Walking the dogs last night, a couple of young frat-looking guys (late teens or early 20s) walked past me. They got quiet as they approached, but once past, one called out what sounded like “ho-mo!” in a singsong, laughing voice. And as they walked away, I found myself feeling deeply ashamed.
But not for the reasons you’re probably thinking.
I’m not ashamed because some young douchebags had a laugh at my expense by calling me a name that they felt was an insult. If that’s really what one of them said, and if he was talking about (and half-heartedly to) me, then that’s fine — I’m really not concerned with what some random young idiot on the street thinks.
I’m certainly not ashamed at the truth of the matter — that I am, in fact, a gay man. Any shame I had on that front was overcome half my life ago, and I’m proud of the man that I’ve become, the life that I live, and the people that I am fortunate to live it with. I don’t think that being gay is a bad thing, is something to be ashamed about, or is a valid cause for being harassed by strangers on the street.
No, what I’m ashamed of is that I didn’t say anything in that moment. As soon as the one guy spoke up, my mind started racing, and I found myself verbally paralyzed by swirling thoughts: did he really just say that? If so, was he talking about me? What should I do? Do I say something back? Do I risk a confrontation?
I’m ashamed that they got their little catcall out and then strolled off to the rest of their evening, unchallenged. I’m ashamed that I wasn’t quick-witted enough to say something back immediately, or brave enough to turn around and go make them say something to my face if they were brave enough.
I’m ashamed that I paused to wonder if those schmucks might try to fight me to prove to each other how big ‘n bad they really were, beating up the faggot who dared to stand up for himself.
Mostly, I’m ashamed that I missed an opportunity to make them pause and rethink.