with it.

I don't have a problem with it either way. I'm just not sympathetic towards the plight the drama one invites upon themselves.

Sort of like how Jews could have avoided all that persecution if they'd only converted to Christianity in order to conform to the Christian societies in which they lived?

Chicken Hammer - WTF? Are you seriously referring to rape as "drama?" What are you - the emissary of the straight world sent to tell us that it's okay, and we need to just make sure and stay "vewy, vewy quiet" and the meanies will go away?

Yep, I think that's the gist of what he's saying. By his logic, a woman who is raped brought it on herself. Pretty classic example of supporting oppression by making excuses for it. I see no indication on his blog that he's anything but a vulgar right-wing nut.

I clicked on the link - my eyes, my eyes!

Dear Chicken Hammer,

It's quite obvious, from the name you gave yourself, that you don't get out much in the real world, gay or straight. Ahem, you might want to make some discreet inquiries about the term "chicken." We gayz use it in a special way (any nuanced discussion about intergenerationality will escape you completely, so I'll spare you that).

(Insert cackle here)

No love,

Yasmin

I'm not counting on him being a "chicken." Probably a morbidly obese couch potato in a T-shirt covered in Cheetos stains who sits around cheering and clapping to Glenn Beck while surrounded by week-old Pizza Hut boxes and empty Bud Lite bottles, a man so vile and repulsive that even the cockroaches and mildew have fled the house because they got tired of listening to him rant about "da immagrints."

Trust me, if I had a choice in my mannerisms when I was growing up, I would have been just like every other boy. Some can pretend. Some can hide. I couldn't. And frankly, I think that those who can, who are really good at it, often turn into the closeted homophobic bigots who persecute us. How many evangelical preacher examples would you like to prove this point?

And secondly, why should anyone have to "conform to the norms of...society"??? That, to me, is a repugnant concept. Even if we had the choice to do such a thing, it would be a poor society indeed that demanded it. Differences and individuality should be celebrated, not punished!

the_czarina the_czarina | October 27, 2009 8:59 PM


i'm straight too, chicken hammer.
and the willful ugliness and ignorance you exhibit by visiting other peoples' home and crapping in the middle of the living room makes me want to vomit.

come to mama; we can have a nice, cozy straight woman to straight man discussion.

i have a story to tell you.
it's about a 1996 University of Georgia study conducted by Henry Adams, Lester Wright, Ph.D.s, and Bethany Lohr which has become part of the scientific literature of people with disorders like you may suffer from.
let's call it the "he doth protest too much" study.

rape = drama? verbal, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse = drama?

your ignorance is stultifying.
i suggest you take your head out of your ass and learn how to be a human being.

the_czarina the_czarina | October 27, 2009 8:59 PM


i'm straight too, chicken hammer.
and the willful ugliness and ignorance you exhibit by visiting other peoples' home and crapping in the middle of the living room makes me want to vomit.

come to mama; we can have a nice, cozy straight woman to straight man discussion.

i have a story to tell you.
it's about a 1996 University of Georgia study conducted by Henry Adams, Lester Wright, Ph.D.s, and Bethany Lohr which has become part of the scientific literature of people with disorders like you may suffer from.
let's call it the "he doth protest too much" study.

rape = drama? verbal, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse = drama?

your ignorance is stultifying.
i suggest you take your head out of your ass and learn how to be a human being.

the_czarina the_czarina | October 27, 2009 9:00 PM


i'm straight too, chicken hammer.
and the willful ugliness and ignorance you exhibit by visiting other peoples' home and crapping in the middle of the living room makes me want to vomit.

come to mama; we can have a nice, cozy straight woman to straight man discussion.

i have a story to tell you.
it's about a 1996 University of Georgia study conducted by Henry Adams, Lester Wright, Ph.D.s, and Bethany Lohr which has become part of the scientific literature of people with disorders like you may suffer from.
let's call it the "he doth protest too much" study.

rape = drama? verbal, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse = drama?

your ignorance is stultifying.
i suggest you take your head out of your ass and learn how to be a human being.

the_czarina the_czarina | October 27, 2009 9:06 PM



oy vey, bil!
i did it again!
i promise not to post again until i learn how not to send 2 and 3 copies of the same comment to mess up the discussion.
mea culpa

For the, record, Chicken Hammer does allow comments. I just left one. I stand corrected.I disagree with just about everything he believes about 1000% but fair is fair. Also he can spell, which is admirable.

Regan DuCasse | October 27, 2009 3:14 PM

Well, Chicken Hammer, and now you're expert in how someone brings such attention to themselves?

You have absolutely NO idea what being a member of a hated group is like.
Well, you're only just lucky in the situation you were born and that is all.
Yet, you are judging another person, specifically someone gay and assuming they brought it on themselves.

You sound like the sort of person that assumes a female brought rape on herself.
Hard to avoid, since being female is all it takes to attract a rapist.

Einstein said "The serious problems of the day won't be solved by the consciousness that created them."

Meaning, gay people didn't create nor foment anti gay sentiment, any more than blacks created racism.
The drama, chickenhammer, was brought on by centuries of straight people denying the very humanity of gay people.
Even to the extent that there seems to be no belief that gay people can or should feel pain, humiliation or grief. Even though the actions against gay people are to do just that.

I'm a black woman, who has been in the position of people trying to tell ME what I should be and how I should feel and respond to mental and physical assault.
And the only ones who think it's not what I say it is, are the people who have had the luxury of never having to experience it.

You can't understand why so much drama is involved here?
I bet you'd never ask the person invested in attacking a gay person that question, would you?

Click on the link in Chicken Hammer's name and you will be taken to his blog. It is filled with vile, prejudiced humor of all kinds. The subtitle of his blog page reads as follows:

...So the gerbil says to the other gerbil, "Let's go in the gay bar and get shitfaced."

He is nothing more than a despicable, hateful troll looking for a fight. Essentially, he's the same caliber of person who yells "faggot" at people and thinks it's somehow funny.

A few more thoughts.

I spent a little while reading Chicken Hammer's blog. I'm very, very familiar with the "humor" that is present at his blog.

I grew up in a conservative community that was extremely prejudiced toward anyone who strayed from the norm. Name a form of hatred and I can almost assure you that it thrived in my community.

Were it not for being a gender variant child and experiencing the accompanying isolation and rejection of my childhood community, I could have easily grown up to be a prejudiced, hateful fool.

Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for being a trans woman. Encountering people like Chicken Hammer reminds me to count my blessings.

I'm grateful that I'm not you, Chicken Hammer...

Truly grateful.

Actually, his name should be "Chicken Sh*t" because he has a blog that no one can post on. Wow, a politically conservative male who only broadcasts and doesn't receive; How f'n rare.

Oh Darya please... If you don't like me or my blog that's your choice but please don't openly lie. Comments have always been unmoderated and uncensored. Bash The Chickenhammer if you like but how about keeping it truthful!?

For the, record, Chicken Hammer does allow comments. I just left one. I stand corrected.I disagree with just about everything he believes about 1000% but fair is fair. Also he can spell, which is admirable.

That's because you're both fucking idiots.

Thanks, Saber..now I'll cry myself to sleep knowing you think I'm an idiot.

Yes, I see what you're saying. I suspected that was the idea you wanted to convey. I am interested that idea and I would like to read it explored further. I worry that it was a bit lost in this piece, however. We were on the same page, but I was using assumption and conjecture to get there. Though your syntax is artful, such a nuanced concept is better conveyed in clear terms.

It's quite a battle overcoming the self-hatred we develop due to not conforming to society's idea of "what men should be." Personally, I detest the way "butch," "masculine," and "straight acting" gay men often look down upon those who are more effeminate. Must we always feel superior to someone, somehow?

Maybe my own use of "faggot" is not entirely healthy. Knowing ourselves is far more difficult than most admit, and self-destructive motivations take a long time to ferret out. I'm lucky I have health insurance that covers most of my therapist bill! For now, it feels like the word represents self-love to me. Pride is acknowledging that I am all of those things for which I was once taunted--and that's a good thing.

I'm glad you draw strength from these awful experiences. I hope one day you don't have a problem with faggots anymore--because at the end of the day, good and bad, we're all just human. We have more in common than we do differences.

Bil.

Great work here. It's something all parents need to have a dialogue about because this is still a problem in our schools, today.

I know for a fact this is true.

I posted it on my facebook page so other parents could read this and talk to their kids about homophobia and how to deal with this kind of bullying.

Thank you for posting this.

Louise


Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 29, 2009 6:14 AM

Bil,

The worst thing about old memories/insults/fears is that they never fully go away. I still have fights with old demons and a word is not among them.

The best thing about being through what you have suffered is the person you now are, what you have and what you have accomplished with Jeramie.

Everyone suffers, but not everyone survives. I have been there holding the suffering kid who is scared shitless about what could happen to him in the good old 1970's in Indiana. I know I told you about my lasting shame at taking a baseball bat to a cruising park just hoping to find a "sissy beater" of the day.

Keep surviving

I was really moved by this piece. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself.

Bil
I don't even know you but this story is so truly terrifying and horrific. I'm with czarina. My heart is broken and I enraged. I'm astonished that you are the person that you have become.

I'm a straight ally because I have found so many wonderful friends who just happen to be LGBT. Scratch that. I'm a straight ally because it is the right thing to do.

I want a world where every LGBT person, every person, can live without fear and discrimination. Not another generation can pass.

So powerful and beautiful and sad and triumphant. Your hard work and honesty show through so much here. All I can say is that I'm very grateful for your courage and generosity in sharing this.

Great piece, Bil. Makes me want to say, "I'm sorry this all happened to you," but you already said it just makes you stronger. Us more experienced and/or older folks sometimes come to that understanding. The kids though...a lot of times they haven't lived long enough to have experienced the strength yet and they die...or turn into the haters calling loving people faggots to prove they aren't.

I can feel myself trying to push the thoughts of faggot experiences down as I write. They helped push me toward hospitalization after a suicide attempt too. I'm sorry for the hurt you experienced. I understand. As I write this, I remember being called a faggot by a university official as I walked by their display table on campus. I don't know why that particular one stays in my mind. It isn't the most violent or intrusive of the faggot experiences I've had, but it is there reminding me of the hurt. Actually, that happened about a week after my first suicide attempt. It's like one experience out of a bizillion. So many faggot experiences I have had for over a half century now.

So many experiences like this for so many people just wanting to express who we are. People tell me, "You just need to have a thicker skin." I've thought about that. No, the skin I have is perfect for me and what I am here on earth to do. If it was thicker I know I wouldn't be as empathetic and understanding of another's experience and be able to live my life as fully as I do.

The fear of a faggot experience returns every time I want to express myself or be everything I can be. Just like you described. I struggle to live with passion, creativity and compassion and to care about folks and causes. It seems to be a never ending struggle. Their hatred is incredibly intense, but then so is my love.

As I read about the univerisity official, I flashed back to the time I was crossing the street and a car, wanting to turn right, had to stop for me. As a pedestrian, I caught the drivers eye to be sure he saw me. That meant I also saw him mouth 'faggot' at me. Like you, I don't know why this one stays in my mind. Like yours', it wasn't the most violent or intrusive I'd experience in my, at that time, forty odd years. Maybe it was the randomness of it. Whatever it was, it's one out of a billion that always pops up, even at 55. When I cross a street, I'm still expecting to hear that word again.

This is heartrending. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and reminding the world how damaging the epithets, the abuse and the name-calling are. It never ceases to frustrate me to think how many young men give up on things they love because of the (justified) fear of rejection and humiliation.


to Chicken Hammer, I know you probably won't read this, but let me point out to you that things like this *disprove* your point- *nobody* would *choose* to be treated this way, to have all this difficulty. Hell, no one on earth would *choose* making the awkwardness of adolescence even the slightest bit worse!

Hey Bil, thank you for this text. It touches me very deeply. And the point you make about "faggots""/faggot is crystal clear.

It also makes me think in a different way about using words like transfag and sissy in trans context. I'm not from an English speaking country so it is difficult for me to sense if reclaiming the words actually works. I will be more careful in the future when I use them. It's easy for me to "reclaim" if I have never been the target of these words in the first place.

Rage is my constant companion at the age of 55, despite therapy, sobriety, giving back, etc. My rage is debilitating, so I'm not recommending it. I tried to rid myself of it unsuccessfully, after a lifetime of being the shit under hets' heels I'm convinced it isn't going anywhere good. I'm not an inspiration to anyone, and I've already stopped trying after many suicide attempts going back to my teen years. Even my considerable daily medications do not keep me from getting triggered. After reading this I would LOVE to bring a baseball bat on a hunt for anti-gay bashers, right now. I don't go out much at all any more because I'm looking for someone to say something like "faggot" to me so I can attack him with everything my six feet and 230 pounds can bring down on him. I don't hate hets, I hate what most hets do to us whenever they get the chance.

Next time they drive by, get out your shotgun and aim it at them. Then shoot in the air. I guarantee they won't come back.

LOL Mykelb! What an excellent idea. I can't wait to read the police report. ROFLMAO

18 months ago, i had my first opening as an exhibiting artist. i was invited at the last minute to show with a 3 other artists. i had 3 days to get it all together and i did. i picked 25 pieces of mine, hung them, spend a couple hundred dollars on the food/wine etc. i sent out hurried e-invites. the night of the opening, i had 35 people show up to see MY art. the other 3 artists had a total of 6 people between them, and only 1 of the other artists contributed to the reception table. i don't know what the others were thinking, but i wanted the night to be 'right.' Long story short, about an hour before the reception was to end, the husband of one of the other artists was fed up. NO ONE was looking at any other art but my own. i even asked some people to at least walk around the show. the guy and his wife left early, and i went outside to ask them to at least stay until the show was over and help clean up since they hadn't contribute a penny or a minute of time in setting up and advertising etc. (and she is an ESTABLISHED artist with a name. i'm brand new at this) he turned around and with venom, seriously with VENOM, spat at me and screamed at me a calloing me a fuckingfaggot. he was a 65 year old rocket scientist-seriously!!! i haven't been called that in a couple of decades. i live in an uppity white-bread shoreline connecticut town, and most bigots here at least know how to be courteous in public... anyway, i shut down the show, kicked everyone out and took out my art. one of the other artists, told me that at the age of 51 i should really know how to 'take it.' i told her, at the age of 51 i had finally learned how NOT TO TAKE IT.

needless to say, i don't do group shows anymore, and i had a VERY successful solo show last June with steady hits on my site now too.

I am not sure I can say anything that would help or even express fully how moved I am by this story Bill. I offer my apology as a part of the human race if that is worth anything to you. I also wish to thank you for sharing this which I also am sure was painful for you to do as it also helped me to recall why I have a problem with that word as well.

Words mean things, and this is a perfect example why. I hate it when gay people think it's funny to casually drop "faggot" or say "that's so gay" as an insult, and then brush it off with "I'm allowed to say it, I'm gay." Just because one thinks it's hip and trendy to do so doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt other gay people.

I hope writing this was healing for you.Reading it was healing for me.I hope you can feel my virtual hug.Love yourself.

Your post is so heartbreaking. I had a fairly rough time in high school but not like your time of it. I am glad you made it man.

I teach now, and try to make sure that my students don't have the experience we had.

I stumbled onto your website while doing a search on teen violence. Your story stopped me in my tracks. I'm straight, but I am an ally. Please let me know how I can help.

FurryCatHerder | February 10, 2010 2:54 PM

Bil,

Except for some specific details, you've captured my life.

The accounts of your musical abilities remind me of how every time I wanted to take music lessons (or dance), my parents said "No". Piano? No. Violin? No. Guitar? No.

The tragedy isn't just that you were abused (as was I and so many of our brothers and sisters). It's that the World lost out on your talents, just as it loses out on the talents of so many other queers who are deprived of the ability to express themselves simply for being queer.

Well all I have to say is: I'm sorry you were raped and beat
(there is nothing in my life I can comapre to that), and kids can be mean. But the faggot word is about as bad as when I was called a "wet back" "camel jockey" etc..., and I'm not even Latino. I never cried or tried to kill my self, I made a joke about the racial slurs, and made people feel stupid for thier remarks. So stop being a "faggot" and be a proud homosexual male!

You know, Mo, I'm female and I tend to laugh off the c-word, but I don't go around implying that other women who are offended or deeply hurt by that word (and can't laugh it off) are weak. People can't choose what triggers them. Bil shared a seriously rough story, and you thought it'd be okay to tell him to just shrug off a word that's brought him so much pain.

David Witkin, Livermore, CA | February 20, 2010 2:33 PM

This was an amazing accounting of what is like to grow up as a Gay Man in this society at this time. I have experienced many of the same things as you described here, and indeed it has only been one life, MINE. Not some "compilation" of others' experiences. Of course it made me angry and sad. But here is my question:

Why would you have a problem with "faggots"? I think the problem is that you have a problem with HOMOPHOBES, or perhaps you have a problem with people whose only response to intimidation is more fear and self-loathing. Do you really mean you have a problem with YOUR OLD SELF? That may in fact be the only "faggot" with whom you really have a problem.

Perhaps if you forgave that scared little boy for crying and not fighting back, you wouldn't have as much of a problem with him. I wish you the very best. Love, Big Gay Dave

mhantholz | April 3, 2010 8:01 PM

"I stayed at a homeless shelter only once. Three men raped and beat me..."

I've been a writer/editor for forty years, and this "account" sounds like something *seriously rehearsed*, many times---"I stared at the pockmarked concrete floor of the utility closet while they took turns fucking me and hitting me with a broom handle until I lost consciousness..."

"*pockmarked* concrete floor" ???
I worked law enforcement before I got into the *literary racket*, and this does *not sound* like any rape victim I ever knew---"pockmarked concrete" indeed.

It *does* sound like some copy I blue-penciled while working as copy-editor in the "adult entertainment" field in the 1970s---it's too *studied*, for a simple crime-scene recollection, and yet there's no description of the perps or the circumstances leading up to the incident.

Finally, "I stayed at a homeless shelter only once..."

Okay-y-y : Characters in those holes have done *everything wrong* with their lives,from an early age, to be written off by everyone who ever knew them, family and otherwise.

If this guy can remember the *texture of a floor*, maybe he can enlighten us as to the *juicy details* about how he got to a place in life where he seeks refuge in a place filled with junkies, drunks and career criminals---and then plays the *betrayed orphan* when they behave according to pedigree. Assuming his account *might* be true, which is a dubious proposition.

>>FOR EVERYONE WHO'S DIFFERENT THERE'S A DIRTY NAME.

>>STICKS & STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT WORDS CAN NEVER HURT ME.

>>IMPROVISE, ADAPT, OVERCOME.

>>>GROW THE FUCK UP.

Cheers !


I think mhantholz has it figured out.

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Renee Thomas | April 14, 2010 12:21 PM

Casey,

Your retort was simply brilliant! We don't have to "take it," not now, not ever.

If there is a way I can support your work as an artist, I'd be delighted to do so.

What is this chickenhammer?

Gawd!

What an execrable, hate-filled waste of flesh

The idea is there, if the execution was a bit flawed...

And I can see where you'd get that it's a little overrehearsed. But imagine this had happened to a woman, in a dark seedy alley littered with garbage instead. Generally during such violent crimes the victim dissociates from the physical pain. So, I find it believable and likely that the writer clearly remembers the floor he was held down on. I bet he could almost remember it well enough to tell you very specific details about the floor. I would also find it believable if the details of what specifically happen were a little hazy.

As for why he was there, there could be any reason- but probably not as negative as your imagination is leading you to believe. Maybe he was kicked out of his house for his lifestyle? You never know.

Further, this is obviously not something that happened recently, and probably not something that he talks about much. So an inner monologue of sorts over time could lead to more descriptive writing. (Especially since well-written people rarely speak the way they write, and vice versa)

As to the last four bits at the end, I agree with the first. To the second, words can sometimes hurt, just not physically. The third- even the strongest people have their moments of weakness.

Your solution to constant verbal assault/harassment can't be to "be strong, walk away, ignore it" because you are effectively making one group's right to (abusive) free speech more important than another's to happiness and safety. (And I believe the Preamble precedes the Bill of Rights).

As for the fourth, I can only hope you intended that toward the people attacking people like the writer for the sexual orientation (or any other federally-protected minority groups)

I think you brought up some interesting points but, from the perspective of a straight female that went through something similar, I think your arguments are more conjecture than well-rounded and supported argument. Your reasons, for instance, attack the author and his sexual orientation- dangerously close to ad hominem at best.

While I appreciate your effort and opinion, I believe more research needs to be done into dissociation related to trauma. As for the story-like feel of his account, keep in mind it IS written, and this author is a pretty prolific one. This is more of an autobiography than a police report- as it should be. How many autobiographies have you read that you can attack the literary flow of his piece?

Unfortunately, I could go on. Fortunately I won't. I hope you can identify my opinion and extrapolate it to points I haven't covered. But one more thing--

@Renee~ He may be misguided, or you may simply disagree with chickenhammer, but there's really no reason to jump straight to name-calling! Especially name-calling completely void of any facts supporting your argument.

Lauren, the way I see it, Chicken Hammer came into this place (which is supposed to be safe from his type) with his fake concern and very real bigotry and victim-blaming remarks (which you may or may not have read, given your willingness to defend him), and anyone who behaves like that deserves everything they get. Nobody's obligated to be polite to people who are downright abusive to them, and blaming gays for the abuse they have suffered because they didn't conform is in itself abuse.

Moumin Quazi | April 23, 2010 3:10 PM

Powerful essay!

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Your "logic" is ridiculous. There seems to be one of your type on every blog -- the type who loves to tell people who've been abused that it was their fault, the type who've never suffered from that kind of abuse themselves but still feel it's their right to judge those who have, the type who pretend to be concerned and caring only to reveal that they don't give a sh*t about anyone who doesn't share their privilege. There are a lot of you, Chicken Hammer, and you're all pathetic. Whether you're verbally abusing people (like with your "jokes" on your blog), physically abusing people (I don't know you personally but I won't assume you haven't), or merely validating such abuse (like you're doing here), you are keeping the world unsafe. People like you should be the ones afraid to be themselves.

Hey Bil I've learned a lot since I posted my first comment here. I was completely wrong. Not only was my comment inappropriate for this venue but my thinking was also wrong. I've learned a lot from talking with people, reading, and observing; all with a more open mind.

There is still a lot that I do not and may never understand. My intent going forward is that if it has no direct negative impact on me or the people I care about then to each their own.