Tom West embraces his sexuality. He figures the rest of the world will catch up soon enough.
“Gay!” ”Gay!” ”Gay!” ”Gay!” ”Gay!” ”Gay!” ”Gay!” ”Gay!”
The group of teenage boys was crossing the road a few metres behind me. I knew they were talking to me. You just do. You develop an instinct about when people are trying to insult you, to intimidate you. “Oh, they’re not talking about you,” a kind friend will say if you’re not out on your own, “they’re teasing each other.” Yeah, thanks, but I know better. I’ve always known better.
When it happens and you’re on your own, it’s a bit different. Most of the time, you just ignore it and walk away. Years ago, when – for some reason that will forever remain a mystery to me – people began to intuit my sexuality and shout it at me in the playground, in the street, in the workplace, I used to furrow my brow and lower my head. I never used to think about why they might be shouting; I used to assume it was something I was doing – my fault. I tried to not draw any further attention to myself whilst wishing that other people would stop looking, made curious by the cries. Back in the days before I understood myself as a person and understood my sexuality, I used to be insulted and intimidated. I used to fear that the verbal onslaught would be followed by punches and kicks – even worse.
But this time… This time, I started laughing – because all I could think of was this:
A wonderful mental image there, that rendered the teenagers ridiculous to me. Comical. However, laughing might not have been the wisest thing to have done, since all it did was antagonise them further. One of the group proceeded to shout out “what are you fucking laughing at?” I caught myself about half a second from becoming one of those few who shouted back (and a nod, here, to those courageous souls who do so). Not because they were teenagers and perhaps mouthing off back to them posed less of a threat than if they had been adults (yeah, right), but because, for once in my life, I had something to say back in answer to that question:
You. I’m laughing at you. Let me tell you why. Right now, you’re a small person with a small mind and it’s full of other people’s thoughts. You’re nothing but a child pretending to be an adult. Think about that for a second – is the person you’re playing at being now the real person you want to grow up to be? Full of arbitrary hatred about something you’re far too lazy to make any effort to understand yourself? Are you lashing out against something you fear because you’ve been taught to? Are you deeply insecure and are trying to make others feel worse about themselves than you do about yourself because you’ll be a ‘happier’ person by comparison? Do you think attacking someone in this way makes you stand out in your social circles? What do your friends think about you because of the way you act? Are you trying to gain the acceptance of a group of similarly-minded individuals so that you can fester in your odious bile together?
You make me want to stand here and scream ‘yes, yes I am gay’ – but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, because that’s not how I identify. What’s that? There’s something other than ‘gay’? No pun intended, but there’s a fucking rainbow of terms out there to describe the gamut of sexual identities, but you’ll know nothing about them unless you take your head out of your arse and bother to take a really good look at the world around you. You are the embodiment of the word ‘ignorant’. You are ignorant of everything that’s important in this life – to tolerate and respect others, to educate yourself about the World and everyone and everything in it and to make sure that you understand and accept everything in it. And all the time that you’re the small person you are now, you’ll never have the opportunity to be part of something bigger – something better.
Also, how exactly is being called ‘gay’ an insult, anyway? If I were to run after you in the street shouting ‘straight!’ at you over and over again, you’d believe me to be mad. I am not intimidated by my sexuality. I am not insulted by my sexuality. I am not ashamed of my sexuality. My sexuality is not a conscious choice to subvert your heteronormative little existence. It is not a deliberate attempt to insult you. I do not present myself intentionally as an affront to your ideals. My sexuality is an inherent part of my being without which I would not be able to live. I embrace my sexuality. I celebrate it. Shit – they throw fucking glitter and ticker tape-festooned parades for my sexuality. Would you like to know something? Something really important? There isn’t a single thing you or any of your ilk would ever be able to say to make me feel anything negative about the person I am. There used to be. But then I grew up. Perhaps you should, too.
So, I didn’t answer his question. They walked off, shouting amongst themselves. Part of me wishes I had done, to see what the group would have made of my answer. Part of me is glad I didn’t, part of me indifferent. Part of me secretly wants a similar situation to occur in the future so that I can finally speak those words out loud to someone, but perhaps that’s not the greatest idea.
If I’m honest, I’m just happy that I finally have that answer.
photo by Robbie Foley / flickr
Originally published on Tokyotombola