Today a gay friend of mine went to Facebook to post the following response to the Jonah Hill (apology) story, check out the apology first if you haven't already:
Said my friend:
One sincere apology is enough, this parade of shame is way overboard. The gay community and our straight allies need to stop feigning outrage ever [sic] time someone says something inappropriate. Intent is extremely important and Jonah Hill isn't bigoted.
He's a good friend of mine, but he also has a large audience on Facebook, many of whom are involved in politics and civil rights projects. He himself is a democrat, but a good number of users had liked the post with one man complimenting him on his well-worded response. Not wanting one gay man's opinions to be represented as the whole community's, I decided to respond:
I was walking up The Ave yesterday when a college-aged guy lifted his hands to greet a friend of his—the surrender pose I'd liken it the most accurately to. It was silly but harmless; they were just bros being bros. As I walked past, though, the friend jokingly said, "you know who says hello like that, man?" "Who?" "Gay douchebags, that's who." I was literally, by sheer coincidence, within punching range of this guy as I walked past him. Unlike some people in Seattle I've encountered, though, I don't punch people on sidewalks. More importantly I didn't feel the need to react. And that scared me.
Instead of fighting or stopping to have a discussion with him, I just kept on walking, wondering what that meant to me. Our specific age group of gay people found our sexuality before the advent of mainstream acceptance—the DADT repeal and the tide of marriage equality as some accomplishments—but after the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic in the '80s and the civil rights movement of the '60s. We grew up in a limbo world where we knew that we weren't the scum of the world, but we also knew we were missing out on part of what the world had to offer too. So a lot of us, myself included, learned how to internalize and quell the discrimination we felt in everyday life—hearing faggot, cocksucker, gay as a derogatory term, dyke, etc—because we knew that the effort it took to ignore that problem in our lives was far less the effort to stop it.
Unfortunately, that's no way to live. We should never have to contain a poison within our own bodies to stop its symptoms from manifesting. They will come out sooner or later. But what's worse, in suppressing these hateful terms, our specific demographic of gay men have failed to teach our straight peers and allies that these words are simply unacceptable. We've allowed leeway for them to keep using them since they know there is no real repercussion. But what about the younger gay people who are just now finding themselves? Who haven't had to suppress the hate inside of themselves? What do they hear when the passersby call someone a fag or a gay douchebag? Do they automatically think, "oh, they don't actually mean exactly what they're saying; it's just a proxy for something else," or do they go home thinking that the person they are is not a valued member of society? Do they think they're someone whose characteristics operate as the cultural currency in hate and derogation? I can't see how these wouldn't impact them. So although Jonah likely didn't mean what he said, we've allowed these terms to function for too long, our subculture's members becoming the whipping boy by proxy whenever something less than ideal occurs. That's why people do care about stopping this. And public example is one of the only ways we can catch up with the teachings that we failed in the past.