Recently, I was leading a band of adventurers through dangerous woods, secretly plotting to destroy the world. Yes, we were LARPing (Live Action Role Playing). We had spent weeks planning the event, building foam weapons, designing characters, mapping spaces and creating an intricate story for our players. As with any LARPing event, we expected to get teased by people who weren’t playing. So, dressed as a wizard and holding a six-foot-long staff, I led my crew into the Wash for an afternoon of danger.
“Are you going to play Quidditch, you fucking faggot?”
My first reaction to this comment, yelled at me by a member of an unofficial sports league, was, “I’m not even a Harry Potter wizard!” Then, I thought, “Wait a minute, that guy just called me faggot.”
I looked around for the rainbow flags or other indicators that I was gay that would prompt such language. While I would have been outraged to be called a faggot for, say, kissing my boyfriend, I would at least have understood that it was an act of directed homophobia, using a charged word to try to cut down a specific group of people, and I would have been able to respond accordingly. In this instance, I was both outraged and confused.
Why did he call me a faggot? I don’t know. I was dressed as a wizard. Perhaps he remembered that J.K. Rowling had outed Dumbledore. Maybe it was that Sir Ian McKellen played Gandalf. Perhaps there was some tenuous connection between my costume and these famous gay wizards. This is giving him too much credit. “Faggot” was simply called up from a bag of insults and thrown out there. The fact that it landed on an actual gay man was incidental. Realizing this, I went from outraged and confused to disappointed. Earlier that day, I had seen people gathering on the softball field by the track and realized we should avoid that area. If anyone were to heckle us, it’d be these “sportsmen.” It was a great disappointment to find out that I was right to assume the worst about them.
At my sister’s high school, they have a jar where people have to pay a dollar when they call someone a faggot. I couldn’t believe that kids were still that ignorant at her school, and that the jerks were so thick that the administration had to tax them in order to change their ways. Unfortunately, I now realize that those jerks don’t disappear after high school. Two illusions were shattered for me that day. I was violently reminded that I was not, in fact, an evil wizard, but just another kid in cloak playing an imaginary game. I was also reminded that the most dangerous thing in the Wash wasn’t our monsters or weapons, but a few boys getting drunk, playing softball and calling people faggots.