blog/Books/computers/Just A Geek/Web/Tech/Weblogs

Let’s do a Flashback Friday

Posted by Wil on
Let’s do a Flashback Friday

Yesterday, I blew it all up. All the websites I maintain on my server, including this one and Anne’s, blew up when I did … something.

I exhausted my knowledge, and I exhausted my patience searching forums and documentation to figure out what the hell I’d broken, and how to fix it.

So I asked my friend for help, and he saved my bacon. (He probably saved some of your bacon, too. I bet you never even knew your personal bacon was at risk; that’s how nefarious today’s bacon mafia is. THANKS OBAMA.)

While I was trying to solve it myself, I saw that my /public_html directory was a shitshow that needed massive attention. Imagine the directory is a room. In that room are shelves, and on those shelves are the books and drawers where website content lives. This room should be nice and neat, so it’s really easy to find what you need. When something is out of place, it’s super easy to see, because the rest of the room is so orderly.

Now take that imagined room, and replace it with a teenage boy’s bedroom at the end of the week. Into that room, I dumped like fifty bags of website bullshit with the intention of cleaning it all up …. someday.

So that was like ten years ago. I know. It’s so embarrassing. As soon as my buddy finished saving the aforementioned bacon, I went into this appalling mess, and cleaned it all up.

In that process, I came across some old images that made me smile.I’m going to be promoting Still Just A Geek soon (YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT HERE AT A DISCOUNT PLEASE DO OKAY THANKS) and these images from the time Just A Geek was written are going to be relevant and fun to share during the promotion.

One of those images is a screenshot of my website from 2005, when I had done all of it on my own. The layout, the php includes, the PERL, the whole thing. It was a lot back then (it still is, at least to me) and I’m proud of what late 20s/early 30s Wil was able to accomplish.

This very website, in September 2005

It’s all so much easier today (yesterday’s blowing up notwithstanding) and I love that. I love that the distance between “I want a blog” and “I have a blog” is a few clicks. When I did this back in the early aughts, there were at least two HTML books and months of studying to understand gzip, ftp, chmod, mod_rewrite, and holy shit configuring an Apache webserver in 2001 between those two things. I’ve compared it to owning a classic car in the 70s. It wasn’t enough to keep it the fluids topped off; you needed to be some level of a mechanic to hold it all together. It was just part of the price of admission. It was a lot, but I don’t regret it for a second. I learned a lot then (which I’ve clearly forgotten) but I am so happy that some of us who did the heavy lifting back then decided to develop tools and methods that would make it so much easier for everyone who followed us.

Turns out that I was one of those people who was always under the hood then, and I’m one of the people who just want the damn thing to work, now. Thanks, me from the past!


Happy 6th birthday to me.

Posted by Wil on
Happy 6th birthday to me.

I wrote this last year. Facebook showed it to me as one of those memory things about fifteen minutes ago, and I had this sudden realization that I quit drinking alcohol six years ago, yesterday. It used to be a thing that I thought of every day. Every day, I erased a number on the whiteboard and wrote down the new one. Then it was every week, every month or so, and now it’s a few times a year that I go “holy crap it’s been [some number that seemed unattainable six years ago] days! Go me!” As of this morning, it’s 2193 days without a drink (well, I had like a thimble of whisky when we were in Scotland at a distillery, on principle) and I am so grateful for the love and support of the people closest to me who helped me get and stay sober.

This thing that I wrote last year is about the why of it all, and how making the choice to stop drinking made it possible for me to take fundamental steps toward healing my pain and trauma. I feel like it’s worth revisiting today.

Yesterday, I marked the fifth sixth anniversary of my decision to quit drinking alcohol. It was the most consequential choice I have ever made in my life, and I am able to stand before you today only because I made it.

I was slowly and steadily killing myself with booze. I was getting drunk every night, because I couldn’t face the incredible pain and PTSD I had from my childhood, at the hands of my abusive father and manipulative mother.

It was unsustainable, and I knew it was unsustainable, but when you’re an addict, knowing something is unhealthy and choosing to do something about it are two very different things.

On January 8, 2016, I was out in the game room, watching TV and getting drunk as usual. I was trying to numb and soothe the pain I felt, while also deliberately hurting myself because at a fundamental level, I believed the lies the man who was my father told me about myself: I was worthless. I was unworthy of love. I was stupid. The things I loved and cared about were stupid. It did not matter if I lived or died. Nobody cared about me, anyway.

I knocked a bottle into the trash, realized I had to pee, and — so I wouldn’t disturb Anne — did not go into the bathroom, but instead walked out into the middle of my backyard and peed on the grass. I turned around, and there was Anne. I will never forget the look on her face, this mixture of sadness and real fear.

“I am so worried about you,” was all she had to say. I’d been feeling it for a long time, and I faced a stark choice that I had known I was going to face sooner or later.

“So am I.”

Roughly 12 hours later, I woke up with the headache (hangover) I always had. For the first time in years, I accepted that I brought it on myself, instead of blaming it on allergies or the wind.

I picked up my phone, and I called Chris Hardwick, my best friend, who had been sober for over a decade at that point.

“I need help,” I said. “I don’t think going to AA is for me, but I absolutely have a problem with alcohol and I need to stop drinking.”

He told me a lot of things, and we stayed on the call for hours. I realized that it was as simple and complicated as making a choice not to drink, one day or even one hour at a time. So I made the choice. HOLY SHIT was it hard. The first 45 days were a real struggle, but with the love and support of my wife and best friend, I got through it.

2016 … remember that year? Remember how bad things got? I was constantly making the joke about how I picked the wrong year to quit drinking, while I continued to make the choice to not drink.

Getting clean allowed (and forced) me to confront why I drank to excess so much. It turns out that being emotionally abused and neglected by both parents, then gaslit by my mother for my entire life had consequences for my emotional development and mental health.

I take responsibility for my choices. I made the choice to become a drunk. I own that.

But I know that, had the man who was my father loved me the way he loves my siblings, had my mother just once put my needs ahead of her own, the overwhelming pain and the black hole where paternal love should be would not have existed in my life.

I made a choice to fill that black hole with booze and self-destructive behavior. That sort of put a weak bandage over the psychic wound, but it never lasted more than a few hours or days before I was right back to believing all the lies that man planted in my head about myself, and feeling like I deserved all of it. If he wasn’t right, I thought, why didn’t my mother ever stand up for me? If he wasn’t right, how come nothing I ever did was good enough for him? I must be as worthless and contemptible as he made me believe I was. Anyone who says otherwise is just being fooled by me. I don’t really deserve any happiness, because I haven’t earned it. Anne’s just settling. She probably feels sorry for me.

All of that was just so much. It was so hard. It hurt, all the time. Because my mother made my success as an actor the most important thing in her life, I grew up believing that being the most successful actor in the world was the only way she’d be happy. And if that would make her happy, maybe it would prove to the man who was my father that I was worthy of his love. When I didn’t book jobs, I took it SO PERSONALLY. Didn’t those casting people know how important this was? This wasn’t just an acting role. This was the only chance I have to make my parents love me!

The thing is, I didn’t like it. I didn’t love acting and auditioning and attention like my mother did. It was never my dream. It was hers, and she sacrificed my childhood, and ultimately my relationship with her and her husband, in pursuit of it.

I didn’t jump straight to “get drunk all the time” as a coping mechanism. For years I tried to have conversations with my parents about how I felt, and every single time, I was dismissed for being ungrateful, overly dramatic, or just making things up. Every single time I tried to have a meaningful conversation about my feelings, I was met with an endless list of excuses, justifications, denials. They just refused to accept that my experiences were true or that my feelings were valid. When the man who was my father didn’t blow me off, he got mad at me, mocked me, humiliated me, made me afraid of him. I began to hope that he’d just blow me off, because it wasn’t as bad as the alternative.

It was so painful, and so frustrating, I just gave up and dove into as many bottles as I could find. And I was varying degrees of a mess, for years.

But then in 2016 I quit, and as my body began to heal from how much I’d abused it, my spirit began to heal, too. I found a room in my heart, and in that room was a small child, terrified and abused and unloved, and I opened my arms to him. I held him the way he should have been held by our parents, and I loved him the way he deserved to be loved: unconditionally. I promised him that I would protect him from them. They could never hurt him again.

I realized I had walked up to that door countless times over the years, and I had always chosen to walk right past it and into a bar, instead.

But because I had made the choice to stop drinking, to stop hiding from my pain, to stop self-medicating, I could see that door clearly now. I could hear that little boy weeping in there, as quietly as possible, because he was so afraid that someone was going to come in and hurt him. Without alcohol numbing me, I clearly saw that my mother had been lying to me, and maybe to herself, about who that man was to me. I realized that the man who was my father had been a bully to me my whole life. I accepted and owned that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t do anything to cause it. It was not may fault. It was a choice he made, and while I will never know why, I knew what had happened to me. I knew my memories were real, and I hoped that, armed with this new certainty and confidence, I could have a heart-to-heart with my parents, and begin to heal these wounds. I sincerely believed this time would be different, because I was different. So I wrote to my parents, shared a lot of my feelings and fears, and finally told them, “I feel like my dad doesn’t love me.”

I know some of you are parents. What do you do when your child says that to you? What is your first instinct? Pick up the phone right away? Send a text right away? Somehow communicate to your child immediately that, no, they are wrong and they are not unloved, right? Well, if you’re my parents, you ignore me and go radio silent (for two months if you’re my mother, four months if you’re my father.) And then when you finally do acknowledge the email, you are incensed and offended. How dare I be so hateful and cruel and ungrateful! Nothing is more important than family! How could I say such hurtful things?! Why would I make all that up?

Well. There it was. I had changed. They had not. They will not. Ever.

So, I want to be clear: I take responsibility for the choice I made to become a full-time drunk. But I also hold my parents accountable for their choices, including the choice to ignore me for weeks when, after a lifetime of failed attempts to be seen and heard, I finally just confessed that I felt like my dad didn’t like me, much less love me. I can not imagine ignoring my child, who is clearly hurting, the way they ignored me. When I do the occasional bargaining part of grief, I always come back to the weeks of silence after I confessed that I, their eldest son, felt unloved by his father. I mean, who does that to their kid? After a lifetime drilling into his head that “nothing is more important than family”?

Their silence during those long weeks told me everything I needed to know, and my sobriety was severely tested for the first time. Everything I had always feared, everything I had been drinking to avoid, was right there, in my face. When they finally acknowledged me, and made it all about their feelings, I knew: this was never going to change. I mean, I’d known that for years, maybe for my whole life, but I still held out hope that, somehow, something would be different. I had known it, but I hadn’t accepted it, until that day.

During those weeks, I spent a lot of time on the phone with Chris, spent a lot of time with Anne, and filled a bunch of journals. But I didn’t make the choice to pick up a drink. I’d committed to taking better care of myself, so I could be the husband and father my family deserved. So I could find the happiness that I deserve.

Once I was clean, I had clarity, and so much time to do activities! I was able to clearly and honestly assess who I was, and why. I was able to love myself and care for myself in ways that I hadn’t before, because I sincerely believed I didn’t deserve it.

I will never forget this epiphany I had one day, while walking through our kitchen: If I was the person the man who was my father made me believe I was, there is no way a woman as amazing and special as Anne would choose to spend her life with me. Why this never occurred to me up to that point can be found under a pile of bottles.

Not having parents sucks. It hurts all the time. But it hurts less than what I had with those people, so I continue to make the choice to keep them out of my life.

After five six years, I don’t miss being drunk at all. It is not a coincidence that the last five six years have been the best five six years of my life, personally and professionally. In spite of everything 2020 took from us (and I know it’s taken far more from others than it took from me), I had the best year I’ve ever had in my career — and this is my career, being a host and a writer and audiobook narrator. This is what I want to do, and I still feel giddy when I take time to really own that I am finally following MY dream. It’s a shame I don’t have parents to share it with, but I have a pretty epic TNG family who celebrate everything I do with me.

I wondered how I would feel, crossing five six years without a drink off the calendar. I thought I’d feel celebratory, but honestly the thing I feel the most is gratitude and resolve. (Updating this a year after I wrote it to observe that I’ve gotten so used to not drinking that I didn’t even realize it had been six years until this morning. I just don’t think about it that often, and I’m so grateful that all of that behavior isn’t part of my life any more.)

I am grateful that I have the love and support of my wife and children. I am grateful that because I have so much privilege, this wasn’t as hard for me as it could have been. I am grateful that, every day, I can make a choice to not drink, and it’s entirely MY CHOICE.

Because I quit drinking, I had the clarity I needed to see WHY I was drinking, and I had the strength to confront it. It didn’t go the way I wanted or hoped, but instead of numbing that pain with booze, I have come to accept it, as painful as it is.

And even with that pain, my life is immeasurably better than it was, and for that I am immeasurably grateful.

Hi. I’m Wil, and it’s been five six years and one day since my last drink. Happy birthday to me.

blog/Current Affairs/politics

one year later

Posted by Wil on
one year later

January 6 is going to be one of those Never Forget days for me, for a long time. Maybe for the rest of my life.

One year ago today, a violent mob of domestic terrorists, inspired and commanded by an impeached fascist who lost a free and fair election, overran the United States Capitol in an attempted coup.

The coup failed in part because the defeated president was and is surrounded by people who were and are as incompetent as him, but by the end of the night, the fascist movement he leads had successfully assumed complete control of what had been called the Republican party, finally bringing into the open its enthusiastic embrace and promotion of white nationalism after keeping it hidden behind dog whistles for decades.

That was the most shocking thing for me, when I think about it. After all that violence, after the horror of it all, after we all watched our Congress come within a doorway of the unthinkable, they still stood by him. I mean. Wow.

I remember, in the evening of January 6 last year, listening to Lindsey Graham — Lindsey Graham, of all people! — declare from the floor of the Senate that he was done with Trump. Lindsey Graham! I listened to Mitch McConnell — the Senate Minority leader — remind everyone, for the Congressional record, that Trump bore responsibility for the attack. I remember watching two powerful, privileged, coddled men who were clearly shaken by what they had experienced. They seemed like people who had felt, maybe for the first time ever, a real threat to their lives, and they knew who was responsible for it. I remember feeling the faintest hope that, now that it was personal for them, the appalling violence of the insurrection would give Congressional Republicans an opportunity to actually put America first (not in the fascist slogan way, in the patriotic way), and purge Trump and his supporters from government. The McConnells and Grahams in the party got a lot out of him in four years: disatrous, unpopular tax cuts for billionaires, the most cruel and inhumane immigration policies imaginable, three SCOTUS seats, countless unqualified political operatives confirmed to lifelong seats in the federal judiciary. They got so much, moved the Overton Window so far to the right, surely they’d celebrate their victories and cut out the malignant cancer that was rotting not just their party but the entire political system in America. Regroup, and come after the Democrats in the midterms with a message that was aimed at the suburban voters who were appalled by Trump, but remain inexplicably cool with all the GOP policies that created him. A clean break was so easy and right there for the taking. I remember thinking, “If Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell are saying this on the record, it’s finally over. Thank God. It’s finally over. They are done protecting him. They’re still repugnant, but at least they aren’t full-on fascists.”


As it turned out, instead of forcing Trump and his fascists back to the fringe of their party, those Vichy Quislings put him in charge of the whole thing. It’s almost like they never had a problem with the appalling behavior that repulsed so much of America and the world: his embrace of white supremacists, his embrace and celebration of autocrats and dictators, his cruelty, his corruption, his belligerent refusal to do a single thing to protect us from Covid. It wasn’t until he almost got them killed that some of them were like “Hey, wait a second,” and even that only lasted for a few hours before all was swept under the rug. 147 Republican members of Congress, just hours after hiding from a violent mob that was there to kill their colleagues and hang the vice president of their party, stood with that mob and refused to accept the election results, as commanded by their defeated leader. When he was rightly impeached (becoming the first president in history to be impeached twice) a few weeks later, so-called “mainstream Republicans” [sic] had their clearest opportunity to reject the violence, the man who instigated it, and his movement. It would be a heavy lift with a lot of their voters, but they could do it. They EXCEL at coordinated, disciplined, communication. They could reasonably claim that maybe they got out over their skis a little bit, but now they could at least bring the country back from the brink of civil war. They could have made a vote to convict all about the Constitution. They could have made an argument to his supporters that they still thought he was awesome, but laws are laws and we all have to follow them. They could make the very reasonable argument that instigating that kind of violence and lawlessness was a bridge too far, even for them. It would have been tough for some of them. Some of them would likely face difficult conversations back home with people who believed the Big Lie, but the future of the country was at stake and like John McCain telling that lunatic woman that President Obama wasn’t a terrorist, show real leadership.

But all of that is predicated on what turns out to be the entirely incorrect presumption that there is any daylight at all between Trump and so-called “mainstream Republicans” [sic]. It would require us to believe that Trump and Trumpism was an outlier, not the logical and anticipated consequence of fifty years of Republican policies and Southern Strategy lies. Holding Trump accountable presumes that Republicans respect their oaths of office, that they hold some fundamental values other than the preservation and expansion of their own power, that they are willing to do the hard work of governing a diverse nation during extraordinary times with a commitment to improving the general welfare.

We all know how that turned out. All but seven Republican Senators — forty-three of fifty members in the upper chamber — protected him and embraced his Big Lie. In the year since, they have doubled down on it, and they have not stopped insisting that we did not see what we saw one year ago today with our own eyes.

Depending on one’s point of view, it’s either a bug or a feature, but FIFTY-NINE PERCENT of Republicans still believe the Big Lie. Fifty. Nine. Percent. The next mob is all primed and ready to go. They are even asking when they get to use their guns to go shoot Democrats. Years ago, it was Republican pundit David Frum who said that when Republicans couldn’t win votes in a democratic election, they wouldn’t change their policies to win over more voters, they’d just reject Democracy entirely. That sounded nuts at the time, but holy shit was he right.

I hope that the people behind the coup attempt will be meaningfully held to account, so this never happens again. I hope they’ll go to prison, all of them. Hannity, Meadows, Bannon, Eastman, Gosar, Boebert, Cawthorn, Hawley, all the Trumps, all of them. They are all traitors. I hope that all the Democrats, including the execrable Joe Manchin and the loathsome Krysten Sinema, do whatever it takes to secure free and fair elections in America at the federal level while they still have the chance. Because if they don’t, the next coup, which is already in motion, will succeed.

So on this one year anniversary of Trump’s failed coup, as we continue to hold him to account, do not forget for one second all the Republicans who enabled and continue to enable him. They’re evil, not stupid. They won’t fail a second time.


The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Posted by Wil on
The Ghosts of Christmas Past

The Holidays are tough in the best of circumstances, whatever you choose to celebrate. We do secular Christmas, so I’m going to talk about Christmas for the rest of this. Feel free to substitute your own festival if you like. 

blog/Current Affairs/Television

Dehumanizing people in the service of “jokes” isn’t okay. It literally gets people killed.

Posted by Wil on
Dehumanizing people in the service of “jokes” isn’t okay. It literally gets people killed.

Last week, I was looking at the news while I had my coffee. You know, like you do. I saw that Netflix had this massive comedy festival coming up, and Netflix had invited Dave Chapelle to headline.

Real quick, for context: Chapelle has repeatedly, proudly, unapologetically, hurt people I love and care about, and when the people he hurt spoke up about it, he and his supporters doubled down, hurting them all over again.

When someone I love is attacked or threatened or bullied, the part of me that’s rational and thoughtful gets shoved into a box and tossed into a locked shed while the part of me that will fucking tear your throat out and bathe in your blood takes over. Lots of us who are trauma survivors have this extreme response to things we perceive as threats (even threats that aren’t directed at us, but toward people we care about) because the fight or flight reflex that helped us survive when we were in the midst of whatever our trauma was is sort of set up to be run by an automatic system that, in my case, slips past my rational self and detonates a hydrogen bomb that doesn’t care who it vaporizes. It just knows that it is protecting me or someone I care about. Or at least, it thinks it is. A younger, traumatized version of myself needed this reserve of fury. If you get it, you get it (and I’m so sorry). I don’t need it any longer. I haven’t needed it for years. But it’s still there, and on occasion it yanks the controls out of my hands and I don’t have any say over where it’s going to go before I am in control again.

I’m not sure this makes sense outside of my head. I hope it does. Put another way, I will, on occasion, have a reaction to something that feels appropriate in the moment, but like fifteen minutes later reveals itself to be entirely not appropriate at all.

And that’s what happened the other morning. While I was reading the news, I saw that Chapelle, whose bigotry disguised as jokes has hurt, and will continue to hurt, people I love, is being rewarded for his hurtful behavior. My friends don’t deserve to be mocked because of who they are. My friends are people who at the very least deserve to exist and be happy in this world, and Dave Chapelle has made it REALLY clear that, as far as he is concerned, they aren’t people who deserve the same love, respect, and right to exist as he does. He’s made a cruel punchline out of my friends, whose fundamental existence as human beings is constantly under attack, and Netflix doesn’t seem to be bothered by that. After weeks and weeks of transpeople begging the world to listen to them about how much this hurts and how it increases the risks to their lives, Netflix didn’t only ignore them, they gave Chapelle the headliner spot on their massive comedy special.

I found this to be deeply offensive and morally bankrupt. It disgusted and infuriated me and before I knew what was happening, that hydrogen bomb went off. I stepped WAY out of my lane and suggested that comedians who were part of this festival should withdraw unless and until Netflix kicked Chapelle off the bill. I do not apologize for getting angry. I do not apologize for speaking out in support of people I love. But I deeply regret going way overboard and giving garbage people an opening to distract and deflect from the fundamental issue: Netflix is supporting a bigot at the expense of the entire transgender community.

After the mushroom cloud settled and I looked out at the smoking, radioactive wasteland in front of me, I had a few moments of reflection, and I regretted making that suggestion. It’s so easy for me to sit here at my desk and issue declarations and edicts about what people should do, and that’s just … that’s obnoxious. I can absolutely make the choice to personally boycott this festival, even though friends of mine and people I think are great are performing in it. But it was not okay for me to declare that any of them should make the same choice I would make.

Surprisingly quickly, a few C-list right wing personalities grabbed hold of my post and said I was trying to cancel Chapelle. I mean, it’s adorable that anyone thinks I have that kind of influence over ANYTHING, much less an internationally famous comedian (who I still think is a bad person), but I’m just not that important. Still, I saw how easy it was to draw that conclusion, and I decided it was best to delete that post.

So I did, and in its place I wrote something that I hoped would give context to why I reacted the way I did.

Trans rights are human rights, y’all. Don’t forget that. Dehumanizing people in the service of “jokes” isn’t okay. It literally gets people killed. Don’t forget that.

Here’s what I posted on my Facebook. I want it here for the record:

For anyone who genuinely doesn’t understand why I feel as strongly as I do about people like Chapelle making transphobic comments that are passed off as jokes, I want to share a story that I hope will help you understand, and contextualize my reaction to his behavior.

When I was sixteen, I played ice hockey almost every night at a local rink. I was a goalie, and they always needed goalies, so I could show up, put on my gear, and just wait for some team to call me onto the ice. It was a lot of fun.

One night, I’d played a couple hours of pickup with some really great dudes. They were friendly, they were funny, they enjoyed the game, they treated me like I was part of their team. They welcomed me.

After we were finished, we were all in the locker room getting changed into our regular clothes.

Before I tell you what happened next, I want to talk specifically about comedy and how much I loved it when I was growing up. I listened to records and watched comedy specials whenever I could. One of the definitive comedy specials for me and my friends was Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, from 1983. It had bits that still kill me. The ice cream song, aunt Bunny falling down the stairs, mom throwing the shoe. Really funny stuff.

There is also extensive homophobic material that is just fucking appalling and inexcusable. Long stretches of this comedy film are devoted to mocking gay people, using the slur that starts with F over and over and over. Young Wil, who watched this with his suburban white upper middle class friends, in his privileged bubble, thought it was the funniest, edgiest, dirtiest thing he’d ever heard. It KILLED him. And all of it was dehumanizing to gay men. All of it was cruel. All of it was bigoted. All of it was punching down. And I didn’t know any better. I accepted the framing, I developed a view of gay men as predatory and weird, somehow less than straight men, absolutely worthy of mockery and contempt. The culture that surrounded me, that I was part of, reinforced over and over again that gay people were not normal, like I was. Always good for a joke, though.

Let me put this another way: A comedian who I thought was one of the funniest people on the planet totally normalized making a mockery of gay people, and because I was a privileged white kid, raised by privileged white parents, there was nobody around me to challenge that perception. Everything around me, in my suburban bubble of privilege, reinforced that perception. For much of my teen years, I was embarrassingly homophobic, and it all started with that comedy special.

Let’s go back to that locker room.

So I’m talking with these guys, and we’re all just laughing and having a good time. We’re doing that sports thing where you talk about the great plays, and feel like you’re part of something special.

And then, without even realizing what I was doing, that awful word came out of my mouth. “Blah blah blah F****t,” I said.

The room fell silent and that’s when I realized every single guy in this room was gay. They were from a team called The Blades (amazing) and I had just … really fucked up.

“Do you have any gay friends?” One of them asked me, gently.

“Yes,” I said, defensively. Then, I lied, “they say that all the time.” I was so embarrassed and horrified. I realized I had basically said the N word, in context, and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to apologize, I wanted to beg forgiveness. But I was a stupid sixteen year-old with pride and ignorance and fear all over myself, so I lied to try and get out of it.

“They must not love themselves very much,” he said, with quiet disappointment.

Nobody said another word to me. I felt terrible. I shoved my gear into my bag and left as quickly as I could.

That happened over 30 years ago, and I think about it all the time. I’m mortified and embarrassed and so regretful that I said such a hurtful thing. I said it out of ignorance, but I still said it, and I said it because I believed these men, who were so cool and kind and just like all the other men I played with (I was always the youngest player on the ice) were somehow less than … I guess everyone. Because that had been normalized for me by culture and comedy.

A huge part of that normalization was through entertainment that dehumanized gay men in the service of “jokes”. And as someone who thought jokes were great, I accepted it. I mean, nobody was making fun of ME that way, and I was the Main Character, so…

I doubt very much that any of those men would be reading this today, but if so: I am so sorry. I deeply, profoundly, totally regret this. I’ve spent literally my entire life since this happened making amends and doing my best to be the strongest ally I can be. I want to do everything I can to prevent another kid from believing the same bigotry I believed, because I was ignorant and privileged.

So this stuff that Chapelle did? That all these Cishet white men are so keen to defend? I believe them when they say that it’s not a big deal. Because it’s not a big deal TO CISHET WHITE DUDES. But for a transgender person, those “jokes” normalize hateful, ignorant, bigoted behavior towards them. Those “jokes” contribute to a world where transgender people are constantly under threat of violence, because transgender people have been safely, acceptably, dehumanized. And it’s all okay, because they were dehumanized by a Black man. And the disingenuous argument that it’s actually racist to hold Chapelle accountable for this? Get the fuck out of here.

I love dark humor. I love smart, clever jokes that make us think, that challenge authority, that make powerful people uncomfortable. I don’t need a lecture from some dude in wraparound sunglasses and a “git ‘er done” tank top about how I don’t understand comedy and I need to stick to acting. I don’t need a First Amendment lecture from someone who doesn’t understand the concept of consequences for exercising speech the government can’t legally prohibit.

Literally every defense of Chapelle’s “jokes” centers white, cishet men and our experience at the expense of people who have to fight with every breath simply to exist in this world. Literally every queer person I know (and I know a LOT) is hurt by Chapelle’s actions. When literally every queer person I know says “this is hurtful to me”, I’m going to listen to them and support them, and not tell them why they are wrong, as so many cishet white men do. If you’re inclined to disregard queer voices, especially as they relate to this specific topic, I encourage you to reflect on your choices and think about who you listen to and why.

Too many of my fellow cishet white men are reducing this to some abstract intellectual exercise, which once again centers our experience at the expense of people who are genuinely threatened by the normalization of their “less than” or “outsider” status. Thirty years ago, I centered myself and was appallingly hurtful as a result.

I was sixteen and didn’t know any better. I still regret it. Frankly, a whole lot of y’all who I’ve already blocked on Facebook should feel the same shame about what you said TODAY that I feel for something I did three decades ago when I was sixteen and didn’t know any better. But you don’t, and that is why people like me need to keep using our voices to speak up and speak out.