National Commentary

Johnny’s World: Foot in Mouth

jworldWe’ve all been there. We’ve all asked or seen someone ask a woman when she’s due, but she’s not actually pregnant. We’ve all made inappropriate comments or analogies without even noticing because our home language and friend language is so comfortable and free-flowing that when we’re talking to or in front of strangers, once we’re comfortable, we fly. I think it’s safe to say, that for the most part, we rarely surround ourselves with people who challenge us, or who are polar opposites in terms of philosophy and belief so we in turn, build up a comfortable pillow-top barrier of everything you say being okay.

Cut to this week when I was speaking at a university and called a small group of people protesting my speech, idiots, for no other reason that my tongue getting away from me. This kind of talk is usually relegated to the safety of my own friend groupings and family but for some reason, I felt like a threatened underdog and needed to take a dig at the people who had me on edge. At the end of my speech I opened the floor to a Q&A and it turned out that those very people protesting my speech, were actually friends of the faculty and brave LGBT activists who stood in the same room as me. I felt, and still feel, a great deal of remorse for allowing myself to insult other people, fighting in their own way, and for using insulting words instead of my usual cheerleading antics for one and all.

What my speech related to was the role of athletes at the upcoming Russian Olympics, and as if it isn’t obvious, this is a topic I know a lot about and am very passionate about. I will preface this also by saying that it’s been a while since I was last protested in person and for the last month I have been dealing with an unsafe fan situation, so to say the least, I am on high alert and high self-protection mode. However, I realized that there is no excuse to hurl insults at those who oppose you, or those who think differently than you and as a believer in free will and free speech, I allowed my own fear and emotion to get the better of me and for a moment I became a hypocrite.

I have been defending athlete’s rights to compete in Sochi, despite Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, and have publicly opposed a boycott. This is an issue that is very heated for many LGBT activists who want to protect and save the Russian LGBT community, and I whole-heartedly applaud their bravery. I may not agree with all their tactics nor do I have the sense of responsibility that they have, but any selfless act is worth applause.

Despite many activists bravery, they also have a very pointed way of trying to make everyone around them an activist and to stand for a cause. My stance of being pro-athlete before being pro-gay has ruffled so many feathers and it becomes difficult to speak publicly because of this fight. As a non-confrontational person, I take it very hard (obviously) when I offend people or they feel the need to tell me that I am awful. Many activists also believe that change starts with a revolution, a term that terrifies me. I am not against activism in any way, but I don’t have the strength of character to not only revolutionize my life on a daily basis but also the lives of others. Our differences are vast, but we all live for a purpose.

In any event, the speech finished, I left feeling awful and my only solace was in a half eaten carton of Breyers, freezer burned to death in the back of my freezer. I have put my foot in my mouth before, and I probably will many times over, but it doesn’t change the fact that I stooped to fighting by slinging insults rather than being proud of my own voice and achievements and saying, my opinion matters too. I showed myself a lesser version of myself that night, and I’m glad I learned from it. People will find their own paths, they will differ from mine, and I need to show them the grace that I’ve been granted in my own discovery.