I have heard Nick tell the story of his cowboy boots many times, but you can read it HERE if you don’t know it. Late one night, a group of men screamed “Faggot!” at him. Before he could turn around, he was jumped, beaten until he was unconscious and bloody, and left in the street. That was when he started wearing boots. Cowboy boots are a formidable weapon in a fight.
When he tells that story, no one ever sympathizes with the violent, homophobic scumbags who attacked him. No one says, “Man, that sounds like something my friend or brother or father would do. You know, my friends and family are really into yelling slurs and beating people.”
The thing is, the group of men who attacked him belonged to a community somewhere. Each one of them was someone’s son or friend or father. They probably all had jobs and were someone’s co-workers. They’d gone to school and were someone’s classmates.
Someone knew them. And, I bet at least one person thought, “Nah. There is no way THEY could have done that. I’ve known them forever. They’re fun dudes. Great to have a beer with.”
No one wants to think that those guys – the ones who yell faggot, or nigger, or kike, or whore, the ones who beat strangers bloody and leave them unconscious in the street – are the guys that THEY know. Not their best friend. Not their brother or dad or sister or aunt. No.
But, those guys? They belong to someone.
“I think he is some kind of faggot.”
Those words were overheard recently, and they were said in the company of friends and relatives.
Some kind of faggot.
I thought about who said the words. I thought about the fact that the people who heard those words would probably say, “No. No, not HIM. He’s a good guy. A great guy to have a beer with. He didn’t mean those words THAT way.”
Then, I thought about meeting that guy in a different situation. Maybe he’s out at a bar after a long week at work. He’s tired and pissed off. Maybe he’s had a fight with his wife. Maybe he’s had a few beers too many.
I thought about what might happen if “some kind of faggot” happened to walk in that bar on the same night. A dude wearing skinny jeans. A dude in a pink shirt. A dude with long hair and an earring. God forbid, a dude wearing glitter and platform shoes.
I knew what can and what DOES happen.
Some kind of faggot.
I know you said it. I won’t excuse it, but I know that your friends and family – the ones who were smiling, laughing, and drinking with you – did.
You belong to someone. Thankfully, you don’t belong to me.