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  • Writer's pictureJeff Monday

Your labels do not matter

When I was in grade school, many many many many moons ago, I was always called the two worst insults a school-yard bully could think of: fag and nerd. And now, whether an ironic twist of fate or self-fulfilling prophesy, I am both.

And I couldn't be prouder.

Here's the thing: once I stopped worrying about what other people said about me, life opened up. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to fit in. To be one of the 'cool kids'. But I never was. I never fit into any the groups at school. I was smart but not smart enough to be in chess club. I was fast but not fast enough to be on track. I was funny but not funny enough to perform. I still remember all those nights crying into my pillow, just wanting to be accepted into a clique. Any of them. Jocks or nerds or wasteoids or spazs. It didn't matter. I just needed to be part of a troop.

Weeks passed. Then months. Then years. So many tears shed. So many nights wondering what was wrong with me. But then a funny thing happened.

I stopped caring.

It didn't happen all at once but it became less and less important to fit in. I suppose since I never did, I thought I never would. So I may as well do my own thing. I sought solace in comic books and cartoons. I imagined being on the Justice League or riding Battle Cat. I drew (horrible) pictures and wrote (horrible) stories. But I got better at writing the stories. Didn't get any better at drawing the pictures. But I was OK with that. I found my troop. It was in my head all along.

Now, don't think life was any less lonely. I still fought the voice in my head telling me I wasn't good enough. Still do. When I figured out I was gay, that introduced a whole new kind of loneliness into my life. Once again, I didn't fit in. I wasn't (and still am not) a bear or otter or fox or any of the other zoo animals. I thought once I became an adult, I wouldn't have to worry about not fitting in anymore. And yet there it is. Still so many people out there wanting to put a label on me. As if a word can define the whole of me.

Listen, I work with words. A lot. I understand the power they have. Words have changed the world many times over. Words said to someone can fill their heart or crush it, can inspire or tear down. But here's the trick: Words only mean something if we listen to them. We give words power. And we can deny that power too.

So call me a nerd. I am passionate about the things I love. Batman and Boba Fett and Kermit and Optimus. I know more about the Speed Force and the Emotional Spectrum than I reasonably should. I can explain the nuances of the Grey Jedi. And I love it.

So call me a fag. Once I accepted who I truly was and stopped listening to the world around me telling me who I should be, I became a fully-formed individual,. My queer family is the most loving, accepting and fabulous troop anyone could hope to have.

I am a son, uncle, boss, bartender, writer, roommate, ex, scholar, friend, enemy, lover, story teller, supervisor, co-worker, inspiration, cautionary tale, grandson, brother, pedestrian, drunkard, explorer, tourist, creator, confidant, advisor, good example, bad example, Gen Xer, homo, and dreamer.

Call me what you want.

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