Has “faggot” become the new “F”-word? Today, the clerks and customers of Mikey’s Late Night Slice, who stood up to a man bullying a gay couple, are On Our Radar.
I’m not much of a curser. It isn’t that I’m shocked or offended by “blue” language, I’m just not impressed by it. I like precise words. Clever words. Powerful words. When I insult you, it’s going to sting much more than a “Go fuck yourself,” which is what John Boehner is reported to have said this week, upon encountering Harry Reid in the Oval Office. I was relating that story on the phone the other day, speculating on whether the pressure Speaker Boehner was under would make diamonds or dust out of him, when my unexpected use of the “F”-bomb caused a stir in the ranks of my grandchildren.
“Nana, you said the “F”-word!” Nine-year-old Jenna was so scandalized her cheeks actually turned pink with embarrassment for me. But five-year old Maddie, ever the loyal wingman, came to my defense.
“No Nana did not say the “F”-word she insisted. “‘Fuck’ is NOT the “F”-word.
When Maddie thinks she knows something, there is very little the average human can to do to convince her she’s got it wrong. Knowing this, I headed off an impending argument on the etymology and provenance of the word “fuck” by asking Maddie what she thought the “F”-word was. She got up on her tiptoes to be close to my ear, put her little hand up to block any chance of an escaping syllable, and, with what was unmistakable pride in her knowledge of things no five-year-old is supposed to know, whispered “faggot.”
I have to give that round to Maddie. She has a point. As we enter 2013, the word “faggot” has surpassed the word “fuck” on the social unacceptability scale by a factor of about a billion. While our attention was elsewhere, it appears the same gay slurs that once spurred on bigots have become the battle cries that now rally defenders. I trip over examples all the time.
Last fall, Jordan Addison, a gay college student in Roanoke, Virginia, had to begin the school year with the words “faggot” and “die fag” keyed into his car. Lacking the $2500 it would take to repair the damage, Jordan attempted a do-it-yourself paint job, hoping it would at least obscure the slurs, but he had to resign himself to driving around in the defaced car. When Richard Henegar, the straight manager of a local body shop heard about what had happened to Jordan, he not only repaired the car for free, he “pimped his ride”. With the help of enthusiastic employees who volunteered their labor, and donations of parts and money he solicited from local businesses, Richard not only repainted Jordan’s car, he installed a new security system, tinted windows, and a new stereo. The employees felt so good about their part in making things right for Jordan, they made “No Bullying” T-shirts to wear on the day they surprised him with the rehabbed car.
In October, Westboro Baptist Church picketers decided to disrupt the funeral of fallen lesbian soldier Sgt. Donna Johnson, who was killed in Khost, Afghanistan. The desire to protect the mourners from Westboro’s “God Hates Fags” signs was the impetus behind hundreds of straight service members, from all four branches of the service, dressing in their Class A uniforms, and lining the street in front of the church where the funeral was being held. Along with thousands of straight citizens of Raeford, North Carolina, they stood shoulder to shoulder blocking Westboro’s signs from the view of Sgt. Johnson’s wife and family. Imitating that success, just last week, more than 250 members from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis Maryland, came out in the cold to screen from view the “God Hates Fags” signs the Westboro Baptist Church held up outside the Annapolis courthouse, on the first day same-sex marriages were allowed in Maryland.
And this week, I came across yet another story of a group of straight people who spontaneously reacted to squelch the homophobic slurs made against a gay couple in their midst. According to his Facebook post, Joel Diaz, and his date Ethan White, had spent the evening clubbing before stopping by the Mikey’s Late Night Slice truck in Columbus Ohio’s “Short North” for a bite. Humans being humans, I imagine they were holding hands and doing what my grandmother would have called “canoodling”. Their public display of affection however, irritated another pizza patron in line, who told them to “Cut out the gay shit.”
Perhaps the man expected the crowd to back him in his objections to the same-sex kissing. Perhaps he thought everyone would “mind their own business” and choose not to involve themselves. But the man miscalculated. His criticism was not well received by those in the pizza queue. The other patrons waiting in line, straight people who were strangers to Joel and Ethan, spoke up. They defended the gay couple, telling the man to leave them alone. As Joel recounts the event, it was not one or two isolated voices, but most of the people present who defended them.
The man persisted, as bullies are prone to do, but the clerks of Mikey’s Late Night Slice also took a stand. They informed the man that because he was spewing hatred, they would not serve him, and they asked him to leave. I feel the need to point out, that the crowd and the clerks took this principled stand in Ohio, where because of the state’s concealed carry law, they took the risk that the man would press his objection at gunpoint. Funny how it is never the “scary” gay couples who have the guns; it’s always the haters who are armed to the teeth.
Mikey’s management stood behind the actions of their employees, even posting a response on their own Facebook page praising the actions of their patrons who came to the defense of Joel and Ethan. I suppose in the annals of the gay struggle, the night the crowd stood up for the gay couple at Mikey’s Late Night Slice is unlikely to be long-remembered, except of course, by Joel and Ethan and the homophobic man who confronted them. But it should at least be noted by us today, as a sign of the changing times.
“Faggot” is indeed the new “F”-word. Maddie has that right. And everyday heroes can now be found standing in line at gay weddings and gay funerals, or just waiting for a slice of pizza. It is a brave new undertaking, this rapprochement between gay and straight, but it’s getting better all the time.
This morning, the clerks and customers of Mikey’s Late Night Slice, and all the straight people who have stepped up to do the right thing by the gay people with whom we share this big blue marble, are On Our Radar.
Photos via Mikey’s Late Night Pizza’s Facebook Page
UPDATE: Mikey’s Late Night Pizza has decided it will commemorate the night its patrons stood up to a bully, the all-American way, with a T-shirt. The company has announced they will offer for a limited time, “NO SLUT SAUCE FOR YOU, MR HOMOPHOBE.” T-shirts for $15. The company says it will donate “most of the profits” to the gay rights group, Equality Ohio.
If you are interested in a “NO SLUT SAUCE FOR YOU, MR HOMOPHOBE.” T-shirt, you can order one on the Mikey’s Late Night Slice website.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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