"You're trash. And are trying to be something you're not."
"You're legit a waste of time. You don't do anything. Like what IS your talent?"
"You're a fat ass."
Thanks for the support, fellow gays, but it's my turn to talk. Now, I really want your attention, so I'm going to quote Mean Girls: "You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it OK for [non-gay] guys to call you sluts and whores." Or maybe shoot you in cold blood on Greenwhich Ave. Or maybe physically assault you in the hours after a New York City peace rally.
Homophobic hate crimes have been on the rise in NYC. In my dear NYC, where gays move to feel accepted. To feel at home. To feel normal. In my two years here, I had, for the first time in my life, felt perfectly accepted for living the life I wanted to live. And then I was targeted for being gay, hated by a child for one assumption that he made about me.
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not eternally shaken by a child's prank. Had I not ended up with the chance to talk to him and give "gay" a human face, I wouldn't have even found the story worth sharing. But I couldn't help thinking how it could have ended differently, violently, even. "What if the parents had been anti-gay? What if this kid has older acquaintances who can't be rattled by the police? What if, over this next year, he becomes a full-fledged, inner-city teen and still feels hate?"
So I get it: There's a lot of apprehension surrounding this increase in hate crimes. Still, that's the only time I've ever felt targeted by a (presumably) straight person. But fellow gays? We tear each other down every day.
"You have a huge nose."
"Get aids and die go suck dick in hell with your mom."
"Your body looks horrible. And your face isn't special."
(Note: These comments only encouraged Instagram selfies that were more shameless than usual.)
These are some more choice phrases gays have said to me over the past few weeks. Sometimes it's to my face at an event, sometimes it's through social media, sometimes it's through an app. (Read: Grindr. Shhh!) But the things they all have in common? First, we don't know each other, at least not personally. Second, we both know the other is gay. Third, one of us feels slighted by the other, most often meaning someone got turned down for a date. Yeah, it's that trite and trivial.
Scanning through my various messages to research for this piece, I was a little surprised -- and bothered -- by how easy it was to find examples; it was actually hard to pick which few were the most spiteful. As they had happened, I dismissed each person as a disgruntled drama queen. But seeing them all at once, noticing the frequency of intracommunity hate, I felt a little down, wondering why I deserved this treatment from my peers. I don't. No one does. Reactions are excusable with understanding; overreactions are not.
You know who else was acting like a disgruntled drama queen? Elliot Morales, who shot Mark Carson dead last month in the West Village after hurling homophobic slurs. "I killed him," Morales says. "He was trying to act tough so I shot him." In other words, he felt slighted and overacted.
You don't get a free pass to victimize someone because you feel that they slighted you (no, not even on Grindr). You don't get a free pass to victimize someone because you yourself feel victimized. One of the guys -- the one who spent a lot of his time repeating to me that I was a waste of time (while I sat silently) -- had himself claimed to be a victim of a hate crime. From a mutual acquaintance, I hear this guy had been a little defensive ever since being mugged and called a faggot a few weeks back. I won't comment on whether or not I think he's telling the truth, but I will say, again, that your being victimized doesn't give you the right to victimize.
The other night, after a shift at Elmo Restaurant -- one of NYC's most gay-friendly hotspots -- I decided to enjoy the weather and walk to David Barton Gym -- another of NYC's most gay-friendly hotspots. And, right smack between the two, I happened upon Mark Carson's makeshift memorial. As I stood right where he was killed, I realized that, nestled right in between two safe havens that I frequent, that unfathomable anti-gay hate crime occurred just weeks before. My honest thought in that moment? "We're acting like hypocrites, building memorials while destroying each other."
We won't forget you, Mark.
With the increase in homophobic crimes, I sense a rightfully defensive gay community. Sure, let's be strong and stand for equality, especially with New York Pride around the corner. But let's back off on the offense, especially toward one another. People around the world are still afraid to be themselves in 2013, and this community needs to be seen as a strong, welcoming presence. If our hands are busy tearing each other down, how can we link arms and unite as one?