‘He’s become a snob now. The kid’s dad is a faggot and they don’t even know.’
This simple yet hate-filled and poisonous sentence is one I overheard, waiting with my boyfriend for our takeaway Pastizzi in King St, Newtown. Obviously a family man, sitting at an al fresco table, wife next to him, another couple and two kids. This sentence spilled out of this 40-something’s mouth as flippantly and easily as if he were simply remarking on how nice his plate of food in front of him was, or something that had happened during his day or week proceeding.
We stood there, mouth agape, eyes wide. Shock isn’t something that really is a part of my life these days. I feel as though I’ve gotten to a point in life where things rarely warrant me being shocked over anything. A bit of ‘been there, done that’ attitude that many of us attain by the time we reach our thirties. We just stood there, as this privileged man ranted on about someone in his life who seemingly moved from one area to another and, according to this man has gained the airs and trappings of a snob.
His mannerisms when proclaiming this person a FAGGOT were just so laid back and casual. His flippancy, confidence and casualness when using this word disturbed me, and still does as I type this. And this is the problem. So many of us in this world are simply happy to use words like this which can have real damage in such a purely easy and casual way. Something like a stroll. Ease to do and no consequences.
I don’t know how many of you who may be reading have been called a faggot. It, along with the word ‘cunt’ and ‘poof’ make me upset, angry and bitter. Being called a FAGGOT for so many of us in the LGBTIQ world seems a part of our lives, heck even our upbringing and adolescence. I still recall it being hurled across the playground like a grenade. I recall flinching and recoiling internally with fear whenever I heard that word uttered, whether or not directed at me. Like an explosion. It still gives me chills, recalling how pubescent children in an all-boys school, a Catholic one nonetheless, where piety and righteousness and protection of the meek were espoused and regarded as virtues, yet would so easily and simply use this word in particular, without fully understanding the utter complete damage this can cause.
I’ll never forget the kid at my school who started in year 10, and promptly left by year 11. He was as queer a kid as could be, short, slightly pudgy and the antithesis of the lithe, tall and athletic Anglo-Saxon blonde Aryan kids my school seemed to regard as the peak of the school body. I remember chatting to him briefly in Art class once, then subsequently getting picked on and questioned if I was gay, ironically by boys who would later in life come out as gay themselves. In hindsight, my school was rather fascistic and monolithic in it’s approach to education at the time. We all had to play sports, either Rugby or Soccer, or Debating for the non-athletic ones. Athleticism was held in the highest regard. Academia was a second, only in order to produce more students entering universities by the end of their school careers, nothing more. This school wanted to be high up on the list for HSC results. It was for all purposes an academic factory, and I was one of those unspoken, un-catogorized kids that wasn’t great at sports, wasn’t a great academic, and was particularly mediocre and managed to always go under the radar and slip through the cracks. I strived to become unseen, unnoticed and invisible. I wanted nothing but to simply get through the days and weeks without attracting any attention. I regret this now, in hindsight, as there obviously is such a large world out there where being true to yourself is not only valued but necessary in order to live a full and rich life.
The word FAGGOT was scrawled in bright red Posca pen diagonally across the queer kids locker. It was mid morning, when I walked past hurrying on my way to class. I still feel the sentiment of my heart clenching in it’s casings. I don’t know if I identified with being Gay back then, I guess I knew that something may have been different about myself but I wasn’t at that point to be confident in facing this. This single word branded over this poor kid’s locker had in hindsight a terrifying affect on me. I can only imagine being this kid whose locker it was on. I have that image burnt indelibly in my mind, forevermore. I wish I was there for this kid. I was just so scared for my own safety.
Suffice to say, this unnamed student promptly disappeared shortly after this. I still regret that I didn’t try to make friends with him. I regret that I was so paralysed with fear at having the ‘faggot spotlight’ pointed at me and being singled out, that I would rather hide in the shadows while this poor child was vilified and called a horrific name. The last thing I heard was that he ended up at a far more liberal school on the North Shore. I can only imagine the hurt and pain this would’ve caused. I still recall that not a single word of this whole event was mentioned by the staff and faculty.
The use of this word and others like it hurt. They can change people, into ghosts like I was as an adolescent, or conversely, it admirably can steel an individual and make them even stronger and give more conviction to their identity, and to fight back. I wish I was like that. I wasn’t. For some, it can drive to depression, self hatred and low self-esteem and ultimately for some, lives taken away needlessly and cruelly.
What worried me in this most recent instance was the cool and casual use of the word FAGGOT. I stood there, unsure of what to do. In the past, I’ve been called that name among others. Walking down the street, holding hands with my boyfriend. Or on my own. Lately it hasn’t happened, I haven’t been singled out and called a FAGGOT. Why, I don’t know. Maybe my appearance is more threatening or less overtly Gay these days. As if. Tonight as I write this, I can’t say that as I wore platform shoes and a very bright multicoloured shirt. But I don’t know. I wish I was strong enough to confront this weak man and call him out on this. I wish I stood my ground not for myself but for others whom may be younger than me and still malleable and possibly effected by this language of hate, and say that this is my house and to be respectful to others. I wish I was able to break through to someone and impart that it’s not ok to use this word in any context and for any reason. Hopefully, one day I will be able to.