Faggot

Heart and LiverI hate everything about this word. I hate the look of it, I hate the hard sound of it, I hate the power of it.

I hate the hate of it.

There is nothing pleasant about the word “faggot”. Even when taken to mean “a bundle of sticks tied together to be used for kindling”, the relative innocence of this definition has disappeared, thanks to the idea that, in a time when people were burned at the stake for unorthodoxy,  people like me were thought of as so unworthy– so beneath contempt– that they were denied the simply dignity of their own bonfire, but rather, bound together and set afire en masse.

Like a bundle of faggots.*

In cooking, a faggot is something made from the ground up guts and off-cuts of pig or lamb; a lowly dish made from the cast-off  animal flesh. Faggots are made from things that would have otherwise been thrown away or fed to the dogs.

I have spent so many years confused and angered by the word. I have been held back by the power of its shame; irritated that anyone would think I am worthless by virtue of the simple fact that I was born gay. I have avoided writing for weeks because, every time I sat down to think about this word and the recipe associated with it, I would walk away mad and surprisingly frustrated. It was clear to me that, after all these years, the word “faggot” still made me angry.

This first time I can remember hearing the word, it was whispered to me in the library of my elementary school.  I was looking for a book on the lives of U.S. presidents when a boy cornered me in the stacks. He kept repeating the word over and over again as he hit me hard in the stomach and arms and chest.

“Hey, faggot!” He smiled when he said it. “You think you’re a smart little faggot, don’t you?” There was a tone of disgust in his voice that surprised and hurt more than any of the punches he was throwing. “You like that, faggot?” I didn’t, so I did the only thing I could think of to make it stop.

I punched him in the face.

He walked away from the fight with a bloody nose, but I walked away with an understanding that there was someone in the world who wanted to hurt me because of what I was and—more frightening to me at the time—what he correctly perceived me to be: gay.

I felt humiliated, loathsome, and fearful of exposure. There was no one I could have turned to at the time; no friends or parents or priests I would have trusted with such a thing.

There was no escaping from the idea that what I was was wrong. In the rare instances I saw a gay man depicted on television or in film, he was the sassy neighbor, the outrageous drag queen, the psychotic murderer. He was the butt of jokes, the object of scorn, the source of evil. I learned to hate myself from the words and jokes I heard from the media, adults, other children in school. I’m certain that’s where the boy in the library learned to hate me, too. He had to have learned it from somewhere.

He was the first, but he certainly wasn’t the last person to call me a faggot.

Meat GrinderFrom then on, each time I heard the word, I tried to ignore it or pretend it didn’t bother me.  I kept quiet and swallowed the shame and pain of it like little bits of lead that slowly ground up my guts and poisoned my brain into believing that I was as disgusting and ugly and unlovable as the word itself.

And I know I’m not the only one who did that.

I’ve watched others destroy themselves trying to kill the pain of this word– and all the cruelty behind it– with drugs and alcohol, sex, anger, and suicide. I watched the gentlest man I’ve ever known eaten alive by AIDS yet go to his grave denying he was gay because his shame was so deeply rooted he could never let go of it. I don’t know a single person like me who has not been scarred in some way. Some people never get over it.

Fortunately, there are multiple, overlapping paths that lead us away from that pain if we can simply find them. Maturity, coming out, therapy, our friends and family, the gaining of a broader sense of the world, an understanding that the disgust some people feel for us is their shame and not ours —if we let all of these ideas and people into our lives, we get a clearer sense of ourselves and our worth. We discover that we are not unlovable; we are not awful and disgusting because we happen to be gay.

Things can and do get better , even though there are times in our lives when we think they never will. It may take a lot of work to get to that point in our lives when we love ourselves enough– and grow brave enough– to take on that word and punch it so deservedly in the face. But when we do get there, our lives are so worth living.

It takes courage to live our lives openly, unashamedly, and unapologetically.

It takes guts to be a faggot.

Faggots

Faggots

I wanted to make this recipe for months but was uncertain how to go about it. How does one write about an essentially unappealing dish whose name evokes pain and anger in some of us, hate and contempt in others? I filed away the recipe—and the idea—until I felt I could deal with it properly.

Every time I sat down at my computer, I’d see the bookmarks for faggot recipes staring me in the face, taunting me like so many elementary school bullies. I knew I needed to do something about it, so I finally decided to take them on.

I have a habit of taking the bits and pieces of my life, turning them into food, and then eating them. It’s my way of digesting things– therapy on a plate, if you will. Neither this activity nor this particular recipe is for the faint of heart.

It takes guts to make. For some of you, it may take guts to eat as well.

Whatever the case, I would like to thank Tony Cervone for supplying me with the literal guts to make this recipe and all the wonderful people in my life who help give me the guts to be what I am and like it ( Yes, Tony, you’re included in that group, too.)

Ingredients:

1 lamb heart, cut up into thick chunks
½ lamb liver, sliced into large pieces
½ of a yellow onion, sliced into quarters
2 cloves of garlic
5 to 6 sprigs of thyme
Equal parts water and red wine (about a cup each) or enough to just cover the entrails for braising
½ cup  freshly ground beef or lamb fat
½ to ¾ cup of fresh bread crumbs
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons each of olive oil and butter for frying

Preparation:

1.  In a meat grinder, grind your fat into a fine grind. If you do not have a grinder, ask your local butcher to do it for you. When I asked the man behind the counter if he had any fat I could buy, he told me he didn’t sell that sort of thing, but that he’d just thrown a pile of beef fat in the garbage. Since this dish is essentially about making something out of what most people consider unworthy of eating, I asked him for some. He looked confused. He didn’t think it was even worth charging for. Wash thoroughly. Set aside, covered.

2.  Preheat oven to 350F. In a large sauté pan, place onion, garlic, heart, and liver pieces in a single layer. Pour over water and wine mixture over until everything is just barely covered. Add thyme sprigs to the top, then place pan in the oven, where it will stay until the onion and garlic have softened and the heart and liver have been thoroughly cooked through. About 45 minutes. Remove the organs and other solid matter from the liquid to let cool. Reserve liquid. Keep oven on.

3.  Place the organs, onion and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the everything has been broken down into small pieces then transfer to a large, clean bowl. Add fat, egg, and bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly using your hands. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mix again. Form the ground-up gut mixture into balls and set out onto a plate.

4.  In another sauté pan, heat olive oil and butter until just sizzling. Add the faggots to the pan and brown them, top and bottom. Add the braising liquid to the pan, then place the pan into the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove them from the pan and serve with pride hot with the pan gravy over mashed potatoes. Fearlessly.

* The accuracy of this etymology is highly debatable, but the idea behind it has taken hold. For an interesting take one this, watch this poker scene from the television series Louie. Warning: contains (very) adult language.

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95 Responses to Faggot

  1. KiltBear says:

    Michael… Wow!

    Just Wow!

    XXOO

    Now on to the silly stuff: I love the alliteration of fabulous & faggot. As in: “Look at that parade float! Have you ever seen such FFFabulous faggotry in your life? You go girls!”

    A more stade take on this, but really wonderful (I LOVE THIS BOOK):
    http://www.amazon.com/Faggots-Their-Friends-Between-Revolutions/dp/0930762002

    and a description with excertp:

    http://wolfcreekfaeries.tribe.net/thread/2c2f6928-af89-4b58-a73a-db34f0db8193

  2. ron says:

    that must have been very difficult to write. i know exactly what you are talking about and exactly how you feel. i’ve been there myself. and you are right, it does get better! thank you for sharing this post. now it’s time to get back into the kitchen and reclaim it, making something fun, happy and cheerful. something that reminds you of happier times spend with dear friends. perhaps, something like a tarte tatin. and you should enjoy a very nice, “knob creek” on the rocks while you do it.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      It happened to be the most frustratingly difficult piece I’ve ever written. I gave up on trying to make it perfect and just wanted it to be said, so I could move on.

      And, believe me, I am definitely doing something fun the next go-around.

      xom

  3. Garrett says:

    An engaging and brave post, Michael. Well done.

  4. Jay Floyd says:

    I’ve spent YEARS learning to deal with this word. I have a feeling it will take just as long to deal with this dish!

    You lost me at ‘chunks of hearts’.

    • Anatoly says:

      Heart is pure, smooth muscle, not quite the same as the long fibres of skeletal muscle but not as strange to the taste as the commonly implied imagery of organs or offal would. The dread is part of the social imagination, you should taste the ground truth yourself.

      • Michael Procopio says:

        Anatoly, I have tasted the ground truth, as you call it. Turns out I am rather fond of heart.

        • Heidi Lee says:

          I grew up eating offal and we had a lot of baked heart. Although not technically considered ‘offal’, my lunch box often contained cow tongue sandwiches. Kind of like deviled ham.

          Was just introduced to your writing and plan to come back for more. What a gutsy thing to reveal and what an interesting twist with that recipe. Thank you for sharing.

          Heidi Lee

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Always glad to give you something to get over, my friend.

  5. Wow, what a post, Michael. I don’t really know what to say – other than thanks for sharing this. It’s so honest and true. I loved when you said: “It takes courage to live our lives openly, unashamedly, and unapologetically.” Let me tell you, your courage is inspiring. I can’t wait for the day when being gay is a non-issue. The world has come a long way, but there’s still such a ways to go. So appropriate that you were on the storytelling panel at Blogher. Glad I was there. Hugs!

  6. mare says:

    It is just a word. Ignore the word and embrace your foodiness and sexuality for what they are – part of you.

    Words only have the power that we, as individuals, give them. I am of a generation where unmarried females giving birth created bastards, but never gave it providence. This too shall pass.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Mare,

      I agree with you that words only have the power that we give them. I think a lot of people like me got stuck on the power of this particular word, but the error has been identified and the power of it diminished.

      Thank you,

      Michael

  7. Stephanie says:

    Beautiful post – I especially appreciate this:

    “It takes courage to live our lives openly, unashamedly, and unapologetically.”

    I wrestle with this every day, and I’m just now learning to accept who I am and cast off anyone who can’t. Life is too short.

  8. Dani says:

    What a timely post. You have probably given strength to many struggling people with out even knowing it.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Dani,

      It’s wonderful to hear from you. I’ve held off on writing an “It get’s better” post because a) I didn’t know what I wanted to contribute and b) I’ve been wrestling with whether or not this whole project– while a powerful way to tell kids that their lives can improve– was a little too “happily ever after” for my tastes.

      I think things do get better, but it’s not like some Coming Out Fairy waves his magic wand over us and makes all the bad go away. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of soul searching and forgiveness of both ourselves and others.

      And that is why I decided to write the post.

      I hope in some way that it does help someone.

      xoM

      • Roy says:

        Nice to see someone else who is having some challenges with the “it gets better” mantra. It seems as if the message is coming from the right place, but things don’t always get better nor do they get better for everyone. However in terms of youth suicide prevention and encouragement to them to seek help…I can’t fault the message too much.

        Sorry, probably two cents that no one is interested in. Just thoughts that have been bouncing around quite a bit about the whole project/effort.

        - r

  9. Elaine Park says:

    Happy you wrote such a good post — sad that you had to live it to write it. By the way, there is also use of the word meaning a cigarette, which is how I first heard it long ago. I wonder how that fits in?

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Elaine,

      Thank you, but I am actually not sad at all that I had to live it. It’s part of what made me who I am today, which I rather enjoy. In an odd way, I’m grateful for it.

      xoM

      • Michael Procopio says:

        Oh, and cigarettes are merely “fags”– not faggots– for some reason. I am currently too sleepy to search for the origin. I will do so when I am more alert.

  10. Michael!
    Damn you! I never quite know what to expect from your posts other than an incredible, delicious impact! Sometimes you make me laugh, sometimes you make me cry and you almost always make me salivate.
    I can relate to your -
    “I did the only thing I could think of to make it stop.I punched him in the face.” Moment. ( http://juds2u.blogspot.com/2010/11/planting-time_05.html )
    Writing it out is draining but cathartic.
    Have you ever read “The Edible Woman” by Margaret Atwood?

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Judi!

      Why yes, I think I am damned. At least, I am according to some religions. Catharsis is a wonderful thing. However, it makes me want to crawl into bed and sleep for a week.

      I don’t think I’ve ever read any Margaret Atwood, I am very shamed to say. I feel as if I am letting down Canadians everywhere.

      xoM

  11. bewlay says:

    Psh, Louie’s funnier.

  12. Brooke@foodwoolf says:

    I can almost feel that two million pound block of stress slide off your emotional shoulders. What an important piece for you. I’m so glad you were able to get it out and onto the page. Moving. You are fearless and supremely skilled. Xxxxoooo, your new bff.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Brooke,

      Oh golly, I’m glad I could get that out of me and onto the page, too.

      I will correct you one one thing, however: I am not fearless. I fear a lot of things. I just learn to face those fears and act in spite of them. That’s one of the big tricks in life, don’t you think, bff?

      Thank you for the lovely note.

      xom

  13. Sparrow says:

    Would it be considered ironic that a recipe named with such a painful word consists mainly of “chunks of hearts”? It seems terribly fitting to me.

  14. Lana says:

    Etymology is beyond fascinating. I am always blown away with what lies behind the word. An innocent concept, an innocuous idea can become so cruel in its connotations. It takes courage just to wake up and face the world. If you are stigmatized and branded with hot iron of irrationality, it takes an enormous amount of courage to get out of the bed.
    I was just a “four-eyed” nerd trying to blend in the mediocrity, burying my intellect in hopes of enticing at least one person not to run away in a different direction. To go through middle school as a smart gay nerd and survive, is extremely courageous.
    As for your recipe, I do not know what to think of it. Fe, fi, fo, fum, I can smell me an Englishman… Not good eats.
    I have been exposed to lamb heart, lamb liver and lamb fat, including lamb caul, in one of the most delicious (but cholesterol-heavy) dishes on Earth. This Serbian concoction is assertive, full of flavor, and deceptively light. You can call it a “faggot” if you like. It is a delicacy cherished by many a homophobe:) Little do they know:)

    • Michael Procopio says:

      I sometimes wonder how anyone survives childhood and adolescence.

      I don’t think I was particularly courageous. I hid my gayness– or thought I was hiding it– as best I could by keeping so busy and trying to be so likable that no one would care or notice. It was a bit exhausting being senior class president, member of Anaheim City Youth Council, Academic Decathalon contestant, trivia team captain, yearbook staff member and secretary of the Spanish Club all at the same time. I never even took Spanish– I just wanted to be a member (and officer) of any club that would accept me.

      Hmmm. How telling is that?

  15. julie says:

    Michael, I have read this three times now, and my heart breaks for that little Michael in the library. But mostly, I’m glad to read this and know that you see how have grown into the amazing person you are today because of it all. Much love. xo

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Julie,

      You read this three times on your own birthday? You’re not the one supposed to be giving presents today, which is what you just did to me.

      I think you’re more amazing.

      xoM

  16. bockychoy says:

    Thank you for making my laundry seem like no big deal again. Between you and Squid, I’m getting my perspective tidied up this week. I lead a charmed life and you write a great post. Thank you for sharing this. You are always such a good read.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Bokchoy,

      If I have lightened anyone’s load, I consider this a job well done– whether that load be whites, colors, or delicate knits.

      Thank you.

  17. TheCalmCook says:

    What a beautiful blog. <3 I admire your courage and strength, and your ability to write so honestly about such a charged, personal, and painful topic.

    Well done!

  18. saltyseattle says:

    I like:

    1. chunks of heart
    2. that you are not fearless
    3. that you don’t regret living it because it made you who you are

    You are a person to:

    1. love
    2. aspire to be like
    3. hug deeply next time i see you

    xo, linda

  19. Not even sure what to say except thank you for sharing your strength and vulnerability.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Lara,

      Funny, I’d like to say “It was my pleasure,” but it wasn’t really a pleasure to write at all. I am however, glad I was able to share it.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to leave a heartening comment.

      Michael

  20. Roy says:

    an awful word and an offal recipe…interesting.

    I wonder if it is a generational thing, that faggot was the epithet of choice when we were growing up. It seemed the one most often used when I was thrown around, punched or having things yelled at me. Queerbait was also frequently used, but now with hindsight I’m not even sure what that one is supposed to mean.

    I remember friends or groups always talking about reclaiming the words to use as our own, and that seemed to work for almost all of them…but faggot was the hardest one to come to terms with. I still haven’t come to terms with eating heart (or brain or liver) one time butchering a cow and I am still completely unable to take the cognitive step back and realize internal organs are just another edible component of the animal.

    So…thanks for a disquieting yet somehow still uplifting posting. Maybe it doesn’t always get better, but things move onward and perspective and time tend to let you look at things differently.

    -r

    • Michael Procopio says:

      This is one word I think a lot of us have a really difficult time reclaiming.

      Gay can mean happy and without care. Queens can be stately and powerful. Fairies are magical. Faggot? Not so much good there.

  21. ursula says:

    I’m not gay, but my mum is, and most of her friends who I grew up around are, and lots of my own friends are, too. And even being from a gay family, you still get treated like that. And it’s probably not as bad for me, but words can hurt. For a long time. But I’m strong, and you must obviously be strong, and I so wish that I could write things like this, honest, truthful things, but I’m not that strong.
    Thank you.
    I’m also not strong enough to eat a heart. But good on you for trying!

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Ursula,

      It often takes a long time to find one’s strength. I’m sure you will. Maybe you have and you just haven’t realized it yet.

      And, by the way, heart is pretty delicious!

      Thanks again for your words,

      Michael

  22. Nicole says:

    If everyone was just a little bit more like you, the world would be a much more kind, understanding, articulate and lovely place to live. Thank you for sharing.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Thank you very much, Nicole.

      I’m now worried that, if everyone was a little bit more like me, the world would be filled with untidy bedrooms, cheese sandwiches, and Elaine Stritch music, as well.

      M

  23. Judson says:

    When someone asks me if I’m a fag, I ask how badly they want to find out.

  24. jenjenk says:

    I’m trying to type out my comments but have had to delete and restart several times over. This is everything that a post should be – eloquently written, informative, straight from the heart, and a call to action – be it an emotion, a change in thought/attitude, or simply being humbled by the gut wrenching pain that the writing of this post must have caused you.

    I, for one, am humbled. I am so glad to have met you and I hope you don’t mind if I stalk you forever.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Jen,

      Stalk to your heart’s content.

      You have just said so much about a post that I deleted and restarted several times, as well. On Wednesday, I threw everything away and just let it all flow out of me, which is essentially what you see posted. I didn’t think of it as any of those (wonderful) things you said about it. It was just something I wanted to say and needed to get out of me so I could move on.

      I thank you for saying them, nonetheless.

      xoM

  25. Wow, what a post, Michael! Thank you for sharing your story. I have a couple of friends who have had similar experiences in their lives and it saddens me that people are abused who unabashedly living the lives they are meant to live. Let’s hope your post opens some eyes.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Thanks, Canuck.

      I should like to state again that I am, in a sense, grateful to have been bullied and teased. It made me a much stronger person than I would have become otherwise. It’s part of what made me who I am. I kinda like that.

      We all face pain in our lives, but the truly horrifying thing about growing up gay (at least, how it used to be) is that we often feel as though we are totally alone with absolutely no one to turn to. That is what I want to see changed.

      There will always be bullies. They will never go away. I just want kids like me who are growing up today to know that there are others who’ve been through it, that there are others out there who will band together and help them fight, or simply that there are others to whom they can turn to heal the wounds.

  26. Congratulations for taking on this word head on and overcoming the power it had over you and your life!!!
    Your piece contains important lessons for everyone and I am so glad that people recommended it to me.

  27. Michael, your writing is powerful, brilliant. I find myself at a loss for words other than thank you and congratulations for wrestling this post out and sharing your story.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Thank you very much, Carrie. What surprised me is how exhausted I felt after posting this. It took a lot out of me, but I feel a hell of a lot better as a result!

      M

  28. Serene says:

    You are beyond fabulous. I am so happy to be one of your virtual Fag Hags.

    Much love!

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Serene! Your choice of words!

      You are not a “virtual f-g hag”. Remember, we’ve met in real life, so you’re a real life “f-g hag.”

      xoM

  29. Deb says:

    I was linked to your site via Twitter. I love your story, and your courage in sharing it.

    I wish you great happiness.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Deb,

      Thank you very, very much. Writing this post was wonderful exercise.

      I am looking forward to the happiness.

      M

  30. onewetfoot says:

    That was so beautifully written. I love the concept of taking what has harmed us and turning it instead into something that sustains us, like food. Wonderful.

    In the nineties, it seemed a lot of us were busy reclaiming words, without a lot of tolerance for those who were still being harmed by them. I think you’ve really elucidated the process and problems of word reclamation in your post.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Thank you, onewetfoot.

      I think this is one word that’s pretty difficult to reclaim. I love what you’ve (correctly) pointed out– the concept of taking what has harmed us and turning it into something that sustains us.

      That is precisely what I try to do, though I am not always entirely conscious of it.

      Cheers,

      Michael

  31. Susan says:

    I admire you so much for your inner strength. You are proof positive that at the time of our birth, our personalities are already formed. All that you went through and you still have a wonderful and intelligent sense of humor.

    Your charisma is not acquired but it is in your DNA.

    If its any consolation, I’m sure that your grammar school bully is either in prison for murder or is on the street corner ranting like a lunatic.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Susan,

      Apologies for the tardy response– I took the weekend off from even so much as looking at my blog. That was a very lovely thing you said, but I’m not sure I could ever take full credit for my personality. I get so much of it from other people in my life– both the good and the bad. Don’t you?

      As for the bully, I always felt really bad for him. Not long after the fight, he started wearing glasses. At the time, I thought I might have been responsible for his poor vision because I hit hit in the face. The following year, he was put into special education classes. He had disabilities of which I wasn’t aware when he attacked me. I actually hope he’s doing alright.

      M

      • Susan says:

        Hi Michael

        You are such a sincerely nice person!! If only everyone could be so intelligent and nice. Because I do think that intelligence plays a big part in niceness. Of course not all intelligent people are nice and not all nice people are intelligent. I am rambling.

        In putting the few pieces of the puzzling behavior of that bully together , it does make sense that he had some serious issues and I do feel bad about wishing him ill. But I am glad that you posted this blog.

  32. sonya says:

    I am late in seeing this post, having just read it now a couple weeks after you posted. But I want to chime in belatedly and say what a powerful and beautiful and wrenching piece you’ve written. It speaks to the power of humans – both in our ability to cause hurt (physical and mental) on others, as well as our ability to overcome hurt and heal. I believe your bravery shined brightly when you hit the “publish” button of this post and I well imagine how exhausted you must have felt as a result of writing it.
    I think the It Gets Better project is beneficial to kids not primarily for its sugar-coated, Hollywood “happy ending” message, but for illustrating that so many others have gone through the same experiences and survived them – that they are not alone. If just one kid reads your piece it will be a mitzvah.
    Finally, the combination of your fabulous photos – beef heart! smooth liver! ground heart being extruded from a meat grinder! – with your text is brilliant!

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Sonya,

      And I am late in replying to your wonderful comment (I’ve been actively avoiding my blog for the past few days).

      You’re absolutely right about that moment of hitting the “publish” button. And also about being exhausted. I decided to take a little time off from writing when what I should have done was write something fun immediately afterwards.

      Thank you so much for your words,

      Michael

  33. I’m just humbled by this post. Remarkable.

  34. Francis says:

    You are a brave person and i admire you for that. To be proud of oneself, how ever hard it can be, is the greatest achievement a human being can reach for.
    As for the recipe, it look great and i plan to try that soon.

  35. Faggot is a most horrible, demeaning and meaningless word. People should never be made to feel small, sad or disgusting because they are gay. There is NOTHING wrong with being gay. It’s as innocuous as being straight. One doesn’t have to announce or justify that they are straight so it should be the same for the LBGT community. Applause for this article and your bravery.

  36. Wow Michael, I love posts that are so obviously a window into the writer’s soul. Thank you for a such a thought provoking post. I’ve always hated the word, can’t even bear to type it. In High School I beat up a boy for calling another boy by such a cruel name. I have a lot more control over my temper now and seek to educate people rather than punch them :)

    My husband and I lead a teen recovery program and we’ve made it clear to our leaders and students that there will be no gay jokes, sayings like “that’s so gay” or name calling of any kind. Ages 11-19 are so confusing and we work hard to make sure our group is a safe place for a student to share anything. Like you, we didn’t have safe adults to talk to about our “shameful” secrets, so it’s been amazing to be able to be the safe adults for other children and teens.

    • Michael Procopio says:

      Diana,

      It has suddenly become quite obvious to me that you are the perfect roommate for me. I trust that you will protect me during our stay in Cancun.

      You are just full of wonderful surprises, aren’t you?

      I was quickly cured of my use of the word “retarded” when I referred to something as such in the presence of my godkids. My oldest friend in the world (and mother of said children) turned around to her girls and said, “Did you hear that, kids? Michael said it was retarded. Isn’t that TOTALLY GAY?”

      She smiled at me and the point was immediately taken to heart.

  37. SMITH BITES says:

    Bravo Michael, bravo – I stand and applaud you this evening while reading your blog for the very first time. What we live through during childhood surely gives us a perspective in adulthood . . . or at least I hope it does. I’ve always hated that word – and I don’t use the word ‘hated’ unless I really, really loathe something – but this is a word that will not be tolerated in my presence – ever. I can appreciate your coming to terms with all that happened to you, making you the person you are today but I do ache for the boy in the library as well as for the boy who hid the very best of himself, hid who he was created to be, so that the world wouldn’t hurt him and would accept him. I’m happy that you survived Michael, and that today, you can stand and tell the story. I am looking forward to your talent, your wittiness, your giftedness – the very best of who you are – that you leave here for us to enjoy. And I cannot wait until the day when we have the opportunity to meet in real life. Bravo and well done.

    • Michael says:

      Dear Smith Bites,

      Thanks very much for this comment. I’m rather happy I survived, too. And I am perversely grateful for the experience because it, in part, made me who I am.

      Michael

  38. Thank you for this. I think I’ve read it 5 times already and keep coming back for another serving. Like with sushi, I doubt I will ever get enough of your writing, honesty, and humor. With this post you have shown me that I can enjoy cooking and blogging about it while remaining true to myself at the same time. A fan for life here. Watch out. :)

    • Michael says:

      Hello Trevor Sis Boom.

      FIve times? Really? Thank you very much. Really. Now about this sushi simile… unlike sushi, I hope my writing remains fresh for more than a few hours and doesn’t have the ability to make anyone seriously ill if read after being left out overnight.

  39. Jean Layton says:

    Growing up with a Mom who was substantially older than my peers parents, I always thought that faggot referred to a kind of knitted lace pattern.
    My confusion turned to fury when a friend was attacked using the term.
    The other guy didn’t know what hit him.
    Words have contextual power.
    I’m thrilled to see you choose the context.

  40. Jennie B says:

    It pains me to think of people so ashamed of what is an essential part of themselves. It may get better, but it is a shame that it had to be so difficult to begin with. My son is autistic; I hope he is always proud of who he is, regardless of how different he may feel.

    Although I don’t see myself making this recipe anytime soon, I enjoyed reading it!

    • Jennie, I don’t see myself making this recipe any time soon, either. Once was enough.

      Difficulties are tough, certainly, but I think they help shape us into more interesting (and hopefully kinder, more understanding) people. They have their place. I hope your son comes through his with a strong sense of self.

  41. Don Manarang says:

    Great Blog! Thanks for sharing your painful personal experience. I was just wondering, did that happen to you at Clara Barton? I’ve always had fond memories of our childhood and can still remember the olive fights that you, Shannon, Miho, and I had. In the innocence of our youth, some things we just don’t understand until we grow up.

    • Thanks, Don! Yes, the library incident was at Clara Barton and I also remember that olive fight. Every time a walk past that tree on visits to my mother, I think of it.

      And children are terrible people sometimes.

  42. Mary Pat says:

    Then and now……smart, funny, good looking, kind, endearing and to be admired.
    Mary Pat

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