10.9.14 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshot_137x185For the first time in memory, I was called a “faggot” this month.

The offending party didn’t say it to me in person, of course. It was through a random message on Facebook. Someone with whom I had never communicated before messaged from behind an undoubtedly bogus profile—using the photo of an attractive young woman—to specifically say how disgusted he or she was that I was gay and in a same-sex relationship.

There was also something in a second message about how disturbing it was for two men to hold hands and the importance of the man/woman dynamic we should all follow.

While the initial message stung, it didn’t offend me. I don’t even recall being upset. It instead served as a reminder of why our community must continue to hold events where we are visible to the rest of the country and the world.

In an attempt to remind people of just how far we still have to go to the hearts and minds of our neighbors, I posted a screen shot of the conversation on Facebook. I hoped it would remind my gay and straight friends that people still hate LGBT people for no other reason than that we exist. The response to the post was overwhelming and very surprising. Friends suggested everything from messaging the person specifically to voice support for me and LGBT people to contacting her employer and sharing her hate speech with her bosses.

Neither of those tactics, I believe, would be helpful—especially in the case of a fake profile. All this post was meant to do was show that there is still a fight in front of us. The profile may not have been real, but the hate behind the few sentences shared with me certainly was.

As I’ve said in this space before, I live in an LGBT bubble. Of course I’m aware of the fight for equality on all fronts, but I’m always at LGBT-friendly events and surrounded by well-meaning LGBT people and allies. It’s like simply being aware of a war raging elsewhere vs. experiencing it firsthand on the front lines.

Perspective is everything.

While there are conflicts and disagreements within our community, we all tend to work toward the same goal—the goal of equality. As we make strides toward that ultimate goal, we get questioned as to why LGBT-specific events like Come Out With Pride, Sarasota Pride or the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival are needed. We also must ask ourselves if they are still relevant.

Thanks to this random message from a person I don’t know nor had contacted before, I can comfortably reiterate my argument in support of these LGBT events showcasing our community and our culture.

As those who oppose equality continue to shrink in numbers, panic has set in among them. Since there is no way to rationally argue for the irrational opposition to LGBT equality, attacks are the only way these folks feel they can be heard.

When I received the initial message on Facebook, I responded by telling the person that my partner and I do more than just hold hands. I followed up by asking simply, “Who are you?”

It wasn’t until two days later that I received a response, which didn’t answer my question but instead offered a wholehearted apology. The offending party had a change of heart, she explained, and added that through her communication with the editor of an LGBT newspaper, she recognized the importance of the LGBT equality fight and evolved to support same-sex marriage.

That’s quite a turnaround within a span of 48 hours! It was a strange week.

Since the profile was fake to begin with, I accepted the apology with a grain of salt.

As stated above, I’ve never been the target of a direct derogatory remark (not counting protestors at a Pride event, of course). But it’s not lost on me that combative words are hurled at LGBT people of every age every single day.

And while my encounter with a hater seems to be an isolated incident, I won’t forget the initial sting I felt when I first read the word “faggot” in a message sent directly to me. But it is up to me to use that feeling to continue the fight we’re obviously winning.

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