Faggot

I got called “faggot” last week. In Berkeley! In 2015!

Every once in a while something happens that is so out of the norm that I almost don’t have words. I was actually speechless when I passed a guy right after I’d moved to San Francisco in 2010 who muttered “fag” under his breath as he went by.  

Now I’ve been called those names plenty of times before, but it was never within blocks of the Castro, Rainbow Central, one of THE hotbeds (when we’re lucky) of gay activities. After the shock passed, I laughed to myself. Was that the best he could do? “Faggot” is so 1980s. My inner Cyrano de Bergerac came out and started listing all the more interesting, more colorful, more descriptive things a guy like him could call a guy like me. Then I ran through the LONG list interesting, multi-syllable names guy like me could call a mouth-breather like him.

The shock wasn’t in the name. The shock was that it’s persisted even in California, even in San Francisco, even in Berkeley. For god’s sake, I live in the touchy-feeliest, do-your-own-thingiest place in the world. This is the home of the Summer of Love and Flower Children. When I moved here it was still common to see naked people strolling the streets completely legally. People here actually try not to hurt one another’s feelings, they embrace the homeless and undocumented immigrants. This is the land of “Hey man, we don’t need your fascist rules.”

So I was surprised in San Francisco in 2010 and I was surprised in Berkeley in 2015.  A guy who was hawking CDs on the street shoved one into my hand. I handed it back and he yelled, “Thanks faggot.” This time I was startled, but I wasn’t at a loss for words and since his insult was so dickish, I broke my F-bomb rule and told him to fuck off. As far as I’m concerned, one inflammatory F-word deserves another.

As I walked away fuming at the idiot who crapped on my day, I thought about how hard-wired words like “faggot”  and all the other slurs for LGBT people and African-Americans and Asians and Latinos and all the groups deemed “other” by the majority. I thought of how outraged and violent many “good” people in America get when any of those “others” achieve a civil rights win and bring a tiny change to their world. Those names are a sign of how much fear and anger still exists and how much work remains to be done.

OK, that’s my philosophical thought for today. Now go out and have a great weekend and don’t let the mouth-breathers get you down.

2 thoughts on “Faggot

  1. The word still stings, even though I know it shouldn’t. Just reading your blog post headline made my skin crawl a little. When I’ve had that word hurled at me, and I have the presence of mind to respond, I’ve tried retorts such as “How clever of you to state the obvious.” Usually I get a befuddled look in return, which is kind of what I’m going for.

    • I used to try for the snappy turn of phrase, but it’s too hard to get there when I really just want to punch someone. I was thrown at first – which is usually what happens to me when I get slapped with unexpected behavior – and it took me a second to respond. It’s not like me, but I hope I’m faster and louder next time.

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