How masturbating helped me understand homophobia.

February 4, 2018

Ok, just bear with me here… for the sake of my family and friends I assure you that this piece is going to be very light on detail on any actual act, in fact it all begins after the act, the first act to be exact.

 

It was actually the day after the aforementioned act, I was at High School in my very early teens. The night before I had for the very first time ventured into the enigmatic world of physical self-appreciation. It was an obviously unprecedented submission to what was a mix of instinctive hormonal urges and broader social influences. There is no need to elaborate on the details and there is nothing controversial or particularly interesting about the act itself, however what happened next is worth talking about it, even if I only realised why many years later.

 

That day at school, clearly not a single soul would have noticed any tangible change in me. My solitary act registered no physical markers and there could not have been even the slightest alteration to my overall demeanour. Despite this, I remember vividly being sure that, somehow, everyone knew.

 

You see when I woke that morning I looked in the mirror and I knew everything had changed, I was a Wanker now.

 

For the benefit of my American and Canadian friends I will pause for a moment to explain. The term “Wanker” is a colloquial insult to anyone who is a bit of a ‘try-hard’, egotistical, or is just a little too in love with themselves. However the etymology of the word, and the underlying purpose of the insult, is linked to the vernacular verb “wanking” which is slang for masturbating. It is not too dissimilar to calling someone a “tosser”.

 

Back to me. I was a young teen, I had heard this term “wanker” being used all the time. It was always an insult, it was always derogatory, now I was the thing that people would be accused of being by people that didn’t like them. I had heard my parents, that never swore, disparagingly refer to someone they really didn’t like as a “bit of a wanker”, I had seen countless movies in which the lowest of characters was apparently fairly labelled a “wanker”. Now there was me, due to my actions, due to my weak submission to what had appeared natural urges, I was also this thing which was clearly bad to be.

 

At this point I was a reasonably popular kid, I had a large group of friends, I was the captain of the School Rugby team and was, despite the evident need to attend to my own sexual urges, fairly popular with girls. Yet I truly feared that if any knew my true nature, that I was in fact a Wanker, their opinion of me would immediately retract to one deserving of my new title.

 

This legitimate feeling of guilt and self loathing continued for a number of weeks, I can’t remember the exact length of time, but I do remember exactly how it ended. In the middle of a group conversation one school kid called another a “wanker”, I immediately internally shrieked as I clamored to guess how a non-Wanker should react in this social interaction. However the boy who was the target of the insult was a little different to any other boy our age, maybe a little more confident, maybe a little more self-aware. Instead of biting back he just rolled his eyes and calmly retorted “of course I’m a wanker, everyone wanks. Anyone who says they don’t wank is lying…”

 

I looked around the group as I stood silently in shock at this brave truth bomb. There was no mocking laughter or condemnation. Instead the entire group fell into an awkward silence as though we all immediately recognised that our private self-reflection time was shameless and ubiquitous.

 

As the conversation moved on as though nothing had happened a weight was lifted from my shoulders, I was ok, I was normal I was like every other boy in my class. I was still technically a Wanker, but that, I had learned, was not the same as being the type of Wanker people scorn.

 

Now, how is this relevant to homophobia? Well that dawned upon me many years later as I was watching a Rugby game.

 

It was in the heat of a professional Super Rugby Union match on live TV when one of the World’s best players, David Pocock, paused the game to make a complaint to the referee that another player had made a “homophobic” slur at him. The referee took serious note and the other player later publicly apologised and graciously accepted punishment for it. The thing is, Pocock wasn’t gay. Yet he found it unacceptable that another player had called him a faggot. Not because it hurt his feelings, he would have copped almost any other term and not said a word, but he understood the broader implications of using a slang word for homosexuality as a put down. This act caused me to question what would drive a heterosexual Rugby player to care about the term “faggot”, it was then I realised the relevance of my own personal experience.

 

You see when I was a young teen I had to confront the reality that I was a Wanker, and it crippled me with anxiety and self loathing. Can you imagine confronting the reality that you’re a Faggot?

 

However unlike my experience there is no heroic school boy to help alleviate your anxiety by reassuring you that every other boy at school is also a Faggot. You might actually be the only Faggot in your school.

 

You would hear everything from movie characters, rappers, to sport stars dehumanising their adversaries with the “Faggot” title. It was something no one wanted to be yet you, due to your unfortunate nature, were unavoidably it.

 

Discovering your sexuality is not like everyone else’s must be an unfathomably difficult experience for young teens. Dealing with bullies, family, and a society that is generally built to accommodate heterosexuality, usually on your own, is something I am glad I didn’t have to confront. Yet if I, as confident and supported as I was, struggled ever so briefly with the reality of being a Wanker, I can understand why David Pocock didn’t want young rugby fans hearing a sports star they looked up to using “Faggot” as though it was something to be ashamed of.

 

For the overwhelming majority of us, we use terms like "Wanker" and "Faggot" without the slightest thought of its original meaning. I have called people "Faggots" before, usually just in anger at a friend to voice my displeasure at their behaviour, but never in the slightest did I mean to imply that they were actually homosexual and that that, in turn, was a negative thing. However this isn’t the point.

 

As Macklemore eludes to in his song “Same Love”, if the terms continue being used as synonymous with the lesser, as something people should not want to be, then young teens who have just realised they might be homosexual will have to immediately associate their new identity as something that is less, something they should be ashamed of, and as something they wish they weren’t.

 

Abstaining from using terms like “Faggot” and “Poof”, and slandering things as “Gay” isn’t for the benefit of your adult friend who is homosexual. He know what he is and probably uses those terms himself. It’s for the early teen, about to face some of the hardest years of their life. Taking away the realisation they are innately a subject of mockery and slander may just make the difference in a perilous journey to self realisation.

 

Calling your friend a “Faggot” doesn’t make you homophobic, but it does make life just a little bit harder for a young kid confronting who they are. When you consider LGBTI people between the ages of 16 and 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide than the rest of the population, it is not an overstatement to suggest that changing the way we use these labels may just save lives. So whilst I generally dislike the over encroaching tentacles of political correctness, thanks to my own experience of being a Wanker, I actually understand this one, and hopefully you understand a little better now too. Let’s stop using terms for homosexuality as a put down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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