There are some things that are not recoverable for me. They are my personal equivalent of the swastika. Yes, we all know that the swastika is a good luck symbol in many cultures around the world, and originally represents the sun and its rays, but the symbol has been so damaged that it is non-recoverable. Certain things are like that for me.
I was trying to listen to the most recent “Elemental Castings” and I had to stop because I cannot get past my reaction to the word “queer.” Queer, to me, is a hate word. In high school and especially in junior high, I was bullied a lot, and one of the words most often used to bully me was the word “queer.” I have no positive connotations for that word and I cannot reclaim it. For me, the word has the same weight and ugliness as “n****r.” To hear people saying it over and over doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse; I become unable to hear what the person is saying due to a rising tide of anger and shame, an inner voice that screams “STOP SAYING THAT,” whether I want it to or not. I can’t recontextualize it or make it better in my mind. I can’t fix it. The word is an abomination to me.
One of the other things that is hard for me is teasing. I do not come from a family who teases. My family does not tease each other or other people at all. They never have. The first time I ran into teasing was in school, and I didn’t understand it and had no response. But it was used to harm, mock and belittle. Teasing was used as a weapon on me. It hurt a lot, and still does. Unless I have a really clear context for teasing, that is, unless I am looking you in the face and I know you are joking, I react badly to teasing. I don’t know how to take it. I react to it by withdrawing, as I did in school, or by lashing out in anger, which I also did when I was driven to extremes and I couldn’t escape the teasing. That happened a lot more than I want to talk about.
This is how I am. I don’t make any apologies for how I am. I have reasons to be the way I am. I don’t expect the world to cater to my flaws, but I want to explain why I don’t do these things. I think that no matter what I say, people are going to use the word “queer,” and I will always flinch and withdraw. I will never be absolutely sure what to say or do when someone teases me, especially in a context where I can’t see your face. And honestly, even if I can see your face, even if I can see you smiling, there will be a part of me that will not read your smile as friendship; it will be read as the kind of smile that junior high and high school bullies get on their faces when they realize they have found a victim. Not the smile of a friend, but the smirk of a bully.
I don’t know why I am laying this out in public, but I felt like I had to. I don’t expect the world to change to accommodate me. But I want people to know why I react the way I do.