As an entertainer I always wanted my show to be in the news, just not for this reason. The timeline of events was short, but the range of emotions seemed endless.
On Nov. 24, CAMP Rehoboth held a meeting with members of the Lewes Fire Department and Bill Buckaloo to address the effects of Buckaloo’s hate language after attending my recent cabaret show at the Blue Moon. I had planned on getting in full costume to attend this meeting, but I decided against it only because my performance attire is simply my body armor. But with support from CAMP, Blue Moon, and my closest family and friends I thought it was important for Buckaloo to see that there is an actual person under the façade of Magnolia.
The word that was used by Buckaloo to describe my recent performance was highly inappropriate and disturbing. Not only using the word, but tagging a local business and safe place along with a picture was uncalled for. I do not take the use of that word lightly. I have worked very hard to earn the platform and stage that I have and when this happened I knew I had to take advantage of it.
There was a time when using that word meant a bundle of sticks, but over the years people started using it to belittle and insult homosexual people. It’s actually very hard to remember a time when those words weren’t used to insult gay people. I first heard that word in fifth grade. I was called that word before I even knew what it meant and before I even knew I was gay. And starting in middle school I probably heard it every day to the point I heard that word while being punched, or shoved at the same time.
I have lost friendships and family relationships over that word. I hope Buckaloo understands when you use these offensive terms toward gay people, trying to be humorous, you might actually be hurting someone. A small comment can stick with a person for a very long time. Personally, this word itself has a violent history for me so it is very important he understand its meaning and its impact on people before posting it to describe anything in the gay community. The lack of awareness was probably the most shocking thing about this entire situation. The people I know in the community never use that word so it was very ignorant and inappropriate to think that he could too.
At the meeting with Buckaloo after his offensive post on social media, I suggested new levels of sensitivity training for older and new members of the fire department. It will be beneficial for them to familiarize themselves with LGBTQ organizations such as the It Gets Better Project – a nonprofit focused on empowerment of LGBTQ+ youth. It Gets Better began as a wildly successful social media campaign to provide hope and encouragement to LGBTQ+ youth who have been bullied or victimized. This organization has evolved into a major, multi-media platform capable of reaching millions of young people every year through inspiring media programming. Also, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. These organizations were created because our gay youth are hearing and seeing these insulting slurs and are thinking they were less than and sadly it’s still going on everyday.
I recommended volunteering, donating, and simply familiarizing yourself with these organizations not just to help you as a first responder but to know that bullying and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people are happening every day and there is support for those going through it.
I do accept Buckaloo’s apology. He should know that the LGBTQ+ community of Rehoboth Beach and Lewes is strong. I cannot thank everyone enough who reached out to me in the past week apologizing for someone else’s behavior. I never had this amount of support when I was being bullied in school so the fact an entire community rallied behind me to make their voices heard and to let the community know that this is not OK warms my heart.
I was so overwhelmed by the love and encouragement this week and it makes me so happy to call Rehoboth Beach my home. I sincerely hope the Lewes Fire Department knows that for the foreseeable future this community is on high alert and wanting to see the difference they are asking for.
Jeremy Bernstein performs as Magnolia Applebottom at the Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach and other venues.