Microaggressions don’t usually bother me…

…but today they did.

Regular readers know that I’m gay and that I’m progressive in my views.  I’ve no tolerance for bigotry in any form and call it out online on a regular basis and in meatspace when appropriate.  Today I called out some bigotry. Three times.  Two times for the same thing.

Earlier in the day a woman (A) called a co-worker a ‘fag’.  Overhearing this, I spoke up.  A knows I’m gay and hasn’t had any issue with me over it (we’ve talked about men before), so I felt comfortable saying something to her. I asked her how she thinks it makes me feel to hear someone using ‘fag’.  I told her it makes me feel like they’re using my sexuality as an insult.  As if there is something wrong with being gay, when there isn’t. I think she realized she touched a nerve bc she interjected that she needs to realize that sometimes you have to think before you speak, which pretty much ended the conversation bc I nodded in agreement.

Later on in the evening, during a conversation between B (one of the restaurant owners) and R (a female server), I overheard the two of them talking about a small town in Alabama called Fairhope.  B referred to Fairhope as an ‘artsy’ town that he hates.  He said he wouldn’t want to live there because of the faggots. R responded by telling B that he was a faggot.  This irritant stuck in my craw bc one of the people disdaining gay people is one of the fucking owners. I can’t really go to him with anything like this, especially given how he clearly feels about gay people (and the fact that I live in Florida, one of the 29 states in the United States without workplace protections for LGBT people) plus this is one of those friggin’ “at work” states, so you can be fired for having your shoes untied.  I mulled over what to do for an hour bc this sat with me, in the back of my head, tickling my brain.  Actually, it wasn’t tickling. It was an irritant. Not like nails on a chalkboard. More like a damn gnat that keeps buzzing around and won’t go away.  I decided to say something to R.  Given that she’s a co-worker and there’s no imbalance of power, I thought saying something might go over better with her.  I opened by asking if she had any gay friends, to which she said ‘plenty’. Then I told her how it made me feel to hear B use ‘faggot’ as a slur.  I even explained to her why it is a slur (and likened it to nigger, kike, or wetback).  I drove the point home that when B did this, it effectively sends me the message that he doesn’t view me as a full human being. She of course denied that, but I pointed out that words mean things and that when someone disdainfully says “I won’t live there because it’s full of faggots”, they mean there’s something wrong with gay people. That we’re not equal. That we are not deserving of respect and dignity.  Then I pointed out her response to him and how that too made me feel.  “Even though you didn’t use the term as a perjorative, you said it jokingly. It’s still a slight. It’s still something that takes homosexuality and uses it as a joke or a punchline. Something to be laughed at”–that’s what I told her.  She said she didn’t intend it that way, but I mentioned that there’s no way anyone around her would know that.  I also mentioned that even if she’s used it around her gay friends, it doesn’t mean they aren’t bothered by it and that I just wanted her to know that it bugged me. She didn’t really have much to say after that (and no, she did not say “I’m sorry”), but I hope she gives it some thought.

Unrelated to that, while we were closing, I once again overheard a conversation (these things happen a lot bc servers gather around the bar, and I have good hearing) between two servers.  They were discussing how much money they jointly made on a party they shared and were in the process of trying to split the money up equally.  When one of them (BT) mistakenly gave himself too much money, the other one (T) caught him (it wasn’t intentional, from what I could tell) and told him “am I gonna have to call you a Jew?” That set my hackles off even more (they were still raised from the two previous occurrences) and I stopped what I was doing and walked over and simply said “Please don’t say that”.  T didn’t respond to that, and as I don’t want to be “that guy that goes off every time someone says something in the workplace” I didn’t elaborate on how fucking antisemitic that statement was.

It’s been a few hours since the last incident happened and I’ve calmed down now, but damn (and don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t irate. I was irritated). I don’t know if I just don’t normally let things get to me (it’s not like I haven’t encountered microaggressions before), or if I’ve become less tolerant of this shit as I’ve gotten older, or if I’ve simply become more bold about speaking up, or if it’s some combo of all of those “or’s” (and yes, that sentence is just horrible). Probably that last one. Dealing with that crap made me think about everything women have to put up with in the course of their day-to-day lives and how many microaggressions they have to deal with from all corners of society.  And that thought makes me weep for humanity.

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Microaggressions don’t usually bother me…
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3 thoughts on “Microaggressions don’t usually bother me…

  1. 1

    I remember, oh, about 15 years ago, when I had to explain to my son and his friends that saying something they didn’t like was “so gay”, was unacceptable. As usual, it was a case of unthinkingly copying the common usage they were hearing from their peers.

    I don’t know to what degree they internalized it—but they don’t say it around me any more. I hope they actually thought about it.

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