So it's 4:30 in the morning and I just got off the phone with my brother. He is a fantastically talented and overall wonderful person in Waterloo. Tonight my brother called me upset because some asshole called him a faggot. So first of all, my reaction is "who is this loser and why didn't you punch him square in the face?", Ryan is slightly more reasonable than I am I suppose. So Ryan continues to tell me that not only was this guy calling him a fag but that his friends were saying "he doesn't hate gay people he's just using a word". Okay, I call bullshit...sort of. He might not hate gay people, but he certainly knows how to wield his words to hurt gay people.
So why does he want to hurt a great gay guy whom he doesn't even know? I have a few thoughts on the matter, but the main one is that he hates himself, or at the very least a part of himself. This guy, like many many others have in the past, got too drunk tonight and his true feelings about himself came out and he decided to take it out on the most obvious target. I mean, you're not going to take it out on a black man, a Jewish woman, a physically disabled person... No one will stand back and watch that happen (that's probably not true, but I'm trying to be slightly optimistic about society). So why do we stand back and watch someone call another human a fag? Why do we let people at work make rude gay jokes about other straight guys? Why do we let people make remarks about their bros calling them fairies? The last time I checked having someone say "you're so straight, you probably love guys" wasn't a very funny insult, but sexual orientation is somehow funny regarding gay people.
So now what? The word is out there, my brother is upset, I wish I could say this was the first time this had ever happened, but the world is full of douches so of course it isn't. This guy, just like some of the guys on the UW football team (making us proud one season at a time), some random bros, some insecure closeted gay men etc. have all used this word in an act of supposed hate against my brother. My thought is that these guys (no I'm not being sexist, it's just always turned out to be other males) have the IQ's of trolls. That doesn't excuse them by any means, but trying to explain self-esteem and love and compassion to a guy who can't understand how to tie his shoes is going to be difficult.
My question is, who are the people standing around listening to these morons and not saying a single word? They are (potentially) smart, well spoken, loving, wonderful people, and yet they still let their friends insult total strangers. That's not okay with me, and it shouldn't be okay with you. Sure, someone called my brother a fag, but if that guys best friend turned to him and said "hey man, not cool" I would bet the conversation would've ended there. But instead everyone kept partying and pretending nothing was wrong, which empowered an empty-headed loser to keep going.
This whole "it gets better campaign" is great, but my brother is 23 and is getting hated on like I did when I was 7. Sure, it does get better eventually, but what are you doing personally to make sure it gets better? I'm a straight white female, I have absolutely no reason to stand up for gay rights. Yes, I have a gay brother, but we all share the earth, we're all here together, so you have a gay brother too. In actuality, you probably have a gay uncle, a gay friend, a gay teammate, a guy professor - so if you need to have a tie to someone in order to have a backbone and stand up for gay rights, do it for them.
The word fag is not okay. It will never be okay, and I can't stop someone from using it, but I can stop them from feeling empowered to use it. You're right, it would be much easier to let it go and pretend you heard nothing because it's just none of your business, you didn't say it. But how many more years do people like my brother have to wait before it gets better? Hopefully not too long.