Words matter


My wise old grandmotherMy wise old grandmother never finished first grade. Her father had died, and she had to hit the fields to help ensure that the family had crop to harvest and sell. I find that amazing considering all that I learned from her.

One day when I was 11, I had a conversation with her that went something like this:

Me: Can I go over to Jim’s house?
Her: I don’t know. Can you?
Me: I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.
Her: Are you sick?
Me: No.
Her: Can you walk?
Me: Yes.
Her: Then I guess you can.
Me (as I turn to run out of the house): Thanks!
Her: Where are you going?
Me: Over to Jim’s.
Her: I didn’t say you could go anywhere.
Me: Yes you did!
Her: No, I did not. Sit down.

I sat.

After a 5-minute lecture on the importance of words and how words matter, and the difference between Can I? and May I?, I asked her, May I go over to Jim’s house? She answered, Yes, you may.

I bring this up because 54 years later, I still believe in the importance of words, that words matter.

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a link to an article titled,

Your Homophobia Isn’t A ‘Difference Of Opinion,’ It’s Hate.
Don’t tell me, a gay man, just to accept that some people want me dead.

Here is the conversation:

Person 1: I would say more ignorance than hate. These things are often passed on from parents. And they have not been exposed to the beauty there is in all types of people – gender, race, or sexual preference. And, that is sad.

Me: Or sexual orientation. “Preference” indicates a choice. Words matter.

Person 1: Whatever, you know what I mean, Russel. Everyone has beauty and importance them. It is time that people realized it.

Me: I cannot agree with “whatever.” My life is important to me, and when people like Mike Pence want to kill me because of my “choice” and “preference,” well, words matter.

Person 2: Person 1, big difference between preference and orientation. I get the feeling that you don’t understand the difference (e.g, “whatever”).

Person 3: It’s definitely ignorant but it is also hate. The hate is the dangerous part that is sweeping across the globe right now. The hate is the flame that Trump and his minions are throwing fuel on. It is the hate that Bolsonaro and the lumber barons and miners use as they torture and destroy the indigenous people of the rain forest. It is the same hate that Boris Johnson inflames the people with bats to beat lesbians on the streets of London. It is the same ignorance and hate that we remember on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Hate of the other: gypsy, Jew, homosexual, Catholic, neurodiverse, mentally ill, physically disabled, African, African American, South American, Native American, Mexican, Puerto Rican, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, left handed, Muslim, Iranian, Syrian – any group that the masses can be made to hate so they can be manipulated. You know what they are capable of. We have come to a time in our world where we must take a stand. Whatever is not enough.

Person 1: Russel and Person 2- of course orientation. Thanks for the correction.

I have no problem with preferences. Preference is a choice. I prefer margaritas, you prefer wine. I might not agree with their preferences but I’m not going to argue with anyone over them.

Since 1993-94, I have been estranged from thousands of relatives on both my mom’s side (Mormons) and dad’s side (Catholics). None of them could accept my “preference,” and none of them were willing to continue to love me. So we split. No problem. They prefer their religion. I don’t. But I also don’t want their preferences in my life. It’s not like pineapple on pizza, or not (NO!).

Another phrase that irritates me is “gay lifestyle.” A few years ago a Mormon relative with whom I had grown up in Kingsville, Texas, contacted me. She said she was aware of my “gay lifestyle.” Well, here’s a representation of my gay lifestyle:

I get up each day, shower, dress, eat breakfast, brush my teeth.
I feed Little Queen Olivia.
I go to work.
I take a lunch break (pizza, without pineapple!).
I go back to work.
I get off work.
I come home.
I eat supper.
I check Facebook, news, and sports.
I pay bills.
I play with Little Queen Olivia.
My husband comes home.
We kiss hello.
Husband checks Facebook, news, and sports.
We kiss goodnight.
Repeat daily.

O.M.effin.G. That’s so gay!

When I came out to all my relatives and friends in 1993-94, many asked me, “How long have you known you were gay?” and “When did you decide you were gay?” and “What made you gay?”

Well, back when I was pseudo-religious, I thought God made me gay because God made me, and the Mormon and Catholic religions taught me that God doesn’t make mistakes. Maybe making about 10% of his/her creations gay was his/her form of birth control?

If we substitute “homosexual” for “gay,” I’ve known since about the age of ten that I was homosexual. I was always more interested in the boys than the girls, and it was far more than “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls,” far more than getting cooties from the girls.

When my friends brought Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler to school, I was right there with them looking at the pictures (Ooopsy. I mean, reading the articles). However, while they were looking at the women, I was looking at the guys. Hustler was the best because it showed full frontal nudity for the guys. I was a Hustler fan, and it was easy to fool all my friends with my heterosexuality….

We were getting aroused over different things. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It just naturally happened, and I never really questioned why it happened.

I never decided I was gay. I did decide to try not to be gay. I did that for 38 years. All it did was cause me to be a mess mentally. I’m kind of surprised that I survived, but I did.

With Twitler in the White House and his Crime Family, supporters, and enablers doing everything they can to ostracize people like me, yes, I’m going to speak out when and where I can in a forceful yet respective manner. It’s the least I can do to ensure that people like me never have to live like I did the first 38 years of my life.

11 thoughts on “Words matter

  1. Mike Powell

    I too feel irritated not only by comments about a “gay lifestyle” but also words about “the gay agenda.” Ignorance is rarely a valid excuse–it is often something more akin to obstinate myopia. My hope is genuinely that it will continue getting better and a little easier for gay kids growing up now. I personally am saddened that religions founded on the premise that God loves us all have so much trouble putting that into action when it comes to gays.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cat9984

    We have some friends that we’ve known for years (our sons grew up together). I knew they were conservative, but this just blew me away. They found out their daughter is bisexual (I now know why she hid it). The mother went over to her apartment and told her that she was going to hell among other things. I have recently told the mother that I am totally opposed to that type of hatred both by personal belief and religious affiliation (my mainline church welcomes members and priests of all orientations). I have recently found out that the other couple in the group are almost equally “conservative”. And they seemed like such nice people.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      My favorite aunt and uncle sent me the most despicable and hateful mail from Tomball, Texas (near Houston). They used every stereotype in the world and forbade me from being with their two children. Ha! I spent every Saturday for 11 years babysitting their two children so mom & dad could have a night out alone together. I saved all their hateful mail just in case their two children asked me why I left and never came to see them again. Their youngest child, who was 7 at the time, contacted me via Facebook in 2012. He was gay, had a boyfriend who was from San Diego, would be coming to San Diego, and wanted to see me. It was an awesome experience, and he told me to throw the mail away. He said he was pretty sure what they said.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. acflory

    They say that the training a child receives before the age of 5 stays with them for life, a kind of core conditioning that’s almost impossible to shift. I think every child is capable of hate, simply because every child starts out as ‘me, me, me’. Whatever is not ‘me’ is either good – mum, dad, grandma etc – or a potential threat. I think /that/ is hardwired.

    What isn’t hardwired is the focus and intensity of the hate. Young kids learn to focus their hate from the people they trust the most – family. So they are actually conditioned/trained/brain-washed to fear and hate whatever their most trusted companions hate.

    It’s not ignorance, it’s Pavlov’s Dog. :/ By the time these kids become adults, they’re ripe for the first snakeoil salesman who knows how to press their buttons for his own gain.


  4. Pazlo

    My best friend (45 years now) sat in my kitchen visiting.
    My grandson arrived, and I told him “You know my best friend Jeff.” (his mother and her siblings refer to him as “Uncle Jeff”, and he is Godfather to one of them) “And this is his husband Rob.”
    Max had not met Rob previously.
    A little incredulous, unsure if I was trying to make a joke, perhaps, Max’s eyes widened just a little, and he replied “Husband?”. He was learning and growing, after all, and was now perhaps just twelve or thirteen. There were many things about the grownup world for which his ignorance could be excused as innocence.
    “Yes.” I replied rather flatly. “They’re gay. You know about gay people,” I continued, and turning to Jeff said “We can talk about these things now.” (meaning present day)
    With that, Max shook Rob’s hand, shared some innocuous platitude, and life continued moving forward.
    The tiny town I live in was once a summer destination for residents of the crowded cities to the south. Hasidic Jews came for the healing waters, and to follow the Rabbi to his summer retreat.
    Several of the hotels were owned by Jews, and every member of my family (myself included) did some work for the Yarkony family. (Sidebar: actually, I loved Mishu Yarkony because he reminded of my own grandfather. Just for clarity, my family is not Jewish.)
    Mr. and Mrs.Yarkony, her sister and husband, always wore long sleeves, and from time to time the sleeve would creep up to reveal a serial number tattooed on their forearms.
    The town in which I live has about 1900 people in it. The village, 547.
    Paraphrasing “It’s A Wonderful Life”, you can’t hide in a little town like Sharon Springs.
    Jewish? Gay? Convicted criminal? Alcoholic? Catholic? Heroin addict? Veteran?
    We don’t use such labels around here. We call each other by name.
    When your gay Jewish neighbor arrives driving for the volunteer ambulance corps, and your alcoholic Catholic neighbor grabs the gurney assisted by the handicapped veteran, you don’t care what they are called when they are saving your child’s life.
    That’s how I was raised. That’s the way I raised my children. And that’s the way my daughter raised my grandson.
    A wise man said it quite simply, a couple of thousand years ago:
    “Love one another.”

    Seek peace,


    Liked by 1 person

  5. dweezer19

    You have my sincere empathy. While I am not gay, being ostracized for who a person truly is is more common than many people care to admit. They prefer to attach themselves to a seemingly popular group or ‘norm’ to feel like they belong, no matter what the consequence. I hope and pray each day that every person who stands against this madness in their hearts will be willing to stand and face it together. Anyone who does not acknowledge what a hate monger Trump is, is no less than one themselves. I’ve been so sad lately just thinking of how far we had come in our society toward equality, better understanding and unity. It feels like we have been punched back 60 years. 😞

    Liked by 1 person


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