There are certain words I never use in conversation because I’m not an ass, but this post requires it to make my point understood. If you know me at all, you know I mean no harm or insult by using this word here.
Anyone who spends more than 15 minutes with me quickly learns what my beliefs are and where I stand politically. I am passionate about the causes I support and have always been ready to argue my side, no matter how confrontational I think I’m not. But I’ve never really had the opportunity to do so, mostly because I surround myself with people who think like me. Okay, that sounds really weird, and while I’m a fan of being friends with people who have diverse thoughts so we’re not all bored out of our minds, I find that for me I enjoy life more when I am around like-minded folks. So when I had a chance last night to try to change someone’s mind about something, I hesitated. Could I really effectively point out to someone how they were wrong and could I bring them over to my side?
I wish I could say that I won my case, that this particular person saw the error of their ways and apologized, but I found myself up against a wall: a wall made out of a jerk who would do anything in his power to be the “bigger man.” There are some people you just can’t win over because they have to prove themselves right even if they might really agree with you.
Last night an acquaintance of only a couple weeks used the word “gay” as an insult. Actually, first he called someone a faggot, then he said the same someone was gay where civilized people would have used the word stupid or silly or dumb. He was joking around with his friend, meaning no true ill-will against him, but the fact that he chose to use those terms as derogatory angered me. Trying hard to be more “Randy Jackson” rather than “Simon Cowell,” I asked him to not use those words the way he did. He looked at me strangely, like he’d never even thought about it. Then for a split second I could see in his eyes that he understood how hurtful the words could be. And then he chose to argue with me – NOT in favor of using the words as insults, but to the fact that I couldn’t possibly know that he meant them as an insult in the first place. Which, of course, was a dumb argument because when someone tells a story about something they did and another person responds with “Don’t be such a faggot” or “That’s so gay,” there’s not much room for interpretation.
And I can kinda understand that if you grew up with using those words in that phrase and no one has told you that you shouldn’t and you’ve never really thought about it before, it might surprise you to learn that others, gay or straight, take offense. But unless you are anti-homosexuality, it shouldn’t insult you to have someone politely request that you not use those words in that manner. And this guy didn’t even argue THAT point – he never ONCE said that he hates homosexuals or that he thinks they are beneath him. He only argued how I shouldn’t have assumed he meant his words as an insult. Explaining to him how hurtful it is to me and to others to use someone’s identity as an insult or use a term no self-respecting 21st century ally would EVER utter made no impact.
I eventually just walked away from the conversation, not feeling defeated in the least, but disappointed in this man that I’d thought I might like as a friend.
But I did learn something about myself: when it really matters, I have no problem standing up for what I believe in, now that I’ve been put to the test.