Fag. Homo. Queer. These were the words I grew almost accustomed to hearing as I walked the halls of my school. I hated those words. The truth is that I really didn't even understand what they meant. To me they just became bad words, words I never wanted to hear, and things I never wanted to be. Why did they call me those things? Why did I have to suffer through that relentless taunting? I remember getting tunnel vision as I walked those halls, trying to blur everything around me like a Van Gogh painting: if I just focused on where I was going, then maybe they would leave me alone, for once. It never happened. Without fail, someone would make some asinine comment about the way I walked or talked or looked.
Who the hell are these so-called normal people? It's really ridiculous when you think about it. There is no such thing as normal. Normal people to one person are complete oddities to someone else. But for some reason, human beings have this subconscious fear of what they don't know, don't understand, or deep down are themselves. So we make fun. We verbally jab at people to make ourselves feel better. What other reason would kids have for tormenting other kids for being gay? I hated every time I was picked on, but in hindsight, it made me who I am today. It gave me a thicker skin. It still hurts when someone says something today, and if anyone tells you it doesn't, that person is a complete liar. Nevertheless, now I feel I'm able to cope with it better.
From my earliest memory, I knew I was different from most. I just didn't know what it was that made me different. My mother used to say that aliens had brought me to Earth to test her. If those aliens were cross-dressers with a passion for pop divas, she might be right. I wasn't the easiest child. Yes, even then, I was ready to have my diva status. I was also painfully shy. So my mother spoke for me, a lot. Even to this day, I catch her doing it. She thought she was protecting me, but she was really covering me with a security blanket and then throwing me to the wolves. I was totally ill-prepared for the type of mental abuse I would receive on a daily basis. It is abuse. Mental abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, just without the visible scars. All the taunts and jeers just told me that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't worthy, that I was nobody. I got it from school, and then I would return home, where my father would either ignore me or scream at me because I hadn't put the cap on the milk jug or some other miniscule thing.
I had friends, I had my mother, and I had my sister (when she was younger, at least; popular teenage girls and older gay brothers do not always mix well), but still there were so many times I felt utterly alone. Invisible. I just wanted someone to notice me or care about me. I just wanted validation. Validation, I've learned, is what most people want. We want someone to validate us. We seek it all the time, through our relationships, our jobs, our children. We just want someone to say that we are important and we are valued. We just want simple validation. I wanted it so bad at one point in my life that I tried to take my own life to get it. It was the ultimate cry for help. I needed someone so desperately to love me and make me feel whole. The reality of it was that there were already so many people around me who did, but I couldn't see it through my pain. I couldn't see the love around me because I had no love in my heart for myself. I believed I was this horrible person because everyone had made fun of me. I let them take control of my life even when they weren't in it any longer. I was so damaged that I couldn't see that all I really needed was myself. I needed the love from myself.
Fag. Homo. Queer. To that I say, "Yes I am!" I am all those things that they said I was. I am effeminate. I do like other men. I do walk with a swish. I am proud to be a gay man. I am proud to be who I am, and who I always was deep inside the shell of that scared little boy. I wear those names as badges of honor now. I know that those were the words spoken by ignorant children who were raised by ignorant parents. I know that ignorance is the major downfall of the human race. Maya Angelou says, "When you know better, you do better." I know better, and I am doing better. It is through sharing our life experiences that we all begin to realize that we are not so different from each other. We all just want to be loved.