I was called a fag again. Actually, it was something much worse but I don’t want to have to subject you to such hatred. It was jarring to me because usually my hate mail is a bit more intelligent. It reminded me of the advice given in “The Godfather.” Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Being called a fag doesn’t bother me as much these days as when I was a teenager, but that is due to years of therapy, maturity, and the world has changed for the better. But it does still bother me, not the fact that I’m gay, but that being called a fag is still a slur. A way to make someone feel less than. It is another reminder of the false hierarchy our society operates under.

But there are counterbalances to the hate. I happened to be at a luncheon later that week, relating this story, and a friend of mine who is a Jewish immigrant from Iran expressed to me how saddened he was that someone would call me a fag. It really touched me how this non-gay man was not only able to empathize with my feelings, but willing to share that empathy openly.

Frequently we recoil from associating with minority groups. It is the fear of being labeled, and ostracized along with them, that prevents us from empathizing and providing support? It is what makes my well-meaning friends drop their voice when they say the word “gay,” they don’t want to draw too much attention to it, as if by using the word they will summon either a chorus line of dancers in gold lamé, or more likely, storm troopers.

The fear of guilt by association, the desire to hide from the storm troopers, the false hierarchy of sexuality, these are all ideas that are contained in the whispered “gay,” or the angrily flung “fag.” Which is what makes my friends all the more amazing to me.

I have one friend, Shayne Anderson, whose reaction to hate, and fear, and insecurity, is to form a theater company, Theater That Matters. He’s a strapping man, with soap opera good looks, and as a non-gay man in Santa Monica he has a bevy of beauties who vie for his attention. It would be easy for him to ignore social injustices. As a tall, handsome, white, non-gay man, he could easily float above controversy and just enjoy the ease of his station.

He doesn’t do that. The first play that his new theater company wants to perform is “Bent.” The storyline involves Nazi Germany, homosexuality and coming to personal acceptance. It is not an easy play to perform or watch.

We met last week at the Tudor House to discuss his attraction to the play, and how the formation of the new theater company was going. Over tea and sticky toffee pudding he told me of his long passion for the play. He was first involved with it in college where it had a West Coast premiere.

You can tell when someone has a true passion for something. All it takes is you to ask one question and then sit back as they express their interest, and watch as they barely take a breath. I asked Shayne why this play. He then proceeded to talk for 10 minutes about the treatment of homosexuals in Nazi Germany, and how they were considered the lowest of the low, but that self-acceptance is more important than anything. He talked about how relevant today the message is, that we have to stand up to oppression, wherever we find it. He pointed to the recent Uganda law outlawing homosexuality, or even associating with “known homosexuals” and the duty to report them.

Theater That Matters was formed to produce plays that make people think. It is in need of funding, and is looking to produce “Bent” at the Edgemar Center for the Arts. Founding tax deductible donations are being sought to secure a slot for the production of “Bent” this July. The Web site is www.TheaterThatMatters.com.

We have a collective belief that being heterosexual is the norm of society, and that being homosexual is aberrant, but the truth is that there is a continuum, and we are all somewhere on the continuum — just like the continuum from intolerant bigot, to open-minded free thinker. I appreciate the enemies on the one end, for they remind me of my friends on the other end.

David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.

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