I have often said throughout my life that I’ve been a fortune human being. I have a great, supportive family and friends. I’ve got a good job and a roof over my head. I’ve got reliable transportation. And I live in a city where I don’t have to hide in shame – or fear being stoned in the public square.

And I was 29 years old before anyone used the word faggot in my presence. No joke.

It was June 2010 and in just a few days, Portland, OR would hold their annual gay pride parade. My youngest sister and I were excited about going since we’d never been to anything like this before.

By the way, my favorite part was the Alaska Airlines crewmembers who pushed their drink carts down the street while throwing free merchandise at the crowd. Gays love free stuff.

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At the time, I was working downtown and commuted to work on TriMet, the city’s award winning transit system. I had finished my workday and was excited to head to the Max light rail platform at Pioneer Courthouse Square so I could blast my stereotypical dance music on my headphones while making the hour long trek via train, bus and good ole foot power.

As I stood there in the rain, waiting patiently for the train to arrive, I noticed an average looking man to my left. He seemed like the type of guy who wanted everyone to know his business, since he spoke loudly during his extremely uninteresting cell phone conversation and looked around to make sure people knew he was there. No worries, sir. Your muddy work boots and lack of general personal hygiene made your presence known.

In the distance I could see the Max train. Before I knew it, it was in front of me. The doors opened and passengers began to exit. And then it happened.

As the last passenger exits and I prepare to step onto the train, the unkempt loud ass says to his cell phone buddy “the gay parade is this week, so every faggot in the entire state is here.” He then looks directly at me. I’m not sure if he knows I’m gay, but the gay flag-inspired scarf probably had something to do with it. It’s an adorable scarf.

At first, I was surprised. I’d never heard someone actually use that word in front of me.

In typical Hogie fashion, I looked back at him and responded “I know! Isn’t it totally hot!?” and proceeded onto the train. Needless to say, his expression – one of confusion about what had just transpired – was far more entertaining than mine was.

Look, the bottom line is that I am who I am and it’s no more a choice than who YOU are, so get over yourselves.

And faggot is a word and nothing more. Hearing it doesn’t provoke a frightened response and make me curl up in the fetal position. If anything, it makes me feel sorry for the idiot who’s saying it, because they were raised to think it’s OK to hate someone for being different.

Nothing you say to me is going to change me, so just embrace the gayness.

Love people for the fact that they’re good people and not because they sleep with someone you wouldn’t sleep with.

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