I can remember clearly, the first time the offensive term, “lezzie” was hurled at me. The word slapped me across the face and left me speechless. Just 16 years old, growing up in a tiny, rural, northern Michigan town, I had never encountered that unattractive word, much less an actual “lezzie.” The ironic part of the whole experience was that without even understanding the actual definition of the word, it had been used to “out” me before I had even presumed such a possibility myself.
It was a chilly spring morning and our high school softball team had made it to the conference play-offs. I could be found out on the pitcher’s mound, chucking the deadliest fastball in the league. Feeling like an all-star in the World Series that day, I stood there and soaked up the entire experience; every crack of a bat, the cheers of the crowd along with their ooohs and ahhhhs which followed every single pitch. The camaraderie and intense bond with my teammates made the day even more remarkable. These were extraordinary memories in the making; I knew it…we all knew it.
That particular morning, we were ahead 3 to 1 and even though my arm was tired from the continuous barrage of fastballs I had tossed across the plate, the adrenaline of the crowd kept the strikes coming. Finally, we took the field for the final inning, ready to finish them off and take home the championship trophy; and then it happened.
Mentally preparing for the first throw of the inning, my concentration was focused on the batter and my catcher’s glove behind home plate. I began my wind-up, when suddenly the silence of the moment was shattered by a loud voice which screamed “LEZZIE”! I was dumbfounded as I let go of the ball and it sailed out of control, over the batter and into the fence behind the Umpire as he announced “Ball one!” Everything seemed to stop at that moment. My eyes jerked to the bleachers, searching for the obnoxious idiot who had dared to call me such a ridiculous name and then I saw him, standing there, on the top row wearing a backwards baseball cap and sunglasses. He wobbled, obviously a bit intoxicated despite the early hour, with his hands clasped in front of his mouth creating a mini megaphone and I stood there in embarrassment and horror as he screamed the ugly word yet again. All eyes turned first to him and then to me, while the opposing teams dugout shook with laughter. My cheeks flushed while my arms and legs turned to jelly and I thought I might melt into a puddle of embarrassment right there on the infield.
Lezzie? What! My mind was reeling! I had been called a tomboy many times through the years but it never stung like this single word being tossed at me from a moron whom I had never even met. The truth is, I had actually enjoyed my rep. as a “tomboy” In my eyes the term meant strong, independent, and tough, not to mention, that I had spent much of my childhood, praying to magically wake up a boy one day. I played with firetrucks, toy guns and little green plastic army men that once belonged to my brothers. I refused to play with Barbie’s or baby dolls, and everyone who was important to me seemed ok with that.
However, this term, “lezzie” seemed derogatory and disgusting. The word sounded like a disease or a disorder and the evident shock on everyone’s face seemed to confirm this assumption. It was being used to break my stride and take away my confidence by an ignorant man who thought he was being funny. I for one was not laughing. The saddest part of this scenario was that it worked. The incident upset me so much that the coach pulled me out of the game after a walk and a few more wild pitches. Worse than all of that, is the reality that this incident is the one which remains locked in the forefront of my memory about that special day, almost 4 decades later, even though we won the game and took home the trophy.
I do have to give the jerk in the stands, who outed me that morning some credit. He was right about one thing. I certainly did turn out to be a lesbian and honestly whether anyone I meet likes it or not, I am ok with that. Just don’t call me a “lezzie” because that right “throwing” arm still packs quite a wallop and this dyke, right here has no problem calling out a “foul” when she sees one!