Content note for homophobia, rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic abuse.
Recently, as part of the whole Chick-fil-A spiral to hell (which, if there is a benevolent deity, will be old news by the time I actually get around to publishing this post), an old high school acquaintance made some homophobic remarks via Facebook — to the effect of, So many “fags” and “dykes” are getting “butthurt” because they can’t stand the “truth” that “real Americans” support Chick-fil-A.
[Italics represent paraphrase. Quotation marks reference exact words used.]
This was not the first time he’s made such remarks, nor was it the first time I’ve let him know that, in addition to being disrespectful to and intolerant of a group of people, they were also personally hurtful to me.
So I unfriended him on account of his behavior was that of an asshole.
I mean, yes, it’s certainly his right to post whatever he wants on Facebook (at least, as long as he’s in line with Facebook’s terms of service). I’m not disputing that. But just because he has the right to post it doesn’t mean I’m required to read it or to continue to remain in any kind of contact with him. For some people, even the term “Facebook friends” suggests a level of positive regard that I am just no longer feeling.
And still, it hurt to be so utterly demeaned and discounted by someone I once knew well enough to want to maintain some kind of relationship — even if only a Facebook relationship — a dozen years later. Which is why I can say his behavior was that of an asshole, but I can’t bring myself to say he is an asshole. Because when I picture him, I still picture a whole person.
He does not do me the courtesy of returning the favor, apparently.
Here is where I bump up against an uncomfortable notion yet again in my life: Real people can still effect real asshole hurt.
When I was raped, it was by someone I’d known for — coincidentally — also about a dozen years. In that time, there were periods of closeness and periods of drifting apart — but I’d always operated from a framework that he was a whole and complete person, deserving of respect. It made it the more difficult to wrap my head around the truth that he’d used that respect, in part, to commit an intimate assault on my person.
Later, when I was leaving my last longer term relationship, it was all kinds of confusing to me figuring out what, precisely, was wrong with it. All I knew was that my then-partner had at times said things on purpose to hurt or insult me and that getting out just felt right. At the time, I felt like I was disrespecting him by not being able to give a more put-together reason why I wanted to separate. It wasn’t until nearly a year later that I realized:
- Verbal and emotional abuse are Actual Things;
- Sexual abuse is not limited to when adults coerce or manipulate children into sexual contact.
And still. It’s nearly dissociative for me to label that relationship as “abusive” — because I don’t want to admit that one can be both an abuser and a real person or that I did in fact spend care so deeply about someone who was both.
It’s tempting to separate people into two categories:
- People I respect and care about;
But real life isn’t so simple. Just because I care about someone doesn’t mean they might not be an asshole. And just because someone is an asshole doesn’t mean I stop caring.