Okay, I’m not going to claim what I did was nice. But I was a redneck queer in South Carolina in the seventies and you do what you gotta do to survive. Which is not to say it’s not personally dangerous. And yes, I am ashamed. But also a tad — amazed that it worked.
So there’s that guy in high school, and he has his posse behind him, and he seems to have your number. Okay. There are a couple of ways to handle him. One is direct. He lets go with the gay innuendo. And you say “Hey, I don’t think about your crotch.” He’ll respond, and you say, “I’m just saying, you can’t go twenty-four hours without talking about it.” And he’ll respond, and if it’s non-physical, say “We’ll see,” and walk away. If it’s physical, you say “So now you want to touch me? If you thought I was gay, seems like you wouldn’t want to touch me.” And he’ll respond, and you say, “Well, you kinda always want to engage, it’s a little weird. I don’t think about you that way.” Usually, that’s it, he’ll have tough talk, but you’ll both walk away.
If he’s too unpredictable, go around him instead. Wait ’til only his posse is around, and you give a version of the speech to them: “Man, your buddy, he can’t go twenty-four hours without mentioning gay. It’s like he’s thinking about — you know. It’s kinda creepy. He can’t go twenty-four hours without gay something. It’s like it’s on his mind. I mean, I know he’s kidding, but — it’s all the time.” Doesn’t matter when he mentions it again, they’re all going to think, “yeah, he does talk about it a lot.”
Next, mention it to the gossipy faculty member. In the middle of another conversation, you see him across the way and say, “Man, he won’t leave me alone. Gay, gay, gay is all he talks about.” If you can say it to his minister or his parent’s best friends, even better. He’ll get so much “special counseling.”
It’s about making it seem like they’re thinking about it, not you. Bullies pick on you, but they’re revealing their biggest fear about themselves. Use that knowledge, and turn it back on them. “I’m not the one thinking about it, you are.” Bigotry is a double-edged sword. You might as well use the other side of the blade.
In the hall shower in college, there was one guy who always ragged me about — something about my naked body. He always said I was peeing in the shower, or kinda hairy, or was I getting hard? — something. It got uncomfortable. So finally, one day we’re all towelling off, and he walks around the corner to the sinks and I said (pretend softly, but I knew he could hear) “Man, I know he’s just yanking my chain, but it’s always ‘your dick this’ or something, and I just wanna say, ‘Is it okay if my shower’s about me?'” Around the corner, I heard a soft “motherf***” and a door slam. The guy was never in the shower the same time as me ever again.
There was also this one weird thing I noticed about bigots, and it’s that they fall hook, line, and sinker for stereotypes. Sit legs wide open. Burp. Fart. Scratch your dick in front of them and say “you looked.” The weirdest was one huge redneck boy who was going to be trouble. I noticed he and his buddies, the roughest roughnecks in school, all wore polka-dotted/diamond/weird amoeba things patterned boxer shorts. So I bought some and started wearing them, stripping down where they could see in the locker room. That exact day, they backed off completely. It was like magic. A gay guy couldn’t possibly wear polka-dotted boxers in their mind, so case closed. After that, one of the guys was actually kinda nice to me, like we were in a club or something.
I needed to do these things for that time in my life when I wasn’t in a safe place, wasn’t an adult, and couldn’t respond to “c*cksucker” with a cheery “why, thank you!” I had to survive, graduate, and get to another place. Do what you have to do if you’re attacked. Sad but true. And yes, the guy who can’t go twenty-four hours without saying “gay” probably is, so you’re up against a brother. But he’s an unenlightened brother, and at that point in his life, he can cause major damage to your life. Never do it first, never do it second, but the three strikes rule always applies. Maybe you can kiss and make up at the class reunion. More or less.
Postscript: Over the years, the number of guys I dated who said something to the effect that I was the first guy they’d ever dated who wore boxers was beyond statistically significant. But the weirdest thing was a guy I dated, and we both stripped down to polka-dotted boxers. I couldn’t resist. I said, “I know why I wear these. Tell me why you wear them.” He was short and gay, he’d always felt threatened in high school, and he realized the answer to his problem might be solved by — wearing redneck boxers just like the rednecks. It worked for him, too.
We live in a very weird world. Oh, and bonus points if you can get the ones with snaps.