Jeffrey Hartinger tells the truth about dealing with bigotry and its endless microaggressions: no matter how tough you are, it doesn’t get any easier.
I suppose I should be honest, and admit that yes, sometimes I want to give up.
Sometimes I’m so exhausted that I can’t read another hate crime horror story or risk walking down a city street holding the hand of my boyfriend because, in the back of my mind, I have to think: is it worth it? Am I going to be safe? And oddly enough, it’s not really the physical violence that scares me. It’s the words.
As an athlete, I’ve had teeth knocked out, bones shattered, every part of my body stitched up, and bruises so large you’d think would never heal.
Growing up, every male—gay, straight, or anyone in between—gets in a few fights, and while I can’t boast and say I’m the most masculine and toughest guy on the block, I can still hold my own. To me, the physical pain is something that comes along with something you love; with the sport you love. In a strange way, being part of football for over a decade, one of the most heteronormative sports there is, actually helped me put my homosexuality into perspective.
I guess it’s easier for me as a gay guy because I don’t know how to dress and my glasses are always crooked. I prefer Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots over Lady Gaga and I’m not too “stereotypical.” But, at the end of the day, I’m still gay. I’m still a gay guy.
As an aspiring comedian and writer, I hear a lot more gay jokes than I can tolerate, and they are not funny. They’re often hurtful. I hear the word “fag” thrown around a lot, and it doesn’t stop until I say something. Faggot. Queer. Pansy. Flamer.
“Hey, can you stop, I’m actually gay.”
“Oh, sorry. We didn’t mean it like that, dude.”
But why am I usually the first one to say something? Couldn’t a straight guy say something? I know they do, and I know more and more heterosexual men are becoming advocates for the gay community, but can you guys step it up? Just a little bit?
I don’t want to give up. I don’t even want to feel like I want to give up.
At 23 years old, I can conceptualize that it does not matter if I love a man or a woman; I’m still a man. It does not matter how rich or poor or smart or dumb I am; I’m still a man. We’re all men, and at the end of the day, words hurt us all. Yes, even straight men. Well, I assume.
So, I will walk down the street, and I will hold my boyfriend’s hand. I will be happy. I will be a man. I’ll keep walking and smiling, and hopefully, maybe people will realize just how happy we are. How happy I am. Sexuality aside, I’m just happy to say I’m happy.
I won’t give up.