It’s not a secret that with the public coming out of Mizzou defensive end Michael Sam, the topic of LGBTQ rights has been on, in and around the minds of most, if not all, MU students.
I’m not going to lie to any of you. I was raised in a relatively rural town with a population of fewer than 10,000 people. Consequently, I never met someone with a sexuality that deviated anywhere away from pin-straight until probably high school. And, embarrassingly enough, I used to throw around the word “faggot.”
Looking back on my last 20 years, I think this is the thing I am most embarrassed about. It makes me feel worse than the time I peed myself in first grade gym class, more ashamed than when I fell down the entire set of middle school bleachers, and cringe harder than I do thinking about when I sat on the junior varsity bench during the entirety of my high school soccer career.
I said it to my friends, I said it to my brothers, I probably sang the word “faggot” over and over to the tune of “Jingle Bells” at one point or another. For whatever reason, it didn’t feel wrong to me. Maybe because there wasn’t anyone around to be personally offended by it. I could blame my young ignorance on my small town-procured naivety, but that would be a cop-out.
Thankfully, I’ve changed my ways since then. It could have something to do with some friends of my own coming out, or possibly moving to a campus with a population 3.5 times that of the only town I ever lived in, in a city where the bouncers at the downtown gay bar know me by name (and yet still won’t take me up on the idea of a frequent-members punch card).
If I could go back in time right this second, I would grab my 10-year-old self by the shoulders and scream, “DO NOT EVER SAY THE WORD ‘FAGGOT,’ YOU LITTLE PANTS-PEEING ASSHOLE.”
Now, obviously this particular F-word is offensive to an entire group of people, but it took me a while to understand why. I mean, I’m a woman and I hear the word bitch at least three times a day; it doesn’t bother me too much. Rather than try to articulate something that I really didn’t quite understand until about five years ago, I’ll share with you one of my favorite and most eye-opening quotes on the topic.
In an episode of comedian Louis C.K.’s television show Louie, the word “faggot” is discussed by a group of male comedians playing poker. Openly gay comedian Rick Crom is asked what the big deal with saying “faggot” is, and he responds with this:
“You might wanna know that every gay man in America has probably had that word shouted at them when they’re being beaten up. Sometimes many times. Sometimes by a lot of people all at once. So when you say it, it kinda brings that all back up. But y’know. By all means use it, get your laughs. But, you know, now you know what it means.”
I don’t think I need to say much more. Please, don’t use that word. It hurts people.