Trigger warning for descriptions of bullying.
Hey, everyone, remember how Mitt Romney is a femmephobic, queerphobic doucheface?
A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
Let’s be clear here. This is not childish hijinks. This is not a prank. This is an assault and battery. It is a crime.
Lauber turned out to be gay, and some of the bullying he experienced was probably related to his being a gay boy in the sixties, a time in which he probably felt even more alone than queer people do nowadays. However, I really dislike the facile idea that “oh, it’s because he was gay”; I think it erases some of the complexities of the situation. It was also because he was shy, and he was quiet, and he had a “girly” haircut, and he was “effeminate” (as if that’s even a meaningful thing)– traits that bullied straight boys can and do have. Homosexuality was only one of the ways in which he failed to perform masculinity to Romney’s specifications, and only one of the reasons he was punished with it with assault.
I would not be quite so irritated if Romney said “yes, I did it, but I have grown as a person since then and regret it deeply.” Many people are bullies and kyriarchal assholes and then learn better; in fact, I think it’s probably a point in your favor and shows personal growth and the ability to recognize that you’ve done things that are downright evil and stop doing them. Instead, Romney has said he didn’t remember. Which leaves one with two options:
1) He’s lying out his ass.
2) Assaulting people because they were too effeminate for his taste was such a common thing for him in high school that all the times it happened just kind of blended together and, when pressed, he cannot recall any specific incidents.
Neither of those is… a particularly good option.
Romney performed many pranks in high school. Although it’s hard for me to imagine responding to a prank with anything other than “oh gaaaaah no please stop no please no aaaaaaaaaaah,” I am told that many people enjoy them. However, the key part of a prank is that, in the end, everyone involved has to be laughing about it. Lauber was not. Depicting bullying and assault as youthful fun is a common way of erasing the very real pain they can cause, even years later, and the ways they are used as a tool to police away difference threatening to the kyriarchal system. Romney was a femmephobic, queerphobic bully, and I see no signs that he has learned to change.