Bursting Through the Love of Hate

By Steve Petersen

When you are queer you have a lot of hate thrown at you for as long as you can remember. Most queer people learn or have an inherent ability to take that hate and recycle it as love. This is one of the gifts the queer community gives to the world. It’s not as celebrated as musical theater or fashion, but I believe it’s the greatest gift the queer community has to offer.

A brief aside to talk about the word queer . . . until recently it was a word that never felt good to me. Words have power and queer used to cut me almost as deeply as FAG. I’ve recently learned why it’s important.

This year I became a Volunteer Victims Advocate for the LGTBQ+ Center of Southern Nevada. During the first week of training, I learned about the growing alphabet of my community. LGBTQIA2SP+ represents all letters of the non-heterosexual community.

It’s exhausting saying LGBTQIA2SP+ and it can be confusing. The best term that encompasses everyone is Queer. As a community, we have boldly reclaimed queer. Our reappropriation is a perfect example of recycling hate into love. I now proudly use the word queer.

Photograph of Steve Petersen

Steve Petersen

Let’s dive deeper into recycling love into hate. There is a phrase I have used internally for a long time that is a key to understanding my experiences and Bursting Through. The phrase is the love of hate.

The love of hate is that gleam the hater gets in their eyes when they are threatening you or telling you how much they hate you for being different and existing in their space. This person is really enjoying themselves. That look is what I mean by the love of hate.

It’s the look you see in a movie or on TV when a seemingly kind person turns evil. Right before they turn to their evil act, their eyes usually flash red or black or sometimes with fire. It’s the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” technique.

In the real world we don’t see the eyes flash with fire, but many times I have seen eyes glow with the love of hate while being called a F*^%%#! FAGGOT or hearing, “AIDS kills FAGS dead”.

Junior High was the first time I remember encountering the love of hate. I grew up in Audubon, Iowa. Summers were filled with Little League, days at the pool and nights playing kick the can and chasing lightning bugs. Winters were filled with hopes of snow days, extreme sledding and hot chocolate.

During High School I saw the love of hate more. It wasn’t uncommon for me to hear the word fag from a schoolmate who was grinning ear to ear, with the love of hate in their eyes.

The first time the love of hate made me fear for my life was at a kegger. At keggers I’d overhear, “What’s the fag doing here?” or, “Who brought the fag?” It was hurtful, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It was typically the same two or three people.

This night, I was on the gravel road looking for a spot to pee and I encountered one of the love of hate guys. If this was on TV this would have been where his eyes flashed with fire, but it was real life, so I just saw how happy he was to find me alone. I can say with a great deal of certainty that he was preparing to kick my fag ass and leave me in the ditch for dead.

Some smack talk started when out of nowhere a badass friend of my brother’s stepped in and stopped it. I’ve always been grateful for that guy. I saw the love of hate more through high school but never with that level of danger. I went on to college and encountered it a few times but I was better at recognizing it and knew how to avoid it. I still wasn’t out but I understood myself better and knew I was attracted to men even though I didn’t have the words to describe it or really know what it meant.

Post college I moved to bigger cities where I saw the love of hate less. I eventually found my way out of the closet and met other people like me. I knew the love of hate still existed and I would see it every once in a while, but I felt less alone and more equipped to handle it. It’s possible I turned off my love of hate locator for a while because I was feeling safe.

Fast forward to 2015—living in New York City, working on 7th Avenue as an executive for Macy’s. One night I turned on the TV and my love of hate locator was suddenly reactivated. Donald Trump was emerging as a political figure; the station I turned on was covering one of his rallies.

There on my TV, in my cool little studio apartment in midtown Manhattan, the love of hate was staring right at me. Not this man himself so much as his supporters, who were being interviewed. These people were fired up and nearly everyone who was interviewed had the love of hate in their eyes. They were having fun freely talking about how much they didn’t want people unlike them in the country. There it was, the love of hate.

I had been feeling safe but that did not mean the love of hate didn’t exist. I know this man is no longer president and positive things have happened recently. That’s fantastic but it’s not enough. I need to do more and I want you to join me. This is where Bursting through comes in. Bursting through wants to depower the love of hate by calling it out. I don’t want you to put yourself in danger by confronting it but I want to remove its power.

Together our queer community can recycle hate into love and turn off every single love of hate locator forever. Go to https://www.burstingrhough.gay to learn more.

Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine - Issue 34

This article was originally published in the Summer Fun Issue of Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine, and can be read in its original format here.