Not even going to attempt to do the old 'Fa***ts" bit in this piece because I think the power of that word to hurt deserves our full attention. This holiday I was walking on West 47th Street just off Times Square when two guys came walking toward me. My guess is that they were in their late 20's but maybe a little older. They were well-dressed and seemed clean-cut and, frankly, harmless. As they approached me, they spat at me and said, "This is for you 'the King of the Faggots'." Whoa, I was totally taken back in time and I came to a halt at the force of the words.
After all these years, those words still had the ability to pierce me like a knife. Stunned is too mild of a word to describe my reaction. Not sure it was the hate that poured out of an unexpected source, the spit or that they felt that they could do so without any ramifications. Still have the image in my head of the look on their faces and realized they most likely would cheer if a knife had gone in my gut. These guys felt they had permission to express their disgust and hate openly. That permission not only comes from the heated debate over the struggle for our freedom. Clearly there are those organized hate groups that actually encourage these actions. But we also can look to religious leaders who remain silent, the Pope who is on a LGBT witch hunt and yes, even our President who constantly says marriage is between a man and a woman implying that any other definition is just not normal and maybe even disgusting.
But 'King of Faggots'?
Throughout the LGBT journey through hate and our tears it has often been our humor that enabled us to survive the horrors. In this case, my humor quickly kicked into high gear as I thought of how many of my LGBT brothers and sisters would not only be offended by me being called faggot but how enraged they would be that they called me "King of the Faggots." A huge grin appeared on my face as I thought how many would contest my elevation to such royalty. The grin enabled me to move on down the sidewalk but it only eased the pain on the outside because clearly it is still bothering me today.
The derogatory term had power. It hurt. It was degrading. The hate was scary. For a quick second, I felt dirty and very vulnerable.
Don't get me wrong, it did not weaken my resolve to be a free man. In fact it is serving as a fuel so we can end such blatant hate in America. So to all those, gay or straight, who think it is cute to use the word "faggot" or "fag' either in joking or even self proclaimed empowerment......stop it. There is nothing funny, empowering or good about the word faggot. Speak up when people gay and straight use it.
Believe me, I have learned my lesson. No more jokes even with my LGBT friends. The word is a hateful and awful and its causes real pain.
Take it from the 'King.