Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Being Called a Faggot and Having Something Thrown At You from a Moving Car

Yesterday someone called me a "Faggot" and threw a cup at me out of a moving car. There's nothing inherently remarkable about the incident; I've been called a faggot a lot and had a lot of things thrown at me (more often than not by gay men.). At the same time, what bothered me about this event was that the first thought that crossed my mind was this: I have a Ph.D. You can't call someone who has a Ph.D. a faggot and then throw a cup at him.

This is the truth: all that went through my mind was that I understood if someone called an undergraduate a faggot and then threw something at them. Even a Master's student. Especially one majoring in something like English or History.

But I have a Ph.D. Things don't happen like that to people who have Ph.D.'s

I walk everywhere. I have a phobia of driving, my mind races normally, but behind a vehicle it's even worse, the only time I've consistently driven is when my partner had to have a serious operation. I was too ashamed to ask for help --it felt too embarrassing to ask someone to escort me. Too weak. What person can't take their own partner to the hospital! I decided that it was much better to risk a serious car accident--we were on our way to the hospital after all--than admit an insecurity. (For the longest time, when people asked me why I didn't drive, I lied and said I have a D.U.I. It sounded more cool. People did always seem impressed, like I was edgy or something.)

Once during the summer I was walking towards campus and a teenage looked at me and yelled to his friends, "Look at that guy! He's wearing Birkenstocks. He's a fag."

I jogged home, not because of the vehemence of his anger, but I was concerned that others would yell at me if I kept my Birkenstocks on. I had never known Birkenstocks were a clear indicator of someone's homosexuality. Maybe if I had worn socks it would have confused them. Still I put on my Nikes and everything was fine.

In yesterday's fiasco, I was wearing boots. And even though I had never gotten my diploma framed, I had proof of my Ph.D. at home. When one Christmas, my partner's mother framed my partner's Ph.D. diploma, she asked me if I wanted her to do the same. I was too embarrassed to admit I threw it out when I moved. It felt like it was taking up too much space, and I like to travel lightly. Also: my teachers gave me a low pass on my exams. Fuckers.

Because I go everywhere on foot, I imagined myself eventually catching up to them, tapping one on the shoulder and saying, "Do you remember me?"

I'd have to remind him--all faggots looked the same to him, I would be sure of that much. Or maybe I'd be projecting. I don't know.

"Do you remember calling someone a faggot and throwing something at them out of a moving car?"

He would have forgotten. I'm sure it was something he did all the time.

"Well, that was me. And I just want you to know that I have a Ph.D. It may be in English. It may be in English with a creative writing dissertation. But it doesn't matter. You passed a line. I worked for that Ph.D. I took Latin, for Christ's sake. For four semesters. On top of what I did in undergrad. I partied too much because people in my program were pretty lame. They were the kind of people who actually took the time to read every single thing on their book lists. And I had shitty health insurance, so my gums are all messed up, and I'm afraid that no stranger will ever kiss me again if my boyfriend gets bored of me. He's the kind of person who gets annoyed when all someone does is talk about themselves. Which I always assumed that's why you lived with someone in the first place. So, I must ask, how can you do this to me?"

But none of that happened. I went home and watched the documentary "Outrage" alone in my room--it's about the outing of closeted politicians who pass anti-gay legislation. It clocked in at a brisk 90 minutes, and I felt like I had done something. I had no idea what. But I did do something. I thought. I thought long and hard. That's what thoughtful people do, right? Self-reflection is a good thing, no?

And then I felt something, but not quite, like sadness.

5 comments:

  1. I am sorry that someone did that to you. Growing up in Montana, I kind of ignore such treatment because "Faggot" is the first insult that redneck boys throw at other boys regardless of the situation.

    When I took my partner back to Montana several years ago, I had to explain that even though yelling faggot from a moving vehicle is homophobic, it is rarely an indicator that they have guessed your sexual orientation.

    But the experience still sucks. I like yelling, but I hate fighting.

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  2. Two questions: what time of day was it?

    What kind of boots were you wearing?

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  3. People suck. It says so much more about them than it does about you or anyone else. I'm sorry for it.

    And I wear Birkenstocks too.

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  4. Steve, tools are tools, doesn't matter. If it hadn't been you, they would have hurled insults at someone else.

    Thing is, narrow-minded attitudes have a funny way of coming back around to bite hard, most likely when they'll least expect it.

    Remember, ignorance can be cured, stupidity is forever.

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