Thursday, March 08, 2007

The day my son learned that faggot is not just a schoolyard taunt

I will never forget the first time my son was called a faggot. It will be forever burned into my memory as a very traumatic experience – for both my son and for me. And in no way was that word used as a “schoolyard taunt” or a “joke” as Ann Coulter would like everyone to believe.

It happened 11 years ago when my son was 10 years old. Our family had just moved back to Arizona and into a new home in a new development. My husband and I purposely chose a new neighborhood because we believed that would be a great way for our children to ease in and make new friends. Everyone would essentially be in the same boat as a new kid on the block. And there would not yet be established friendships, cliques, or baseball teams. They would be getting in on the ground floor so to speak. Our plan definitely had its advantages, but as we were soon to find out, it also had some disadvantages too.

Every evening after dinner the kids would all rush out the door to congregate outside and talk, get to know one another, and basically size each other up. But it was also a time for some of the new boys in the neighborhood to start marking their territory and establishing their place in the pecking order.

As each new home was completed, a new family would move in and that evening the ritual among the kids would begin anew: “congregate’, “size up the new kids”, and further “refine the pecking orders”. New families were moving in at a fairly regular pace and the neighborhood was quickly becoming a vibrant melting pot of people from all over the country.

One week a new family with 3 kids moved in a few houses down from us. One of the kids in that family was a girl about the same age as my middle son. Not long after they had moved in, my middle son was standing in this family’s driveway having a conversation with this young girl. Unfortunately, this did not set well with some of the boys in the neighborhood. I suppose they felt he’d overstepped some unwritten boundary they’d set by talking to the new girl before they’d had a chance to strut their stuff and make an impression on her.

Before my son knew what was happening, he was quickly surrounded by about 5 or 6 boys who’d figured out the perfect way to make an impression on this little girl and teach my son a lesson at the same time. The first boy stepped forward, shoved my son hard, almost knocking him to the ground. Before he had a chance to recover another boy came at him, grabbed him by the shirt collar and called him a faggot, while at the same time a third boy came up from behind and pulled my son’s shorts down exposing his underwear in front of this girl. The others began closing in and it was clear at that point that their intention was to escalate this whole thing to the next level. Just as my son was bracing for the first blow, the new girl’s mother came outside to see what was going on and the bullies scattered like cowards for cover. My dazed son quickly headed home, frightened, horrified, and mortified. He had no idea what he’d done to deserve what had just happened and he quickly decided in his 10-year-old line of reasoning that Arizona was a very bad place and he no longer wanted to live here.

When he walked through the door that evening, I knew something was terribly wrong. He didn’t want to tell me, but when I prodded him, he spilled the whole story. I cannot put into words the gamut of emotions I was feeling. It was a mixture of rage and fear. And when he told me they’d called him a faggot, I felt sick to my stomach.

It took Herculean efforts to hide those emotions from my son. I was overwhelmed by a desire to march out that door and find every one of those punks and show them what it feels like to be bullied by someone bigger than them, but instead I put my arms around my son and told him that there will always be bullies in this world. I explained that they are usually very insecure people who have a terrible sense of inadequacy and they compensate for that inadequacy by hurting others and temporarily getting a rush of superiority from it. It went way over my 10-year-old’s head. He simply wanted to know what he’d done to deserve such cruel treatment and when we were moving back to Minnesota.

That word, faggot, was not intended to be a “schoolyard taunt” or a joke that day. That word was intended to be the prelude to violence, with my son as the intended target. That word was a weapon. It was used to demean and hurt my son and it accomplished both goals. To this day, when I hear that word it evokes intense emotions within me. I will never forget the terror, the rage, or the hurt that word inflicted on my son and on me.

Watching Ann Coulter stand up on that stage in all her cutesy, smarmy, smug glory and spout that word brought back all that rage I felt 11 years ago. She did it for the benefit of her overly receptive crowd and they loved it, but I’ve really got to wonder how many parents had the same reflexive reaction I did. We know the impact that word has, we know it first hand. And something tells me Ann Coulter knows its impact too, and that’s why she used it.

She is worse than those bullies who ganged up on my son. They were kids, she is not. It is a very pathetic human being who can only make their mark in this world by demeaning others, or only be funny at the expense of others, or only feel adequate when they are making others feeling inadequate, but that seems to sum up Ann Coulter’s shtick in a nutshell. Like I told my little boy that day 11 years ago, there will always be bullies in this world. Ann Coulter is one of those bullies.

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6 comments:

Jarred said...

This is a powerful story, and explains a lot about your feelings with regards to Ann Coulter's use of that word. To be honest, having never had an experience like the one you and your son went through, I can't say as I really understood why some people have reacted so strongly to this whole situation. Certainly, I found her actions objectionable and worthy of condemnation. But it didn't evoke the same strength of feeling in me as I've seen you and others demonstrate.

Thank you for allowing me to see a side of things I hadn't really understood until now.

Seething Mom said...

I really resisted writing about this experience for two reasons. I know my son does read my blog periodically and I really did not want to dredge up the humiliation and the hurt again for him. And I did not want to dredge it up for me either.

Just thinking about that day makes my heart beat faster and my hands shake with seething anger.

Ann Coulter has a lot of nerve telling people who know first hand how ugly that word is that it is harmless. I just cannot let her get away with it.

I am so glad Jarred that you have never had an experience like that. I just wish other children weren't having them either.

Mark said...

Well, I have had that experience. So have many kids! I am also a follower of Christ, not the Pope or any Man.

Many kids and adults have had that same experience and much worse. Get off your cry baby soap box for at lest a minute or two, eh? Faggot, niger, slut, white trash, bigot , homophobe, asshole, natzi, etc...are nothing new, especially among the young folks whose parents celebrate the same words. Hurtful words will never go away until Christ comes again. Nor will the pain and suffering a sin celebrating mankind has endorsed over God's eternal promises.

Seething Mom, why don't you try a different approach. I know you love your children. So does Christ. Your son does NOT belong to you. Your son belongs to God. The sooner you get that through your seething head, the better you both will be.

It seems to me, you have willfully replaced God's promises with your own desires. You have allowed yourself to be held captive. You are now a slave, and nothing pains our Lord more. Please begin to seek God again. He can be found in His holy word. Not a church, not a political party, not a club, not a group. He is found in His Holy word that Christ (God in Flesh) validated and confimred.

There is no such thing has a gay person in the message of Christ, nor is there Jew and Gentile. Christ unites humanity. The entire world is welcome at the cross of Christ. Sad so few will accept His invitation, just has Christ taught. Most will hold dear to their pride and worldly wisdom, just as your current walk is evident for others to see.

I hope you'll give your anger to God, and in your heart, really allow Him to bear it, and guide you with your eyes closed trusting only Him.

Jarred said...

Wow, Mark. Do you realize just how presumptuous you are?

Karen, Denver, CO said...

My gosh, Mark. As a Christian I am offended by your comments. Have you forgotten how Christ stood up for the down-trodden and outcast? Go re-read your scripture, and see what further reflection might reveal to you.

Thank you, Seething Mom for an unforgettable story. As the sister to a gay man, I was fighting back the tears reading about your experience. I, too, found Ann Coulter's comments to be inexcusable, but I couldn't have articulated it as well as you have.

Mark said...

Wow, Mark. Do you realize just how presumptuous you are?

Yes jarred, I do. The only folks that remain presumptuous, are those who replace the uniting message of Christ with a 'pity party' celebrating unholiness. One i.e. (me), need not be Holy, to proclaim the teachings Christ.


My gosh, Mark. As a Christian I am offended by your comments.

Ms Denver, so were the folks John the Baptist spoke to. I suggest you ask yourself..Are you like them? You dear, should take your own advice, and stop making excuses for the heart changing 'idea' of repentence. We all are outcasts, until we come to the cross of Christ. What we do there is up to us. I will not celebrate my own broken condition nor will I have the audacity to call it holy! I will lay it down, and accept His grace.