Faggot.

I thought to myself for a long while about if there was a place on this blog for an entry that wasn’t funny. I had imagined that it would always be funny; that even if it was a serious topic being addressed that there would have to be some undertone of humor that could be taken away from it. I went through the description of the blog, and I couldn’t find any promise that every single post would be funny. With that being said, there will probably be very few posts on here that take on a serious tone, but on nights like this… nights when the search for humor isn’t as fruitful as I would hope, I’ll write something that might make you uncomfortable. That’s okay. It might be something you disagree with. And that’s okay, too. But if all goes as planned, it will at least make you think.
I remember the first time someone called me a faggot. I didn’t even know what the word was. It was after a boy in sixth grade gym had told most of the class that I wanted to give all of the boys a special something that I’ll let you figure out. I didn’t know what that was either. Honestly, I had given little to no  conscious thought about having a girlfriend, let alone any kind of relationship. But, regardless, I remember that based on a high-pitched voice and a large group of girl friends and a distaste for the boys’ locker room, I was supposedly our class gay.
The boys in the class starting asking me if I was a faggot, and I began asking them what a faggot was. Once I found out, I wished I had never learned it. I wished that the kids in the class hadn’t learned the word from television or movies or their parents. I wished that the word had never existed. Soon after that is when I decided that I hated gay people. Once I came home and told my parents what they were calling me at school, they voiced how much they hated it, too. Like a small hole in a pair of jeans, once the word had been recognized, it began to grow. It wasn’t long before I was in high school that I began hearing the word all of the time. I would hear it at church youth group, and when we were in our prayer circle, it became more PG as we prayed for our friends who had recently stated that they were gay. I would continue to be called faggot throughout high school and occasionally, I still get the word thrown out at me today. Surprisingly, very few people have ever actually asked what my sexual orientation was. No one cared to ask. Having girlfriends always seemed to offer a hint, but it was never a deterrence from using the word. It never should have had to be. I would lay and pray to God at night, asking to never be called faggot again because just being called the word made me feel inferior. Being called a faggot meant that I was less than human.
This essay is not to discuss my beliefs. A liberal or conservative agenda really has no place in the discussion of the word. The word “faggot,” regardless of belief, has never had relevance in the conversation of whether or not gay or lesbians should be married. It has nothing to do with homosexuality’s moral or religious viability. The word faggot has no use in the complexities of whatever kind of sexual intercourse someone wants to pursue. It’s a word that has been used to marginalize, persecute, and separate humans from one another. The word dates back to the sixteenth century, originally intended as a reference to a bundle of sticks. It was soon after adopted as a slur toward women, particularly old women, who did nothing but gather those sticks. It was then adopted as a term toward homosexual men, as the stereotype insists that gay men act like women. (So, let it be noted… women who use this word are essentially bashing themselves by proxy.) For nearly five hundred years, humanity has been attacking each other with this word, and it’s concerning that it’s almost become an okay thing.
I tackle TV shows a whole series at a time. One of my most recent endeavors was Will and Grace; I loved the show and found it universally funny, but still found discomfort in the occasional use of some derivative of the word faggot. Much like nigger in the black community, it has been made acceptable for faggot to be exchanged between gay people. Sometimes, it’s like the battle has been given up, and we’ve all just become comfortable with the words that we use to attack one another.
So with Knoxville Pridefest happening tomorrow, I return to the word faggot. I’ve considered whether or not I should go for nearly two weeks now. I think about Knoxville, a metropolitan area of over one million people, and the ramifications I could face if I attend. Surely, there will be news there. What happens if I appear on any of the coverage, even in the background? How do I explain that to my parents? How many of my middle school classmates, who are most definitely still in the area, will look on the news and see me, only to respond silently with their own retorts: I always knew he was a faggot. But I think at the end of the day: why does it matter?
I find it shameful that by attending such an event, there are still people out there that would so quickly find support and identification synonymous. And at the core of it, my fear does not reside in the accusations or assumptions that I could be… gay. My fear still, at 22 years old, lies in the word. I thought back on my life, and the revelation I came to was almost startling. I can’t think of time that I ever feared being gay; I feared the idea of being hated. The concept was not much different than my fear of being called white trash for growing up in a trailer, or a dumbass for growing up in East Tennessee. I feared the idea of being pitied, or being prayed for. I hated that by being called faggot, I was the subject to someone else’s opinions or beliefs. By using the word faggot, you are not stating your allegiance to a particular religious text. You are not claiming human dominance (moral, social, or political) over another person. You are endorsing the idea that you have a right to claim superiority over another person. And if you believe that to actually be true, I’ll return the favor and pray for you.

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