There we were, just walking around campus and holding hands. We were not trying to make a political statement. We were not trying to rub “it” in anyone’s face. We were just trying our best to keep our emotions contained before we had to say goodbye and end our relationship. It was an emotional moment for us. I was on the verge of tears. I finally found someone I truly liked, and this was the last night I could spend with him. I thought it could be a bittersweet and perfect night. Unfortunately, though, it was a night punctuated and tattered by one simple word: “fag.”
I do not know why the word “fag” upsets me. Maybe because it brings up so many emotional issues from past experiences I have had or because it caused me to cry myself to sleep a few times a week when I was a kid. Maybe because I am so used to it being followed up by a shove and a punch, or because I have had the bruises to prove what hate and ignorance can mean to a person like me. Whatever the reason or reasons, I just do not like the word. When I hear it, I shut down. I am not even on this earth anymore.
I know that by responding the way I do to hateful words, I am giving the person who said them the satisfaction they are seeking. However, while to them calling me a “fag” elicits a brief smirk of success on their face; to me it is an event that I do not forget. While they get a smirk, I get a lump in my throat that is too hard to swallow. It hurts to swallow. Only deep, shallow breaths allow me to cope briefly.
Every time I breathe those shallow breaths, I cannot help but think to myself, why does someone need to hate? I am sure it is a question that all people who are discriminated against ask. Am I really that worthless to someone that they can actually feel a sense of glee from tearing away at my spirit? The only conclusion I can reach is that these people really do not understand the consequences of their actions.
It must be tough for someone who has never faced harsh discrimination and bigotry to fully grasp how hate and prejudice can hurt a person. While hateful people may understand how happy being hurtful makes them feel, they may not understand what being hurtful does to the person they hate. That is the only way I can rationalize hate. I honestly cannot believe that intelligent people who understand the consequences of their actions can hate. It seems that only ignorant and simple people can commit hateful acts and be satisfied by them.
With that said, the only way to combat hate is to face it head on. For gay people that means coming out and being visible. It means showing and telling people through visibility and outspokenness, as out gay people, that hate does have consequences, that words do break hearts and souls just as badly as sticks and stones break bones.
October is National Coming-Out Month for the gay community, and I encourage all those afraid to open the doors to their closets to come out into the light. In fact, dance and bask in the light. Hopefully, one day, we can all hold hands in the light outside of the closet and not have to worry. We just have to be loud and proud and never, ever shut up.
-The writer, a junior majoring in
human services, is a Hatchet columnist.