It’s 2019. Not 1954. Not 1986. Not even 2003. It’s 2019. So why, in this day and age, am I still hearing the word “fag” used by straight guys putting other straight guys down? Why do I still hear straight guys accuse each other of being gay to get a laugh? Why do I still hear all sorts of public declarations by straight guys of just how gay they aren’t, as if being gay is still one of the worst things a man can be? It’s 2019. Enough, already.
Listen, I play a chill little game of poker with a great group of friends. It’s my escape from reality when I have the chance to play. The guys I play with are good guys with functional lives, and real careers, and we just get together for fun when we can. Most these guys have wives and kids. I guarantee all of them know at least one openly LGBTQ person (besides me) in their lives or workplaces.
“You’re such a fag,” one of them said to another player at our game last night when that player did something ridiculous and it paid off for him as he got his miracle card for the win.
I was really tired. I have fought the good fight many times and I wasn’t in the mood to fight it this time. Of course, nobody said anything. I must have heard the word “fag” at least five times by that point, and not always by the same player. Nobody ever said anything about it, either. But, why?
It’s 2019. Not 1954. Not 1986. Not even 2003. It’s 2019.
I’ve actually been working really hard for the past seven years to change the homophobia and bigotry that exists in the poker scene here in Utah. When I first started playing more often, I remember going to my first game at a new place and most everyone at the table just unleashed endless homophobic rhetoric, jokes, and rants throughout the session.
Within a month, it was against the rules at both the games I frequented for anyone to openly rip on gays, simply because I was open and positive about it.
Within three years, three different players in the poker scene had actually confided in me that they were also LGBTQ, and swore me to secrecy for fear of ridicule and judgment. Of course, I kept their secrets. The most interesting thing about that to me was that the most homophobic person at the table the very first time I went was the first one to confide in me. To this day, none of them have come out to anyone else.
Oh. Wait. What? You didn’t know I was LBGTQ? I am. And I’ll blog more about the journey some other time. A lot of what I’ve been through would get killer laughs if I ever get around to trying stand-up comedy. I’m the B in LGBTQ. Weird, I know. Guys shouldn’t ever admit that, right?
I came out to the entire world many years ago. I literally lost 50,000 followers in the day and the day following. I also gained 60,000. To look at the numbers, you’d think that I just had a nice little jump of support, but reality was much different. Fifty thousand people who had followed me because they liked me as a human and liked what I had to say suddenly thought I was a person no longer worth following. FIFTY THOUSAND. Why? There was no other reason than the fact that I had an occasional sexual attraction to men, I decided to be open about it before the anxiety and self-loathing ended me, and that was just too fucking much for them.
Not that my sex life is anyone’s business, but I date women. I’m extremely attracted to *certain* women. I get along better with women. But sometimes, once in a great while, a switch flips in my brain for just a few days, or a couple weeks at most. When that happens, women become completely (and I mean it when I say completely) unattractive to me and *certain* men become really attractive. I never act on it because at this point in my life, I know that it’s going to turn back off before long and it’ll be all women all the time again. I can’t explain my brain and physiology. I didn’t choose this. It’s just my reality. And I’m pretty open about it.
I’ve also been very open about it at the poker table over the years. I tend to be pretty well liked. As a well liked person, I have always felt that being open about it, and laughing about it, and normalizing it as much as I can will make a difference. I usually openly joke about the first time I tried to force myself to be with a guy who I wasn’t even attracted to and how I had a total panic attack and it ended in complete disaster. It usually gets even the biggest homophobes laughing. It’s a pretty fucking funny story, which I’ll share another day. Maybe.
But last night the “fag” statements were frequent. And nobody said anything. Until…
Someone finally did.
The guy dealing for us apparently got sick of it. “Don’t say that word,” he said. “It’s not cool.”
This guy happens to be covered in tattoos. He swears like a sailor. He’s a tough guy. He’s honestly not the person I would have expected at all to have finally said something, but he was the one who piped in. And… For the rest of the night I didn’t hear anyone use the word again. All that this straight guy had to do was have the balls to say something, and it changed everything.
I’ve done all that I could over the years to bring change and positive attentiveness to it, but in the end I can only do so much. Sometimes I just don’t want to be the one fighting the fight. Sometimes I don’t want to be the sole crusader. Sometimes I just sit and squirm in discomfort, and let it happen around me. Gotta choose my battles, and all that jazz.
And on those nights when I just don’t feel like fighting the fight? Damn, it’s nice when someone else does.
The world has gotten so much more accepting and friendly toward people in the LGBTQ community, but we’re not completely there yet. In some areas we still have a long ways to go. We have corners of the population left to reach. We have more fights to fight.
If I may speak freely to all of my straight friends out there… Sometimes it just sucks always being the one fighting the fight.
If I’m being honest, sometimes it even has more power when you are the ones who open your mouths to the group instead of us. After all, almost every straight person expects the fag to fight the fight for the fags, and so they take what we have to say with a grain of salt. But when a straight guy steps in and says, “not cool guys,” to other straight guys? That’s power we in the LGBTQ community could really use in our corner.
I grew up in a world of extreme homophobia. I grew up hearing the word “fag” used so flagrantly and so easily by so many people. I hated myself so much for what I was, and I did everything I could to pretend it wasn’t my truth, and to choose to be straight. But… I wasn’t straight. I couldn’t choose to be straight, no matter how much effort I gave it. And I literally almost killed myself to keep from admitting that truth to myself once it became something I couldn’t keep ignoring.
I promise you all there are so many closeted LGBTQ people out there who are still too afraid to accept and be open about their own truths. A lot of people still live their lives in all sorts of fear because (even in 2019) people still call each other fags and still don’t give their struggling friends and loved ones an environment where they can feel safe.
Because of that, the fight is still worth fighting. I may not personally fight it every minute of every day, but I’ll never stop fighting it, and I want to say thank you to all my straight friends who step up and fight it with me when you do. It means more than you’ll ever know.
Dan Pearce | Dan Pearce Was Here