In high school I was a flamboyant dresser and punk rock fan in rural Ohio where that kind of thing was generally unacceptable. Several members of the Wadsworth High School football team were outraged by my mode of dress. When I dyed my hair bright blond this confirmed their suspicion that I was gay.
After a while I got fed up with having these idiots yell “faggot” at me. One morning in the commons one of them shouted, “I heard you was a homosexual!” I just yelled back, “Yeah, that’s right” and kept on walking. This was around 1980 or ’81.
I wasn’t gay, but I really didn’t care what they thought. Nor did I think anyone should ever be called a faggot. The only time I would ever be concerned about someone else’s sexual orientation is if I were trying to have sex with them or if they were trying to have sex with me. If one of the guys on the football team had changed his hair color, I would not have even noticed. The fixation these guys apparently had on me seemed bizarre.
Anyway, after that I got threatened constantly, though no one ever did anything. Once a guy named Kurt followed me into the local Fisher’s Big Wheel department store and cornered me in the record department. He asked me if I’d dyed my hair. When I said I had, he told me he was going to pound the shit out of me when I left the store. But my friend Joe showed up a couple minutes later and I guess he didn’t have the nerve to take on two skinny nerds. We biked right past him in his pick-up truck.
The threats continued for the rest of my stay at Wadsworth High. But I realized that those guys were all hot air when they were on their own. One big, muscle bound football player named Tom had a locker near my homeroom. I was always running late for first period and so was he. He’d taunt me when he was with his buddies, but when I’d pass him in the empty hall each morning he never said anything. I finally started staring right at him every time I’d pass him. His response was always to look down at his shoes.
From this I learned that homophobia in America is serious business. I never forgot that. I was probably placing myself in more danger than I actually realized at the time by acting the way I did around those guys. These days I’ve heard that gay couples walk the halls of Wadsworth High School holding hands and nobody bothers them. Good.
It’s kind of a bummer, after all that, to find myself occasionally labeled as “homophobic” these days. Last week I got called homophobic by a few people on Facebook after I posted a video of a Cookie Monster toy and an Elmo toy apparently going at it. It was an attempt at a humorous tribute to Pride Week. To me the video said, “Me and Elmo, we gay and we no care who know about it!” But I suppose that was not clear to everyone who sees my Facebook page. A little while before that I was called homophobic because I used the phrase “butt hurt” in some article I wrote. I’m still not precisely certain why that’s homophobic, though I have made some attempts at guessing.
I think we need to be careful with stuff like that. The message I got from Kurt and Tom and their friends was “Conform or be punished!” The message I got from the folks who called me “homophobic” was precisely the same.
I realize that the Internet is a special place. I don’t think the individuals who labeled me homophobic were bullies. In any case, I don’t really care any more about what they think of me than I cared about what Tom and Kurt and their buddies thought of me. The Internet tends to encourage name-calling and I’m quite accustomed to it by now, though it never feels very good.
I see a whole lot of very unappealing gloating going on in cyberspace now that the Supreme Court had made same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states. I’m not talking about celebrating and putting rainbow filters on your profile pictures. I’m talking about some of the really mean-spirited stuff I’ve been seeing. That makes me a little sad. If we believe we’re different from those who attacked us, then we have to prove it by actually being different.
Now that the Supreme Court of the USA has done the right thing, those of us who have long thought what they’ve decided should have been the case all along ought to watch ourselves. Now that we have become part of the majority, we ought to avoid treating those who have become the minority as they have treated us in the past.
July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER
August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT
August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE
August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR
August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY
September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany LECTURE
September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY
September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT
September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT
September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP
September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED
September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT
November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!
Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!
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