I made the mistake. The mistake I warn others of not doing. I read the comments. In case you haven’t heard, Blizzard made a rather poor decision in its choice of how to close BlizzCon. The comments are as to be expected. Largely predicated on academic reasons or “my gay friends/I’m gay/I’m straight and it doesn’t offend me.”
Let’s make this personal.
It starts around the age I was nine. I realised I liked boys. My first crush was in the PASS program with me (Program for Academically Superior Students), and I could not get him out of my head. Nothing sexual, but just imagining hugging him, marrying him, etc.
Then middle school began. I had always been a rather odd one in whatever society I found myself. At first it was my German accent, then my not being masculine enough by American standards, then my lack of interest in sports, my generally nerdery, my intelligence, my liking games, etc. It also became getting called fag or gay every week through middle school. It became administrators taking me aside and telling me I was odd. It became teachers sitting down with my mother and telling her they were worried I was ‘immoral,’ which was code for not fitting into mainstream thought and probably queer.
During this time, from the time I was 10 until I was almost 15, I was also being raped and molested almost every other week. I’ll let you do the maths, but suffice it to say, I began having serious questions about myself, my sexuality and guilting myself for sometimes enjoying the physical pleasure even while my mind loathed everything that was happening to me. I was also coming to terms with being gay.
But! Molestor/rapist was caught! Yay! He was out of my life (not really, he only exited my life this past year when I learned he was dead and no longer stalking me on social networks)!
I began coming out to friends at this point, when I had just entered high school. Not many, but here and there. It was also at this time that I had to deal with a court process that would drag on for five years. Five years of being threatened by the DA of Clarksville, Tennessee, being told because of my age, I wasn’t quite as important to this case (rapist had raped other children), and various juries of varying sorts looking at me like I was a freak. To this day I am more likely to be triggered by reading stories of juries being judgmental toward victims than I am towards rape itself (which is my experience, and not to be ascribed to others). This time is known as when Denis really hated himself, thought himself a whore, had both the FBI and Clarksville Sheriff’s office tell him he was dirty, and was being tested for STIs along with HIV/AIDS, because he didn’t have enough to deal with being a gay teenager.
During this time I also dealt with school administrators, this time high school, calling my mother about ‘concerns.’ Then there was my father finding out about this and threatening to disown me if I ever ended up being gay (while my mother let me know fiercely that she was a fruit fly when she was young, and I would always be supported). Don’t forget the constant yelling down various hallways, “FAG! QUEER! HOMO!” Also, passing cars. I have dealt with passing cars calling me various anti-gay slurs since I was fourteen.
Thankfully, I never experienced any immediate physical threats during high school. This was likely partly due to the fact that once I stopped being raped all the time, I got very angry. Very, very angry. People generally thought I was crazy and that to involve themselves in an altercation with me would result in me not having any qualms about hurting them quite a bit.
Therefore, when college came around, I was grateful for the chance to leave Clarksville, TN. I would get to be in a liberal place! I might have a boyfriend! I might not have to be worried about being openly gay! If that was the case, I’m still not sure why I chose Wabash College (answer: scholarship money for creative writing and academics).
What resulted at Wabash was immediately being out and once again hearing the usual: “FAG! QUEER! HOMO!” Y’know, the usual. This was my rebellious phase. I yelled back, I gave the middle finger, I and a friend printed off bumper stickers that stated, “FAGGOT is a dirty word” and plastered them all over campus. Yet every time I put that sticker on my door? It was taken down.
Apparently I was a faggot, but daring to confront that language was not something I was allowed to do. Instead, some kind chaps decided to write FAGGOT in permanent marker on my door. Because I was visiting with a friend at Oberlin, I was not there that weekend, and by the time I came back, my good friends, and my RA, made sure the offending evidence was gone from my door, having sanded it off. Every time I now entered my room I saw a sanded off portion of the door, reminding me what some people thought of me and my personal space.
That still didn’t stop the harassing phone calls at 2am, though. Now, however, I typically only ever heard faggot, queer or homo muttered under peoples’ breaths. It was understood I was confrontational. It was understood I was not going away.
Graduation was an amusing affair, largely because I had no idea what was in my future. I was off to Chicago and I finally thought I would have the life I dreamed of: a steady boyfriend, dating options, and being accepted. Come to find out, as a gay gamer who was generally nerdy, I wasn’t exactly popular in the gay community. Oh well, I shrugged, maybe I’ll find a group of gaymers somewhere. Over the years I slowly did-that or gay people who didn’t ostracize me for liking games.
Unfortunately, it was during this time that I was also coming home one evening and one of those passing cars happened by. “FAGGOT! QUEER! HOMO!” My response was a rather tired middle finger and shrug. Their response was to quickly turn around their car, jump out, and beat me into the sidewalk. I wasn’t seriously injured, though I did have a concussion, and still have scars on my hands and knees.
Whereas faggot was a word that annoyed me before, now it became very, incredibly emotional. Thinking on that night is still painful. I had built an armour of anger strong enough that the words only kept adding plate after plate, scale after scale, chain after chain. Words followed by that action suddenly turned all of that to nothing.
What was the point of this story?
Dear fellow gamers, I am tired of explaining this to you. I wrote this out so that you can stop saying I am seeking special treatment. I wrote this out so that you could connect it to an actual experience, not some academic exercise of “this is now a general insult.” You do not get to claim the insult so that you can go use it however you wish. Let me repeat: you do not get to reclaim this word that way. The assumption that language changes is one trotted out by people who get to make those changes, which is typically people in power, or those privileged. I am not letting you change that word on me.
Society has used that word on me since I was eleven years old in New Providence Middle School. Society allowed that word to be thrown at my back while I walked the halls of both Northwest and Clarksville High Schools. Society encouraged those college men who decided I could not reclaim it, but they could smear it on my door. Society gave strength to and encouraged those men who jumped out of a car and beat me for my sexuality.
When you say I am asking people to be too politically correct, I hear, “I want to keep kicking you, raping you, and subjecting you to painful court processes that go nowhere, and you’re not allowed to ask me to stop.”
Because, if you think I am oversensitive, I dearly hope you never go through a fraction of what I have. Otherwise, you might find that your skin isn’t so much thick, as it has been largely untested. I am still here. I have been suicidal, but I am still here, ready to raise a middle finger, yell, and demand that I not be subhuman.
Faggot is a dirty word.
Denis Farr has been writing about games for three years. His work can be found at Vorpal Bunny Ranch, The Border House, Gamers With Jobs and Gay Gamer consistently, and sporadically in other spots. He’s someone who subscribes to the quotation, “Not gay as in happy, but queer as in f**k you.”
Republished with permission.