Leaving Hate Behind

Being hated by others fosters hatred in return, but it's important to move beyond

There was a time when I really hated straight people.

Not surprisingly, this was during my younger years, when my activism was more fiery and less centrist. As a rural Kentucky native, my high school years were spent as a Ronald Reagan fan – we all go through phases – and that surface conservatism followed me through my first years of college.

My change in attitude began there, when I was outed during my junior year. Being outed by straight students, and a handful of closeted ones, certainly stoked my ire. Once out, all the slights and barriers and hatreds I feared snapped into focus. I lost friends, I disengaged from family, I found myself being treated as the other.

Straight people hated me, so I could return the favor.

Thankfully, my own hatred was generalized. I did have a few straight friends who played a large role in how my own attitudes changed, even if our society lagged in changing its attitudes. I had no Eureka! moment of revelation; I simply over time understood that building my life around such anger had to stop or it would consume me. And, despite the fact that I still see those situations where my otherness is reawakened – the casual use of ”fag” by someone in a public space, the ongoing assault on my relationship by anti-gay activists – I better understand now that there are plenty of straight people happy to accept me for who I really am.

It’s only fair I return that favor.

As I suspect many others who’ve experienced different forms of bigotry and discrimination have, I spent a lot of time reflecting on this during the recent blow-up over the firing of Shirley Sherrod and the misrepresentation of her story about learning to see beyond her own internal filters. Obviously, I don’t in any real way consider my own gay experience analogous to living in the Jim Crow South – but the fact that she’s able to have that breakthrough of personal perception despite experiencing some of the worst that bigotry has to offer means, to me, that we should all be able to achieve the same growth.

One only wishes that growth would be experienced by those who fight against LGBT equality. The same as whites who obsess over the idea somewhere there exists a black person who may not like them – may even hate them – Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage, during one the group’s sparsely attended rallies this week, accused gays and lesbians protesting her attacks on their relationships of harboring hate.

”Hate is not a family value,” Gallagher declared, a statement so heavy with irony it likely warped the surrounding space-time continuum. Given the practice she has warping the truth about gay and lesbian marriages, it wasn’t that much of a stretch.

Yes, some of us harbor anger and even hatred in our hearts from what we’ve experienced. There are even some of us who are never able to let go of it – I can’t truthfully say that I’ve let go of every last drop, myself. But the fact that others hate me is no excuse to nurse a hatred in kind. And what goes for me should go for Maggie as well.

You’d think she could return that favor.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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