For most of my life I've had the great fortune of being raised by drastically dissenting opinions on just about everything from religion to politics to education to art. Mama Voth is a all KINDS of liberal, Hillary Clinton is her spirit animal, while Daddy Voth is much more conservative. It used to make me very angry that there was rarely ONE topic of conversation that wasn't argued to death, or over analyzed or picked apart and challenged. But in hindsight it's allowed for the creation of my own very strong opinions without feeling the familial pressure to conform to a unified consensus. And so when I say I am one hundred percent behind gay rights and Equality, that is all me, all my choice. I love gay men. Gay men are my best friends, and my coworkers, my confidantes, my family. A lot of gay men happen to be my ex-boyfriends. I love and admire anyone who possesses the courage to live their lives honestly, with integrity, perhaps even when it is difficult to do so knowing that others will ostracize you for that honesty.
All that being said: I called a gay bartender a queen in the derogatory sense during Pride Week and now I feel like a huge asshole. I guess...well, no no, I feel really horrid. I've never been one for intense name calling in moments of duress and anger, mostly because my brain and mouth have the blessing of only working in tandem when I'm on a happy, funny roll. (That's a nice way of saying when I think I'm being happy and funny.) Fortunately or unfortunately I am a believer in the weight of words. Recently, when I've been angry, I'm going to call you a name. Probably a lot of names. Until I find the one that really bothers you. This seems to be a generational trend. If a woman doesn't want to sleep with a man, she's a bitch. If a man cheats on his girlfriend he's an asshole or a dick. Or both. If a gay man reads the crap out of you, he's a queen or a faggot or a slew of other names. And in the moment, when we've felt slighted or accosted, it seems absolutely acceptable and downright necessary to "protect" ourselves.
The reality is, there is absolutely nothing acceptable about using derogatory names. I just keep thinking how goddamn ignorant I was that night. For goodnesssake, I've gone to THREE fake colleges, I'm in a BOOK CLUB, I read the Washington Post (only the front page, and the Style section in its entirety) and I know better than that. No, but really, all humor aside, I do. This year, I just want to surround myself with intelligent, assertive, confident people and I (too often) am not one of them. I wouldn't want to be around me sometimes. I sit and preach from my blog pulpit of self indulgence about why you shouldn't call me a bitch (read this vintage blog post) and I profess to be enlightened enough to write my observations of people in this city and I have no fucking right. Not when I possess a wellspring of language that could intelligently articulate my feelings without stooping to lowest common denominator parlances.
One of the best parts of having a self-indulgent thing like a blog is that I can use it however I want. I want to say sorry. An honest, sarcasm free, sorry to Aaron the bartender. You called my friend a cunt. And I called you a queen. And none of that was necessary or mature. I'm sorry for not apologizing on the spot when I should have. I'm sorry for having the audacity to be offended when people call me names when I'm clearly no better. I don't know where you stand on the weight of words, but I know where I do. And if I'm not smart enough to respond to you name calling with poise and intelligence, than I shouldn't engage at all.
Should we allow racial or sexual epitaphs to have this amount of power? I don't know. Maybe not. Maybe there is a lot of peace that needs to be made with the words and a lot of accountability that needs to be held over the action or impetus of the anger behind their use. I can only speak for myself. I will still falter, that much is true. I'll still swear like a sailor, but to be fair, "fuck" is the Irish verb/adjective/pronoun of choice and that is a habit which (best case scenario) will die a slow, slow death. I'll do the best I fucking can. And maybe, let's all take a minute to assess if we are surrounding ourselves with people who challenge us to do the same.