Sticks, stones may break my bones, words still hurt me
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 00:03
Actions speak louder than words, but the wounds words leave linger longer than bruises.
My mom has never really said anything about my “queerty” on any of the occasions I’ve come out to her, other than an absent, “That’s nice, honey.” On the other hand, I told my dad I was queer and I liked country music in the same breath. He waved off the queer bit like it didn’t matter and instead told me, in utter seriousness, that he still loved me even if I listened to country music.
So while I’ve never felt ostracized in my family, I also didn’t think they ever really heard me. Or, if they had heard me, it felt like they thought I was just looking for attention, or maybe that it was some sort of “phase” I was going through.
I’ve come out to my mom and dad repeatedly, off and on since I was 12 years old, because sometimes it seemed like they forgot — or like they blocked it out. Once or twice it was because I did something to confuse the issue — being myself was hard, but it turned out that being someone else was impossible.
But, just the other day, my mom put an “Equality Forever” stamp on the letter she mailed me.
It’s stupid, but I’ve never felt so accepted and loved as I did when I saw that stamp. That action proved more to me than saying “that’s nice, honey” a thousand times ever could.
But words can be more hurtful than actions. Isn’t it always the case that if something’s kind it’s harder to believe than if it’s cruel?
No one ever forgets the first time someone told them they were less — less important, less normal, less human. That ache stays with you the rest of your life.
Someone spitting derogatory slurs at you during a beating seems inconsequential when you’re trying to dodge a punch, but later the slurs are the things that stick with you after the bruises or broken bones have healed.
The fact that someone thinks you’re different enough from them to validate the urge to destroy the difference is disheartening. Anything that is different is something that can make someone second guess him- or herself, and that is scary. Whether it’s fear of the “other” or internalized hate, taking it out on others is something that’s distressingly common.
I was having a conversation with a friend the other day in which, as it turned out, we were both baffled by how people can denigrate others for just being different. I don’t know, maybe you have to have been ostracized for something yourself before it becomes inconceivable to discount someone just because they’re different.
Last month, a woman in Texas, Sondra Scarber, was attacked while trying to defend her girlfriend’s four-year-old son from a bully on an elementary school playground. When the father of the bully realized that Scarber was a woman and not a man like he had assumed, he assaulted her. She did not have time to begin to defend herself. She survived the attack, but her jaw is still wired shut as it continues to heal.
In an interview, Scarber told the WFAA news network she is more concerned about her girlfriend’s son, who is still having trouble sleeping after witnessing the attack.
The police have been searching for the assailant, but won’t confirm the attack was a hate crime, despite a witness statement from Scarber’s girlfriend confirming he yelled homophobic slurs at Scarber as he continued to assault her after she fell unconscious.
“I think it’s evil to treat somebody in such a way and get away with it,” Scarber told WFAA. “I don’t think it’s OK to put someone in this much pain because you don’t think it’s OK for me to raise my son.”
How is it possible for someone to hate something so much they feel it validates beating up a woman on a playground, in front of children? While that’s a trifecta, how does anything validate physical violence unless it’s other violence? If just my existence is provocation enough to count as the sort of verbal or physical abuse it would take for me to throw a punch, how is that supposed to make me feel?
Do I introduce myself to people by saying, “Hello, I’m a walking insult to your way of life, heterosexuality and social norms?” Because that’s a mouthful, and saying all that whenever I meet someone new would get old fast. I suppose I could wear a sign, so I wouldn’t have to say it all every time I see someone I don’t know — but that’s verging on pink triangle and gold star territory, and we’re better than the Third Reich.
At least, I hope we are.
Irene Drage is a senior in English. The opinions expressed in her columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Drage can be reached at email@example.com.