Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000

Learned Hatred

Let me tell you a story about my earliest encounter with the concept of homosexuality. I was about eight years old. I had learned a new word, "faggot." I did not know what it meant, but I did know that it was meant to be insulting. My brother and I were outside together. I was angry with him. I called him a faggot. My father overheard this. He started shouting out the window. He came outside. I was terrified. That kind of behavior usually precipitated a severe spanking accompanied by lots of yelling.

"Don't you ever call anyone that."

He seemed to calm a little. Maybe for the first time ever, I tried to distract him from his anger. "What does it mean?" I asked.

"It's a man who has sex with other men."

I had very little understanding of human sexuality, but I more or less grasped the idea, though I must confess that I was immediately preoccupied regarding how such an act could be accomplished. I had never considered anal penetration. However, the overwhelming question was "Why then is 'faggot' a bad word?" I didn't ask, but my father continued (shouting) "and if you ever see one of them, you make fun of them! Make life hard on them!" etc., ad nauseum.

At that moment, I was astounded that my father would command me to inflict suffering on another person. I had paid attention in Sunday school and had internalized many of the religious beliefs I had learned. What I was hearing was a clear contradiction to what I had been raised up to that point to believe (e.g., "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"). I had been on the receiving end of much harassment. As an overweight child, the tauntings of my peers were a burdern with which I could barely cope. I knew that the way my peers acted toward me was wrong. I knew that what I was being advised by my father to do was wrong. I could not believe that he didn't know that too.

At that moment, I had a revelation. I imagined one of my tormentors standing in front of his shouting father, "and if you ever see a fat kid, make fun of him! Make life hard on him!" Therein lay the revelation: "So this is where it comes from," I thought. The hatred and intolerance is passed from one generation to the next through family socialization. I stopped listeing to my father from that day forward. I resolved that I would not become like him. I would not give in to the hate and the anger. For a while, I strayed from that path, but those are other stories. The last decade or so has been a long hard trip back to the other side. I have given my entire life to become the person I am today. It was worth it.

Let's hear your stories. Were you socialized to hate? If so did that socialization stick?

Hatred is a particularly useful emotion, being that it is easily manipulated in service of the needs of the enemies of all that is good and decent.

Alan Wescoat