Kurt Bird knows very well about the scars that name-calling and verbal abuse leave behind.
“What are you doing, you faggot?” This continues to resonate through my mind, ten years later. I was sixteen years old, a member of the Edison group in school, an avid, award-winning artist, on the verge of being picked up by a National Rugby League team, and I had come home to my father calling me a faggot.
Answer this question to yourself: What is the one “insult” that you came across more than any others as a youth? I can probably tell you. It was the words “gay” or “homo”. You might try and tell me that these two words aren’t insults, but I urge you to keep reading. When you are “different” to others in your gender or say no to convention, you receive these insults over and over. These words are synonymous with being different; and as a male, the majority of the time this means not meeting the standards of masculinity within your age group.
Being involved in sports, particularly rugby league, comes with a projection of “masculinity”; however when you start to talk about feelings, or start to sing or dance, there are certain accusations that get thrown around, like those words-gay, homo. Despite knowing these words aren’t bad, when they become coupled with idiot, stupid, wanker, faggot, ugly, other derogatory terms, plus physical harassment, a certain level of negativity confuses the meanings. These mixed taunts suddenly result in gay and homo being associated with negativity.
How would you define masculinity? Traditionally, we still perceive it as a muscular man with a strong voice, strong demeanour, who is able to provide for their partner and help others when in distress. Ask a young male what it means to be a man and it may involve anything from being able to play a rough sport, sleep with the hottest girl in school, pick a fight with someone that you don’t get along with, or push everybody about to show you are the “Alpha”. Fitting in within school as a male seemed to be what masculinity was about.
Now, I know very well what happens when all of this occurs, when you don’t fit what is “traditional”. It began for me when I was ten years old. As a young child I didn’t think these insults were too bad, just a bit of a joke.
Unfortunately at this age, I couldn’t pick up how it would affect me later in life, so I took it on the chin as a bit of friendly banter. Unfortunately, those negative thoughts became ingrained in my mind. If you get told you are something long enough, then you eventually believe it.
In my young teens I knew I wasn’t gay because of how I felt towards women, but how was I to know I wasn’t an idiot, ignorant, stupid, ugly? From the way my peers acted towards me, I thought I made the lives of everybody around me worse. I kept questioning myself and the only answers I could find were the insults coming from the mouths of my peers.
This is where it went downhill for me. I became friends with girls, as they would accept my different actions and thoughts a lot more; however, even they questioned my sexuality at times. I was accused of being gay by even more people then because I hadn’t slept with any of the girls. My mind started to move into a state of constant paranoia. Was I meant to sleep with her? Maybe I do like guys? I’m getting good grades, am I really that stupid?
These continuous accusations add up over time, and then when you come home to somebody you look up to dearly, such as your father, calling you a faggot, then the past six years hit you like a train. It leads to alternative thought processes, such as suicide. Many thoughts crossed my mind, but what has kept me here today is what some people may call altruism; trying to help others. People that don’t know me seem to appreciate what I can do for them, but I still get something in return. I receive a compliment or appreciation to delay the negative thoughts. It’s a selfish way to help my happiness.
Being called gay and homo should not be an insult. These words shouldn’t be coupled with negative terms, but unfortunately, they are. Stereotyping damages a mind more than you may think. Despite people refusing to believe this, I can tell you, first hand, that it can drive a person to death. Just because you don’t exude expectations of a certain genre of person does not mean they should be pushed aside.
I am now 26 years old, and these thoughts have come back when these insults come back. I work in a very “masculine” field, and still occasionally suffer these insults and slights, even from people close to me. Recently, if it wasn’t for the sound of my iPhone going off and seeing a particular message from a friend, then I wouldn’t be writing this right now. The expectations of masculinity, and the derision that comes with not meeting them, nearly led me to the path of death.
Judge a soul, not an expectation, so you don’t ever have to live with the guilt of possibly sending someone to the grave.
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