Whether finding the word scrawled across pictures in my high school locker or shouted at me from a passing car, I have seen and heard the F-word for decades.
That high school version of myself was full of self loathing and a desire to disappear — knowing I was gay but not wanting to admit it. As a child, I had wanted to be on the stage and perform and entertain. As an adolescent, I learned to hate the spotlight.
It wasn’t until I left my small town and got to college that I started to build self esteem again. I had professors who encouraged me to speak up, and I fell into a circle of friends who supported and lifted my voice — Dayton’s philanthropic drag troupe, The Rubi Girls.
Over a decade ago, while hurrying to a benefit with the Rubi Girls, I was crossing the street in drag when a passing car rolled by and a man shouted “f----t” at me. My immediate impulse was to respond with a vulgar gesture, but my friend Brent told me, “Just blow him a kiss.”
There wasn’t time for education in that fleeting moment, so he suggested not stooping to their level of vulgarity and hate. Knock them off balance with kindness.
This brings me to Reds announcer Thom Brennaman calling Kansas City “one of the f-- capitals of the world.” The microphone was live, so he got in trouble.
My question is, “Who else was in the room?”
If the microphone hadn’t been hot, would there have been repercussions? The slur was clearly meant for their ears. Would they have laughed? Would they have been shocked? Would they have let it pass? The only thing that’s clear to me is that Brennaman is in need of some education and lessons in compassion, and I’m guessing that many people in that room do as well.
The current state of our society is giving permission slips for bad behavior, allowing people to express their hate-filled, narrow-mindedness out in the open.
On one level, I shudder at hearing the F-word. On the other hand, I prefer knowing where I stand with someone. When it comes down to it, most people (including myself) are in need of more education. But when there’s not time for that, I’ll just blow a kiss (and remember to vote).
Jonathan McNeal is a graduate of Wright State’s Motion Picture Production program and is the manger at THE NEON in downtown Dayton.