Rob Halford, George Takei and This Kid I knew

October 28, 2005

I knew this kid when I was about 14. He was a friend of a friend, really, but we’d hung out a few times. While we compared notes on our favorite Judas Priest albums and badmouthed the school bus driver, our favorite way of good-naturedly insulting each other was to call each other fags. Hey, we were kids.

Time passed and we drifted apart. He was a year older. It happens. A year or two later I heard that he’d committed suicide. Shot himself. The only explanation I ever heard was a whispered rumor: he’d been gay and hadn’t known how to handle it.

Even though we weren’t that close I still think about him. I wonder if he hurt inside when we used the words “fag” as a derogatory epithet and “gay” as a synonym for “bad.” Yes, he used them, too. But I can’t help but think that doing so damages a person on the inside. Even if you are not gay. It just never occurred to me at the time that real live gay people were within earshot and might be taking offense. I guess I could be forgiven, as I was just a kid. But did no adults hear us all taking like that? Why did none of them tell us how hateful and hurtful such things can be? I don’t remember any doing so.

It’s ironic that one of our idols, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, was just as gay as can be. Perhaps if my friend had known he could have taken some comfort from that fact. (Today I look at Halford and wonder how it is that we didn’t realize!)

Today I have a different attitude. Not only am I careful not to use words in hurtful ways like that, I often call out young people when I hear them doing it. I am also careful not to affiliate with groups that unfairly discriminate against people like my old friend. (I’m looking at you, Boy Scouts of America.)

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you the story. Reading about George Takei today made me think of it.


No comments yet

  1. Our 15 year old was horrified by the whole idea in junior high, but in high school is meeting some gay students and finding out that…they are NICE, and not scary at all. Just human beings. I am so relieved because I didn’t want her to be a gay-basher.

  2. Who cares if he is gay, he is a great singer. I have seen him live ,five or six times , always great! I don’t care if people are gay ,or different than me in any way. As long as they are good people…that is what counts.-Charlotte

  3. Word.

  4. Hi Scott,

    I’m gay and lost my partner to suicide 3 years ago. Guilt is very common when it comes to “handling suicide”. It’s leaves a ton of unanswered questions. However, one thing to be sure about is, no one “healthy” and “stable mentally and emotionally”, gets to the point of suicide. Suicide is the result of a mental illness, (bi-polar) (manic depressive), and a host of other mental illnesses.

    We all say things like fag and gay and queer when we are kids. I did and some of my best friends who are really family to me have always been there for me said these things, we were kids as you say its ok! Your right, those words can be hurtful and they probably hurt me some. However, Unless you are very unstable emotionally, maybe abused badly like my partner was.. or a host of possible scenarios to create and unhealthy mind and body. Often gay men from low self esteem find themselves running around with lots of partners and living a very “high risk” life, both emotionally and physically. None of this has anything to do with you, trust me on that, as a gay man who grew up in an italian machismo enviornment and no words like that “cause” a person to die from suicide.

    I guess, my point here is that when it comes to suicide gay or str8 there are a million and one things that contribute to a person getting to such a dreadful place in life. Its never any one event that caused it only triggers that trigger the mental illness they already had. Granted in some situations this illness can be brought on by heavy child abuse at a very young age, truama etc.. but it surely wasn’t anything you said like Fag or Queer those things are so small, suicide is the result of repeteded traumatizing and/or mental illess. Mentally and emotionall y healthy people have learned coping skills to deal with life’s stresses.

    “Suicide is not chosen; it happens
    when pain exceeds
    resources for coping with pain.”

    If anyone here ever feels down and suicidal please reach out for help there is help out there and you can learn to work through your pain.



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