VT&R: Not Your Faggot

VT&R: Not Your Faggot

VT&R: Not Your Faggot

A Weekly Column by Matthew Hawkins

       Straight white men are finally being exposed for what they are: fragile, scared, homophobic, sexists, rapists… And some, I assume, are good people. They are coming to the realization they are flawed like the rest of us, often more than the rest of us. They are the jock who bullied you, the under-qualified man who got the job you wanted, the man who wouldn’t stop advancing on you even though you asked him not to, the boy who called you a fag all through elementary school; they are the men who never get caught or face consequences for their actions. They are the straight white men. Their names are short and masculine: Sam, Brett, Brad, Chad, etc. Their parents name them this because they think it will give them an upper hand in society. And until now, it has.

       In recent a New York Times Op-Ed titled “The Boys Are Not All Right” Michael Black (2017) wrote:

Men feel isolated, confused and conflicted about their natures. Many feel that the very qualities that used to define them — their strength, aggression and competitiveness — are no longer wanted or needed; many others never felt strong or aggressive or competitive to begin with. We don’t know how to be, and we’re terrified.

 

       My response: welcome to the club.

 

       As a gay man, as a member of any minority, it was terrifying to find out that I didn’t have an advantage in society—that my effeminate voice and mannerisms and passion for vodka tonics and unconditional love for watching figure skating would always set me back. It scared me so much that I didn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t even admit it to myself. I was in the closet for years—straining to make my voice deeper, consciously thinking about every gesture, every order at the bar, carefully choosing clothes I wore, and forcing myself to watch straight porn (which is terrible and a topic for another day). I did this to appease the majority, the executives and bosses, the professors, the majority of politicians—the straight white men.

       The first straight white man to call me a “faggot” was this boy named Trey. We were in the third grade. He knew it before I even knew what gay was or what sex was. I guess, he could see they gayness in my eyes. He could hear it in the elongated vowels in my voice. Ultimately he was right, I was a faggot. I am a faggot.* And in the heart, I guess I always knew it too.

       I spent the majority of my childhood trying to convince everyone—including myself—that I was straight. I wonder what would’ve—could’ve—been different if I had spent all of that time actually being gay—embracing my inevitable fagness. I wonder if my relationships would’ve been as rocky. I wonder if I wouldn’t have hit one of my ex’s. I wonder if he wouldn’t have returned the favor. I wonder if I would’ve ate more meals. I wonder if I would’ve treated myself and my body better. I wonder if I wouldn’t have given my body to all of those men, simply just because they wanted it. I wonder if I’d be married to my high school sweetheart right now, (like so many of my former classmates are), stupid and happy with a little monster-toddler and another on the way. I wonder if I’d love myself more. I wonder if I’d treat myself better. I wonder if I’d even be wondering all this now.  

       I always imagined everything would be better after I came out of the closet, but now I know better. Last winter, when my boyfriend and I were walking down the street, someone—a white straight male—yelled “faggots” at us. And you know what, we just kept walking. We didn’t deny it or cry about it like we did in elementary school. We didn’t pray. We didn’t watch straight porn (and thank god we didn’t). We’re accustomed to this—to being hated, to being told we are lesser.

       The first thing anyone thinks when they see me: gay. I go into a job interview: gay. When someone strolls across my social media: gay. When my students hear me go over the syllabus on the first day: gay. When I ask someone if they want a bag with their purchase: gay. When I meet eyes with someone on the train: gay. When I tell someone I love them: gay. The shitty thing about this is that at least for our generation “gay” will always be associated as negative, as lesser. Every time someone thinks gay, they think of some bully in some elementary school calling someone a faggot. Essentially, my work, my thesis to this essay, my existence, is discounted because I’m a faggot.

       However, the difference between now and the third grade: I don’t give a fuck. So what, I’m a faggot? I’m not afraid to say it. I’m not afraid to love men openly and often. I’m no longer afraid of gay porn (though I am still terrified of straight porn). I’m through hating myself. I’m through with accepting the fact that some people will always think of me as lesser. It’s unacceptable. It’s inhuman.

       Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of publications talking about “toxic masculinity.” (This is basically the straight male’s inability to express what is considered traditionally feminine emotion.) They say that this is what is driving men to act insensitively. Essentially, people are using “toxic masculinity” as justification as to why straight white men act primal and erratic at times. However, I refuse to accept their defense.

       Straight white men must come to terms—as I had to as a gay man, as every other demographic has to do—with their setbacks, with their humanness. They must accept our equality as a cohesive species. Although, they and we have been conditioned to believe they are better than the rest of us, that they are the standard—they are just as imperfect as everyone else. And this is not an excuse for them to act erratic or cruel, whether that be emotionally or physically. I’m tired of people to thinking it was okay for Donald Trump to say the things he said about women on that bus to Billy Bush in the middle of male dominated Hollywood and it not take down his campaign, in a male dominated political system, in a male dominated society. I’m tired of men thinking they’re the dominate demographic and I’m tired of the rest of us letting them think that. I’m tired of having to work exceedingly harder than straight white men just to get the same praise that they do. I’m tired of it all. We’re all tired of it. This is why things are changing. Straight white men have simply had it too good for too long.

       Although, “toxic masculinity” is real and wrong; it is not an excuse. I don’t feel bad for straight white men losing their privilege. They are just going to have to go through what every person belonging to a minority has already gone through. None of us are inherently superior because of biological factors. I’m sorry the straight white men are “terrified.” But the rest of us have never not been terrified. It is something that we have learned to live with; it is something they too, will adjust to. Humans are equal and it’s time straight white men start acting like it. The next time someone yells “faggot” at me on the street, I’m going to yell “straight white man” right back at them. They are synonymous—they are equal. They both ultimately human. I think we’re all more alike than we would like to think—even the straight white men—especially the straight white men.

       I guess I wrote Vodka Tonics & Rainbows because I’m tired of not being treated as equal, because I’m still mad at Trey and everyone who has ever yelled anything at me and I’m mad at myself for letting him get to me so much. At the heart of it, I guess I just want to be treated like a human. It’s hard—painful—to internalize that I’m that kid who was bullied, that I’m that guy that gets homophobic slurs yelled at him on the street. But as much as I’ve tried to fight it (and I’ve tried so much), I’m gay. My entire being traces back to it. I’m not going to fight it anymore: I’m a faggot, on my own terms, for better or worse.


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