This post is in response to a reader of this blog. His name is Joey and he lives in New York City, USA. He often leaves me a post about his experience living as a Catholic in NYC and asks me about my experiences as a Protestant living and working in a Catholic country.
He recently left me the following two posts on a previous blog posting. I decided to create a post for my response since its too long to fit into a comment box.
With most of us in and around NYC it still is. Anti-Catholics actually still use the word "Papist" here !
Sunday, 10 May, 2009
Well...let me ask you this. If you two visited NYC, would you defend your boyfriend if he took any hatred, verbally or more underhandedly, from NYC gays because of his heritage? Where would your "loyalties" lie?
Joey, first let me say I'm sorry you have to deal with people who show hate and anger towards you for being gay, or Catholic, or whatever it is they want to hate you for. As for where my loyalties would be, it would be with Gareth. Although with his size and intelligence, I doubt he would need my help. But if he did, nothing can come between us, it's us against the world.
When we have been hurt, its human nature to want to respond with a self-protective, aggressive reaction. When I was a child I grew up in an Irish neighborhood that was surrounded by Italian, Black, Spanish, and German neighborhoods. While I had friends and went to school with other kids from each of those neighborhoods, I also knew that if I had to travel through those neighborhoods, I either had to be with one of my friends from that neighborhood, or run really fast, or sometimes even fight my way through. Being hated for your ethnicity was common place and accepted as something you had to deal with.
When my sister was almost raped at her school by an older boy, my family decided to move to the country where it would safer and give us kids a better life. But for me, I found I now had to defend myself because I was a city kid living amongst the country kids. I had to prove I was as tough as them to get any acceptance. When we moved there, my father had told me I couldn't get into any fights at this new school or I would have to answer to him and I would break my mothers heart.
I was picked on many times by the boys at the new school. There were three guys who tried many times to get me to fight, but each time I walked away because I didn't want to disappoint my father. There were many kids at school who thought I was a coward and would laugh at me every time I backed down from this kid. It got to the point where it was eating me up inside and one night at the dinner table I just sat there. I was so sick to my stomach I couldn't even eat. My mother and father asked me several times what was wrong, but I couldn't even speak because I knew I would cry if I tried to tell them. My one sister who knew what was going on, started to tell them of these three boys and what was happening to me. I tried to get her to shut up, but she kept talking until they knew the story. My mother began to tell me I was doing the right thing, but my father told her to be quiet. He told me to look him in the eye. When I did he told me I was excused from the table and if I didn't go beat those kids asses he would beat mine. That was all I needed to hear. I remember getting up from the table and walking out the door. I found one of them hanging out with his friends on a side street and when I was done with him I found the other one in his families barn feeding the cows. When I was done with him, I had a black eye, but he was in worse shape. I then went to look for the third one but it was dark by this time and he was home. The next day when he got on the school bus, I made sure he quickly lost the smile he had on his face. After that, they left me alone. People who had been laughing at me suddenly wanted to talk to me and be my friend, but I had no time for them. I knew who my real friends were and that was all needed.
Years later when I came out to my friends, I thought I would loose some if not all of them. Being gay in a land of rednecks and churches is a dangerous thing. But the friends I had were true friends and the ones who were truly my friend stayed my friend. But I still experienced bigotry and hatred many times for being gay. I've had people at many jobs be nice to my face, only to talk hateful things behind my back. Numerous times I've been called faggot, pussy, queer, and many other names. There is one guy who I work with right now who hates me because I'm gay. Instead of confronting me about that, he likes to get digs in for me being American.
I've traveled to several places in Europe and I have experienced hate towards me for being American and even for being Protestant during religous conversations. Hatred and bigotry exist throughout the world. Growing up in America, I never knew what it was like to be in the religious minority or to have to answer to someone for being American. The religious aspect is still a struggle for myself and for Gareth. Being gay, neither one of us is accepted in our churches and its a struggle to continue to have faith.
And I make no apologies for being American. I know America is not perfect, no country is and anyone who thinks otherwise is living a sheltered life. I am proud to be American, that is one of the reasons I call my blog American Irish, not Irish American. I am and always will be American first and foremost. But I have also come to love the country of my ancestors. Ireland will always be a part of me now.
The difference in how I handle hatred as a man compared to when I was a child is that I have learned many life lessons from experience and from people I have met. Now if someone wants to spew hate at me, I smile and walk away. I no longer feel the need to apologize to anyone for being gay, or being American of Irish decent, or even for my faith. Inside, I may still want to beat the haters ass, but I keep smiling. Making them bleed is not going to stop them from being a hater. This type of person just wants to get a reaction out of you. They get empowered by your negative response. You have to remember the negative behavior is a reflection of them. It tells everyone what kind of person they are and what issues they are dealing with. Its not a reflection of me and Joey their words are not a reflection of you.