Oh, Behave!

Fighting Words: What Do You Do When The Bastards Try To Get You Down?

The world can be a dangerous place for LGBT people, as we all know. For many, a big part of building a life is creating a zone of safety—whether that means moving to a big gay metropolis, creating a smaller-scale network of friends and family or finding ways to “pass” in difficult situations.

Then something happens to shatter that sense of safety.

For example, I was recently walking through the Denver airport, just trying to make a connection, when some random guy in a cowboy hat leaned into my path and called me a “faggot”—then walked away with a chuckle.

On the spectrum of hateful behaviors against gay people, this is almost a non-event. But when things like this happen to me, they call up a lifetime of painful memories—and fear. It’s partly the recalled fear of a bullied 11-year-old boy, but it’s also the fear of a grown man who knows that thugs kill gay people all the time (and that you can’t necessarily count on the police to help you).

Scott Thompson would surely tell me to “grow a pair.” Well, I do already have a pair—but they’re very sensitive and averse to violence.

Here’s another recent traveling experience: I was sitting on a plane with four day-of-travel drink coupons that I knew I wouldn’t use, so I offered them to the beer-drinking guys in front of me. They accepted the coupons—and then spent a few minutes giggling and not-soquietly mocking my slight case of “homo voice”:

“Excuuuthe me, boyth, do you want my drink tickethth? Wouldn’t that be fabulouththth?

I could hear them—and people around us could hear them. And I sat silently with a sweaty, stomach-turning embarrassment that you might be familiar with. For me, occurrences like this expose a secret fear: that this is what all straight men secretly think when they’re talking to me: “fag,” “weak,” “fabulouththth!’

So what does one do in a situation like this? What would you have done?

As a student of manners, I know that an etiquette expert’s best advice is to ignore the passing jab. There’s no point and no benefit to engaging with dickheads like that on their level. Thompson advises, in addition to generating testicles, learning to fight physically. But that can be unsafe (when you’re alone in unfamiliar territory) or unwise (when you’re on a plane). And I’m a mere wisp of a person.

But turning the other cheek and “rising above” aren’t very satisfying, either, after taking an insult like that. Not when your gay heart cries out, “Destroy!” and a series of revenge scenarios play out in your mind, Kill Bill-style.

I wish there were a better answer.

Well, maybe there is: I like to think of myself as a blend-into-the-crowd kind of guy, but I know I “read” gay. On the day that dickhead called me a faggot in the Denver airport, for instance, I was wearing a purple sweater and carrying a rather marvelous fluorescent orange duffel. This outfit wouldn’t stand out in my neighborhood, but I guess at DIA it did. Later that day, I thought to myself, “I shouldn’t wear this purple sweater when I travel into the square states” and “Maybe my orange duffel is too much.”

Then I thought, “Hell no—I like purple. It brings out the green in my eyes.” I reminded myself of something I know logically but haven’t quite internalized: The best way I can think of to fight back is by not letting the dickheads change me. I won’t get into a brawl—but I won’t act any less “gay,” either.

And I’ll remind myself, once again, that the best revenge is living well—and being “fabulouththth.”

Charles Purdy is the author of the book Urban Etiquette: Modern Manners for the Modern Metropolis and a longtime manners-advice columnist. In his Queerty column, he addresses issues related to social behavior. Find him on Twitter: @charlesqueerty


Image via airportbars.com, Polina Sergeeva

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  • lookatme!

    Best way is ignoring them?! Lol! Last time I’ve heard a guy laughing at me I’ve simply punched him in his face. I’m not a sissy, so every guy can call me that way, moreover he doesn’t have f* rights to insult anybody. He was humiliated by gay guy in public place, that was best lesson from life he deserved.

  • SeaChas

    There are no better words in the English language than, “Now, go tell your Mommy that a faggot beat you up!”

  • Trent

    I believe the best way to handle these situations is through wit. You can be a “mere wisp of a person” but that is all the more reason for you to be smarter than the average bear. Granted I’m on the bigger side of things (6ft 205lbs-not all fat). I still have found using wit is a better tool than your fists. Even if they do decide to punch you, that is what police and things are for. They look like idiots in the end you will find. I will say; I am from Indiana originally though. Maybe Hoosiers just have a better sense of humor.

  • Mike UK

    some of the biggest homophobes are other gay men!

    obviously the guy at the airport had his gaydar on full scan so he picked up on the smaller guy in the purple and orange, buy saying something derogatory to the “fa**ot” gave his “straight” image just that little boost that he needed. as for the guys on the plane, well you get f**kwits just about everywhere! those who shout the loudest tend to have something to hide!

    as for wearing bright colours, sod it, wear what the hell you like, I wear pink, orange, purple, yellow, in fact all colours of the spectrum, leave the greys and the browns to the boring people!!!

  • Peter

    If I was sitting there when they started mocking you, I would’ve gone off my head, not just because they are homophobic, but because they’re mocking a stranger, within earshot, who just gave them a gift! That’s fucking abhorrent.

  • Mick

    Kick ass yourself and quit whining about bullying. Walk with authority and don’t tolerate any BS from anyone. If you act like a perpetual victim, you will always be a victim. Everyone needs to take care of himself and not expect the world to.

  • Continuum

    Not sure how to handle mocking, rude behavior. But, such behavior isn’t just limited to the gay slurs. It can be about anything.

    Once in a grocery store, I got into a shouting match with some religious wingnut who berated me because I hadn’t been saved. My reaction at that point was to give him more back (verbally) as much as he gave out. And, make sure it was loud enough that other patrons, and eventually the store management, were aware that this guy was accosting customers inside the store with his religious nonsense.

    On another occasion, my buff, muscled work out buddy stepped in when some guy was openly mocking another somewhat effeminate guy at the YMCA. That time, my buddy advised the bully that if he didn’t stop “he’d have to go home and tell his mommy that he got beat up by a sissy.” In that instance, the bullying stopped.

    In general, however, I’m just not really sure what kind of reaction to effect in any kind of situation affecting the whole gamut of rude behaviors.

  • Kylew

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – violence is a stupid response to verbal bullying, and not always the best one to actual bullying.

    For all the machos here who claim that people should grow a pair or punch the bully in the face, or whatever, I think that YOU are the ones with issues. Not simply a justified dislike of being victimised for your sexuality, but a personal insecurity that ,means that you have to destroy those who oppose you in a real physical sense.

    A great martial artist once said (I’m paraphrasing) “The greatest victory is not to fight”.

    Do you really think that the way to deal with people with ego problems, is to hurt them or publicly humiliate them? All you’re doing is transferring and deferring your problem to someone else, and quite possibly creating another psycho killer in the process.

    You might be 6ft of muscled killing machine (or even 5ft of pure hellcat attitude) but what of the guys who have zero chance of winning an altercation? What if you stand up and the other guy draws a knife or a gun, which he would be entitled to do if you physically accost him?

    And if you do win, do you think that that guy goes home thinking “Well, a faggot served me today, guess they’re not so bad after all.” Of course not! He may think twice about saying something again, but he’s far more likely to make sure that next time he takes on a gay guy, he has weapons and backup. And you may well have converted an ignorant moron into a gay hater with a mission. As the saying goes – “Violence begets violence.”

    Of course, if you are being physically assaulted, and you have any chance of victory, then you probably should stand up for yourself, but reckless or aggressive behaviour is just dumb and it escalates the situation.

    All advice from police, anti-bullying organisations, and psychologists, is to calm the situation down and avoid violence. We are constantly asking others to apply their intellect to see past their cultural bias against homosexuality, but then if we are not prepared to use ours, doesn’t that make us hypocrites?

    And as for the plane; I might have leaned over and said,
    “Guys, if accepting free drinks from a gay guy makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re welcome to give the vouchers back.”

  • MEJ

    First off, take a self-defense course so if you ever have to defend yourself, you can. Krave Maga is an excellent program for defensive combat. A chop to the neck, or throat; or a kick to the balls will drop even the biggest opponent. Nothing like seeing the look on some “tough guys” face, when he’s on the ground holding his balls, as you kick the shit out of his nuts. And the great thing is, most cops wouldn’t view that as a real assault. Some guy goes to the cops and tells them some other guy kicked him in the balls, the cops are going to laugh at him.

    Secondly, don’t bother looking for a fight, but let the other person know you heard them. The beer drinking assholes for example–“I gave you my drinks tickets, and you make fun of me for it? I hope you choke on that beer.” (you tend to get more people on your side if you embarrass, and point out the bigots rudeness,) and leave it at that. God knows the hets around us will rarely ever stand up against anti-gay bigotry, because they fear being labeled gay themselves.

    Lastly, cultivate power. I was a fat, ugly high school drop out. So I spent all my time working, cultivating contacts, and building up my businesses. Now I have the kind of stroke that most men dream of.

    Last year some nobody at the mall where my BF works as a buyer for a chain of clothing stores, made fun his his gay voice. I walked up to him, and enjoyed the look of fear on his face as he thought I was going to beat the shit out of him. I simply told him to start looking for another job.

    I found the owners of the mall, had my lawyer send threatening letters to them and the owner of the pet shop where the anti-gay asshole worked. The owners of the mall put pressure on the store owner, and the bigot was fired. Further, the mall owners banned him from ever stepping foot inside the mall again.

    The problem is, most of the time hets will defend the anti-gay bigots over us. I’ve seen it, and heard stories about gay people being in the right, but being treated like the bad guy, while the anti-gay bigot gets off scot free. Get a great lawyer who knows how to write a threatening letter, and use them. Become friends with people in high places, and use those contacts when you need them. Do favours for powerful people, and call in those markers when you need them. Never underestimate the power of contacts.

    Gay people exist everywhere, and in every position–meet those gay people, and become their friends, and allies.

  • Kylew

    @MEJ: Wow, so you think destroying a man’s life for being an asshole was proportionate? That says as much about you as it does about him.

  • Shannon1981

    The way I handle is usually ignoring them, and, if it escalates, removing myself from the situation if at all possible. I also know how to fight. However, I am 5’3- not the biggest person in the world, so fighting is unwise in most situations because I more than likely would not win.

    I try to hold to the “it gets better” attitude, and I spend my time in activist circles doing all I can to legally eradicate bigotry. Until then, my girlfriend and I are moving to a gay ghetto.

  • LandStander

    @Kylew: Actually, being fired for making fun of someone in the mall that you work in is a pretty reasonable response. When you work at a mall, and someone else who works at that mall is making fun of you, them being fired is not you “destroying their life”. It is the company ensuring the responsible behavior of their employees so they do not look like a room of preschoolers to customers walking by. If losing that job ruined his life, then he ruined it himself by not being able to be a mature adult in his work environment.

  • Snownova

    As the great Isaac Asimov said in his novel ‘Foundation’:

    Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

    However if anyone ever has the nerve to insult me to my face you can be damn sure that I will insult them right back and then some. (though in 5 years of being out of the closes I’ve yet to receive any negative feedback, thank Darwin that I live in the Netherlands!)

  • MEJ


    Wow, so you think destroying a man’s life for being an asshole was proportionate?

    Yes. Standing on the unemployment line, is better than laying in a hospital bed.


    Thank you, LandStander.

  • Joetx

    Although I completely understand the urge to fight back, I don’t recommend it. You could be charged w/ battery, & getting called a slur isn’t enough to warrant a claim of “self-defense.”

  • Georgie

    @Joetx: It should be.

  • Tommy Shepherd

    Last year I was out walking with two of my friends and a guy called out “faggots” as he passed us.

    And I’m glad to say I chased after him, challenged him, and outdid him in terms of abuse – because I have the capacity to be a huge bitch, most of the time it’s pent-up, and I don’t let her come out much. So when I do let her out to play, it’s only in situations where the person deserves the abuse, and she makes the most of it. I was bullied as a child and am certainly not gonna take that sort of abuse as an adult. The guy actually ran away, but then came back and apologised.

    Yes, I know it’s dangerous to do that (they could have a weapon). But the only way that bullies are going to learn that it’s not acceptable to do that, is if they are repeatedly challenged.

    And someone has to do it.

    If you’re not strong enough to do it, then that’s OK. We’re all different.

    But when I read articles saying “Just ignore them!” then it makes me 100% more determined to fight back and shout out when I encounter homophobia.

    Unleash your innter bitch!

  • Caliban

    I also recommend taking self-defense courses for ALL gay men and women. If your community doesn’t have such classes, set them up yourself. Many martial arts studios have Self-Defense classes for women and you may be able to schedule something similar for a gay group. Empower yourself.

    And I’m not advocating it necessarily so you can “kick somebody’s ass,” but for the confidence it builds. If you walk around with the mindset “I’m defenseless” or “I hope nobody picks on me because I’m helpless” you radiate that attitude and it makes you more likely to attract the attention of bullies and haters. That’s just a fact of life- bullies seek out those who can’t or won’t defend themselves.

    I truly hope that no gay person ever NEEDS those skills, but if someday you do need them they are there. Plus it’s good exercise and a boost to your self-esteem. Few people would criticize a woman for learning how to defend herself “just in case” and there’s no reason why gay men, regardless of their alleged “masculine” or “feminine” characteristics, shouldn’t do the same.

  • t money

    next time some guy calls you a pansy, mary, queer, whatever, just say : “it takes one to know one honey!” that is all.
    i believe in self defence, but i believe in self preservation also. why would i put myself in danger by fighting someone who tries to offend me. a witty comeback usually works. be the bigger man. where i live, its better to walk away from a fight. you dont want to be found in a pool of blood because you stood up to someone who insulted you. chances are the person going around bothering people is looking for trouble and has something to back it up. its not worth it. seriously.

  • Conrad

    I think it depends on what you’re trying to do — are you wanting to make a statement, take a stand, or maybe just get the fuck out of there.

    As a petite little thing from the hills of East Tennessee with a fiery Aries moon in my chart, I’ve been in situations where it was safe for me to stand up for myself (or rather against hate) and where I needed to move on quietly.

    I can remember one time when I was with my then boyfriend walking through a park holding hands. These children started yelling “faggot!” at us and we just kept walking. All of a sudden, these East Tennessee boys got in our way and started banging a football into their fist. I pulled a pencil from bag just in case, but we ended up slinking by.

    However, there have been times in more public spaces where the risk of getting beaten up is less when I started screaming at my assaulters. I’ll echo @Trent: and say that wit has been my biggest strategy for diffusing my own tenseness, that of others, and emasculating my assaulters in a way that I hope shows them they’re not all that big and scary. Other times I’ve been straight up fierce in my responses: stepping in front of and banging the hood of cars where jeers came out of and saying, “Hey! That’s not okay.”

    As a young queer person in the South, though, my biggest piece of knowledge I can share is know your surroundings, be prepared for anything, and be intentional.

  • Olive Austin

    @Kylew: Oh, the horror of being banned from a mall! A life is destroyed… DESTROYED!!!

  • Ken S

    I don’t think “ignoring them” is any kind of answer because it does nothing to correct people who desperately require correcting. But I don’t think throwing the first punch over a verbal slight is justified either (nor does the law in most places). One is, of course, entitled to the proportionate use of force in self-defence– if they take a swing at you, I’m all for making them regret it if you can– but when the attack is verbal there are all kinds of ways to respond that are still assertive, and the important thing is showing them that actions have consequences.

    In the case of the ‘cowboy’ in the airport, it might have been as simple as showing him that the consequence of whispering “faggot” at someone is that they call you an asshole, loud enough for everyone to hear. Then just between the two of you, you may be a fag (to which I’d say “who cares?”), but now as far as tens or hundreds of bystanders are concerned, he’s an asshole. Who’s been embarrassed more? Personally I *love* announcing when someone’s an asshole, especially if they were trying to be in any way covert about it; if they’re whispering it to you that suggests that they know what they’re doing wouldn’t be widely accepted if they were doing it openly. So seize on that, shine a bright, hot light on them. Sunlight disinfects, as the saying goes.

    As for the guys on the plane, I’d say they’re worse, because they aren’t just being bigoted, they’re flouting their ingratitude- both of which they deserve public shaming for. You could have stopped the first attendant you saw- before those guys redeemed the vouchers- and said (again, loud enough for everyone around to hear) “excuse me, but I gave each of those four guys seated in front of me one of my free drink vouchers and now they’re verbally harassing me, so for the sake of decency I’d appreciate it if you didn’t honour those vouchers.” If they think twice, add that you’d hate to have to raise a huge stink about it with the airline upon landing, because they were complicit with making your flight a less pleasurable experience. You take back your power, and before a whole bunch of other people you expose those guys for their ingratitude- which is far less socially acceptable and more shaming than being homophobic might be- but between you and them, they know that the reason. They receive the message that if they want to BE ignorant assholes that’s their business, but if they want to flout it in public there will be a social cost.

    Teaching them what’s acceptable and what isn’t, for others to see. It affirms your dignity, it isn’t an overreaction, it socially shames them- which hopefully corrects their behaviour in the future.

  • Andrew

    This was so nice to read. It really hurts your ego as a person who values their dignity and self-respect to have someone take you down so quickly with words, and it feels like there’s no way of saving yourself from the situation. I’m so glad to know that the next time this happens to me, there is someone else who knows what it feels like and if they could, they would be dying a little on the inside with me. It makes all the difference, and makes it that much easier to be strong :)



  • Chris

    This is So Crazy!!!! see through the smoke! – http://bit.ly/xQTfod

  • Dennis

    After a childhood/adolescense of suffering taunts and bullying, I’ve found great freedom in OWNING my right to not take any more shit from idiots. I’m average height and weight, and not a MMA-trained fighter, nor a masochist, but ONLY in situations where I’m completely alone/unprotected or in grave danger would I back down from responding to a homophobe’s bullshit.

    At night, or being alone and outnumbered by a group of thugs, and/or when you think your attacker may have a weapon, then YES, ABSOLUTELY your actions MUST FIRST be for safety and self-preservation. Run away, yell for help, grab your phone and call 911, any and all of the above.

    But in broad daylight, and/or when there are other people around…a LOUD “FUCK YOU!” or FUCK OFF ASSHOLE! often catches the idiot off-guard. They don’t expect the little fag to offer any fightback. If I have to move away to protect myself physically from harm, I will, but that asshole will get an earful of insults as I do so! If anything, this may help ‘train’ neanderthals, knuckle-draggers and morons from opening their fat, stoopid mouths again the next time they want to pick on an LGBT person.

    On the flight, I would have pushed the “Call Attendant” button, and informed the flight attendant you’re being subjected to homophobic insults. People can and DO get thrown off planes for creating a hostile environment. Goddess willing, there’s a gay attendant on the plane who might have your back, but if not, STILL you deserve FAR better than to put up with that crap.

    NEVER put yourself alone in physical danger!…but fighting back in ‘safer’ circumstances IS like a muscle that you can grow. Yell at the top of your lungs, insult right back, or look for the proper management/authority to complain to and be heard! Seriously, a self-defense course could make a huge difference for you if you have NO comfort level in defending yourself.

    I also believe we can ALL make the world a safer place for each other as LGBTs by refusing to be victims of idiocy. I know it has helped to empower me, and made me less afraid…you don’t have to like the fact the I’m “a gay”, but ya better keep your stoopid mouth shut if you have a problem with it. This bitch is DONE putting up with that garbage.

    I deserve better, we all do.

  • Mike UK

    @Dennis: totally agree! or as i say, I think you have me confused with someone who gives a shit now fuck off!

  • Tom Francis

    Just realize that there are many people (including me) that don’t want you to change who you are. The friends that I love the most are those that, like you, are kind and considerate. When the young men repay a kind act (you giving them drink coupons) with mockery, it belittles their “masculinity”, and perhaps they will grow to realize that one day. No one should be made to feel concerned for their safety simply for being spectacularly fashionable!

  • Esculapio Mitiríades Torquemada de la Cueva

    @MEJ: Was your comment the one about gaining power and money, and about how you got someone at a mall fired? Can’t really think of anything in there that should’ve gotten it deleted.

  • Esculapio Mitiríades Torquemada de la Cueva

    @MEJ: I was actually not being “facetious.” I really couldn’t think of anything there that was offensive.

  • ron

    Seriously!? You got bashed in an airport and on an airplane – the two most heavily policed and monitored places in society, and you didn’t call for help. Anyone who talks shit in an airport should be immediately be reported to security, and you can have the last chuckle as the idiot misses his flight while being questioned by the authorities. And on a plane – I can’t believe you didn’t tell the steward. No one makes trouble on a plane these days without winding up sporting a pair of plastic handcuffs. You’ve got to fight back.

  • ganymeade

    I am also a wisp at 5 6 and 135 lbs. I read gay as I look boyish and dress stylishly but when I am mocked I am prone to yell or say” How perceptive; you should be a private eye!” It works wonders and even get people around the bully to laugh and that really derails them.

  • Triple S

    I’m 16 and a half at the moment, and Sydney is a great and very gay friendly place to be, but when people say that I should learn how to fight, but I really can’t do it. My character is just completely against hurting anyone else (well, at least physically. I too have an inner bitch, but he doesn’t come out very much at all).

    Sometimes I think I’m too much of a sissy and sometimes I have a bit of a swish, especially when I get excited. But I’ve talked about it, and I think that you just have to be witty or at least defusing, it might be cool to be able to fight, and seeing other guys do it justifiably can be a little exciting, but it isn’t going to help anyone. As several of us have said on this article, simply hitting others is only going to raise their hatred and bitterness.

    When the day comes where people will not attempt to physically and especially mentally (because in my experience, mental abuse is far more hurtful) will be a fabulous day (that is such a gay word; I should say it more).

    So I suppose all I’ve done is share my thoughts and say what was one my mind (I just gave two synonymous phrases didn’t I?), but it was nice anyway.

  • Mike UK

    @Triple S: you stay as you are Mr, don’t change for anyone, as the old saying goes “the word is mightier than the sword”!

  • Triple S

    @Mike UK: Thanks, I wont ever be able to harm anyone willingly, and that may not be very helpful at times, but I will use my strength of words in any case, (and I am known to be at least a little eloquent and limber with my words!).

  • Mike UK

    @Triple S: same here I’m 6’1 and 90 kilos, i wouldn’t waste my time on them, I just turn round and say “I think you have me confused who gives a shit” and walk off!

    I live in Manchester, one of the most gay friendly cities in Europe let alone the UK but you still get pricks who feel they have to say something just for the hell of it but you know for a fact that that same person will be down the Village with his mates at the weekend enjoying the bars and the atmosphere in the Village and all that Canal street has to offer. I’m of the opinion that those who shout the loudest have the most to hide!

  • Triple S

    @Mike UK: My comeback to any dickheads who feel it’s necessary to be stupid (it is mind-boggling how many people like to be stupid) is it takes one to know one darling. The darling usually freaks them out enough to make them run for the hills.

  • Mike UK

    @Triple S: missed a couple of words off mine lol, “I think you have me confused with someone who gives a shit”, my mate says “my your gaydar is working well today”, some of them are just so thick that they don’t understand the retort!

  • Kylew

    @Triple S: Aww, I looove Sydney, but I couldn’t agree more with Mike UK when he tells you to be yourself. However, there are times when even the toughest soldiers think it is prudent and lifesaving to resort to camouflage or at least a low profile.

    Although I really don’t advocate violence at all as a first stage solution, there are times when violence will come to you whether you want it or not. I think EVERY young man nowadays should take karate or kickboxing classes, especially one who stands out as different. They teach you so many positive virtues, and they just provide you with a bit of backup if you should need it.

    Wishing you a long, harrassment free life! :-)


    I would have thrown the man in the airport to the ground and beat him with my Gucci Clog until police got there and it was all done in self defense. When I go to jail I will plead self defense. I am defending my right to be ME

  • MEJ

    @Triple S:

    but when people say that I should learn how to fight, but I really can’t do it. My character is just completely against hurting anyone else

    That’s why it’s called self-defense. The best way to win a fight is to run away from it. But if you can’t, it’s good to have tools to defend yourself against attackers.

    There’s nothing wrong with the way you are, talk, walk, or act. If people feel it necessary to mock you, or attack you, that is there problem, not yours. You don’t need to change, they do.

    Check around where you live, and ask on gay message boards for suggestions for self-defense programs.

  • David

    I agree with Trent; in fact, the best route I’ve found is to (A) have some psychological ammo ready and (2) be ready to fight dirty (it’s the counterbalance to unfair attacks).

    For instance, my favorite response to, “Hey, Faggot” is a sharp “Fuck You”, the first half of a two-part combo. When the homophobe indignantly confronts, continue (have to be clear, concise and forceful with one’s words, here) on with, “That’s what you want, isn’t it? Only closet fags hate fags – wanna touch me? Maybe manhandle me?”

    For general purpose, just advise someone they’re embarassing themselves – and, again, call attention to the basic mechanics of homophobia. Maybe ask a group of giggling boys which boy has a crush on which; they boost their masculinity at the expense of yours, it works to cut that off at the knees.

    I came out to myself some 30 years ago; I’d been a redneck homophobe before that, so I knew the target area from experience. Since then, I’ve only had to defend myself physically twice – between both instances I left three down and bleeding while I walked away (not unbruised, but still…). It helped having, er, experience with violence from other areas of my life; it taught me a simple strategy.

    You have to fight dirty physically as well as mentally. In specific, be aware that there’s always a point when the shoving begins. Bullies, blowhards and other jackasses escalate in a predictable manner – from shouting and insulting they move to “in your face”, which begins the segue to Seriously Trying To Hurt You.

    Skip the segue. Step back, as if retreating, then kick them in the balls as hard as you can. Pull out the pepper spray. Smile and be confident, casual and fabulous while doing so.

  • Dionte

    I don’t come off as gay, when I see someone around that does I feel protective of them.

  • MEJ


    You have to fight dirty physically as well as mentally. In specific, be aware that there’s always a point when the shoving begins. Bullies, blowhards and other jackasses escalate in a predictable manner – from shouting and insulting they move to “in your face”, which begins the segue to Seriously Trying To Hurt You.

    Skip the segue. Step back, as if retreating, then kick them in the balls as hard as you can. Pull out the pepper spray. Smile and be confident, casual and fabulous while doing so.


  • Kylew

    MEJ and David have offered some great advice for how to deal with things when it is clear that things are about to get physical. That’s the point when your comfort at hurting people becomes irrelevant. Are you more comfortable hurting or being hurt?

    But if I may just add one really important thought: it’s no use waiting until violence seeks you out to decide just what your threshold is before you take action, because the emotions of the moment will not steer you true.

    For me, I can take name calling; even face to face confrontation, but the second someone steps forwards to invade my personal space in a hostile manner (even just verbal), I assume that they intend to hurt me, and I would attack first. Once someone gets inside that area, you have almost no chance to see punches and knees coming, so you need to get in first, either by reestablishing distance with a shove, or by hitting them.

    Also, if someone is just outside arm’s reach, but they bend their legs and lower their weight, it’s a surefire indicator that an attack is incoming.

  • Kyle

    why do you respond with ‘this’? Is it the 8th grade way of saying ‘i agree’?

  • Rich

    It’s what the cool kids say at the cool kids’ table.

  • Esculapio Mitiríades Torquemada de la Cueva

    @Kyle: Really, Kyle?

  • scott ny'er

    sometimes, people don’t have the “wit” to come back with clever one liners. So, I’m glad some posters are offering up their suggested retorts. In a situation like that, for some, it’s hard to think fast and retort faster.

    I think it’s good to hear all arguments on what to do… and I like the suggestions on self-defense. Altho, I’m not certain is a good fit for everyone.

  • JamesLondon

    Everyone has their different ways of dealing with things. I have never been targeted, as a 6’9″ 250lb professional bodyguard, however, I like to lend a hand when I see someone being picked on for who they are.

    I’m commenting because of all the conflict that always arises on Queerty. People argue over everything, including the best ways to deal with very personal situations.

    We should be a community that supports each other, not that bitches and whines till everyone hates everyone.

  • vermontman

    Old but still an interesting discussion. But then i am old…. maybe not so interesting… lol. Ya i have done all of it…. called a fag and worse in high school, raped in the shower by the “real men”. (now pillars of the community) Ran out of the college dorm for being queer. All of that happened even though i never once consentualy touched a man in any way. Whatever ! And all through that i would just cower and run. Hating myself all the time more and more. Then i came out and started fighting back. Ya that helped alot, getting the shit beat out of me over and over again. Duh… really proved i was better than doing that. Then i a saw a drag queen throw a guy over a bar after beating the crap out of him. She got center stage in the show after that and was a heroine in the gay community but….. i realized it didn’t prove or stop shit. So… i (keep typing swished) anyway i switched to wearing leather and did the rough guy routine. Learned to say things like “UH … you got a problem man?” Cause i confused acting dumb with looking straight. Well , (lol) i still think it sorta is. Anyway, I got over that and tried “rising above it” , “being myself” ETC ETc etc. It sorta worked but still got the comments. Then one day…. believe it or not …. i was walking through an “empty” airport in the absolutly fabulous out fit i was wearing. (actually the TV show was popular at the time) and looked in the mirror. And i was horrified by the thought that went through my head which was “Fucking Faggot” only it had the tone that some people would use the “N” word on a person with a different colored skin wearing a gaudy outfit. I stopped cold , almost missed the plane as i didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stand there and cuss my self out. MY ever so sharp gay witt wasn’t going to help. I considered hitting myself but didn’t want to break one of my perfectly manicured nails. I must admit i spent months thinking about that “horrible moment. Then one day i packed up all my ever so fabulous cloths. Actually put them in a case just to wear when i went to Fire Island. Then walked into the scariest store i knew of… JCPenny. To be honest i broke into a sweat while buying “normal” cloths. Well made tasteful non-statement (or so i thought) non designer cloths. Wearing them was even worse. But not only did the comments stop. I began to feel better about myself. There was something wonderful about being “just another bozo on the bus” as they say. I started making new friends. The people i always wanted to know. Not the fabulous beatuiful people i had attracted but the normies. My life and interestes changed. And one day when i heard a comment made about another gay person and discovered that just by raising my face and giving a disaproving look i could not just squelch the person making them but cause them to cower back, often apologize after realizing that by insulting the guy they also insulted me. Today i am openly gay to anyone and every one. I have a lot of gay and straight friends. Being older i sometimes play the “helpless gay guy role” when i have car problems. I now live in rural redneck VT. I never mow my yard as straight guys come by and do it and i don’t even have to blow them. And I never plow my drive. Made the mistake of commenting to one of the guys wives that i wished instead of plowing my drive her husband would plow me. She laughted and said that would be good as it would take the pressure to perform off her. Some gay guys make comments about me selling out. That is so not true. I just stopped fighting every one and every thing. And my life became wonderful. Vt

  • JonahEastCoast

    Wow a lot of awesome comments here! Has anyone ever had a trippy experience where they feel like they can ‘hear’ what people are inferring about you through their body language? I was in San Juan and I had a crazy all nighter that would have been more fun if I wasn’t having an inner Gay Studies/self conscious monologue. It was as though everyone was signaling something about sexuality through subtle cues. I started to get more of the sway/swagger kind of dynamic that I’d been experimenting with through clothes, getting that correct mix of edge to signal that perfect mix of Hello Kitty/stonerdude/former expat that lets me flow through spaces and adapt as I see fit. My heart goes out to every one of you guys doing it in your own way.

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