April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Today is a very special edition of TELL ALL TUESDAY. My guest is a man you’ve met here before. JOHNNY MILES. In the past you’ve been introduced to him as a fabulous gay erotic romance writer. Now, I introduce you to him as someone who wants to teach us how much WORDS MATTER. Take it away, Johnny . . .
This post originally appeared on QMO [(Queer Magazine Online)], April 9, 2011, in a slightly different format. To raise awareness for National Child Abuse Prevention, Rebecca Leigh has graciously volunteered to re-post with slightly different content.
Born and raised in the ghettos of New York, I was no stranger to poverty, hunger, and going without. The apartment we lived in was small and infested with mice and roaches, regardless of how much mom cleaned. But at least it was home and, because we lived in a small building, everyone knew everyone.
Because of this, and perhaps because mom was overprotective, I managed to escape some of the harsher realities of the inner city blight. Whatever the reason, I also attribute a great deal of my ability to escape to books, and the power that lies within their covers.
You see, books transported me to a different world where I could forget hunger and that we wore “Rejects” while other kids feasted off McDonalds, ate dinner out and wore Keds.
In books, I wasn’t reminded I had to wear hand-me-downs because I was growing too fast and mom couldn’t afford to keep me clothed.
But the one thing books, and their words, did more than anything else, was to heal my spirit when I was exposed to derogatory remarks and ethnic slurs. The most common were: spic, faggot, nigger.
My stepdad was very verbally abusive. He was a Puerto Rican Archie Bunker only not as funny because he meant the things he said. As a child I thought this ignorance was “a poor thing.” Imagine my horror when I realized, as I grew older, that the ignorance was a worldwide epidemic that affected a great majority of people I met.
This is why I’ve always believed in the power of words. They transcend. They are magic. Naysayers will tell you words are simply that…words. But I can tell you from personal experience that words have power beyond anything we will ever know. They have a far deeper impact on the spirit than being slapped around by an abusive parent for no apparent reason.
Don’t think so?
Faggot. Homo. Dyke. Spic. Nigger. Kike. How do those words make you feel?
I’ve always known I was different. I just never knew how or in what way. But when I first heard the Puerto Rican slang for faggot…maricón…that’s when I knew. I cringed, disgusted with the word and hating myself for being “one of those.” It was like someone had beat me, but on the inside. I wanted to die.
Each negative and derogatory remark, every ethnic slur -- whether it pertained to me or not -- was like the slash of a whip or the slice of a knife. Yes. It was that painful. Any gay teenager that has ever been bullied and verbally abused will probably tell you the same. Sadly, we can’t ask those that have been murdered or committed suicide, and all because they were different. But I think the fact that they’re no longer here should be a clue to the damage words can cause and proof that words can lead to violence.
Somehow, through it all, books -- filled with millions of magic spells -- were there to counteract what I experienced. I’m grateful. I’m one of the lucky ones.
I’m not sharing this to gain sympathy or make anyone feel bad. I’m sharing this because I believe there’s hope. Not just ourselves, but for generations to come! The key to each of us growing up in physical, mental and spiritual health -- like with everything -- starts at home.
Just like the people behind the “It Gets Better” campaign, I can tell you that it does. But I don’t think the campaign goes far enough. I think we need more than encouragement, motivation and inspiration. We need to stop and think because even the smallest of words, like the single drop of water that drips in our sink, can cause a great deal of damage.
Because of my experiences as a survivor of physical and verbal abuse, I wrote a mostly-fictional story called, “My ABC’s,” under a different pen name. I wrote it because it was my naïve hope to make parents think about the words they used in front of their kids, to stop before they said anything derogatory against a person or group of people.
I’d love for parents to stop putting people down for being “different.” All that does is perpetuate hate and negativity in a world already bursting at the seams with natural disasters affecting us all. Do we truly need one more thing to add to the human drama?
Perhaps I’m looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It’s something I’ve always been accused of. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that if I can make just one person aware, make them look at their own wounds, then maybe they’d think twice about using words that are so horribly damaging to our souls.
“My ABC’s” is not an easy read. It’s dark and takes you places you might not want to go. I’d go as far as to say that anyone who’s had a violent childhood or was sexually abused, probably shouldn’t read this story unless they’re already in therapy.
I feel strongly about the message in the book. I think it’s important for people to read “My ABC’s” because I really want our emotional baggage -- as one race, the human race, -- to disappear. The only way I can think of to eliminate that damage is to eradicate derogatory remarks and ethnic slurs from our vocabulary.
If just one person gets the message, perhaps it will spread, and the next generation will never have to experience any kind of abuse or bullying.
“My ABCs” is currently as both, an e-book and trade paperback. To find out more about the e-book, please click: HERE. For the trade paperback, please click: HERE.
BLOGGER’S NOTE: I was honored when Johnny let me read “My ABCs.” He warned me ahead of time that the subject matter may be difficult for some readers. I’ll admit that I was apprehensive . . . not because I was afraid of the words, but because I was afraid of the memories. I too am a survivor. I survived mental, verbal, and sexual abuse. Reading Johnny’s story was cathartic. But you do not have to be a survivor to be moved by “My ABCs.” You don’t have to know someone who has been or is being abused for this book to move you. And whether you fall into any of these categories or not, this is a must read story. Thank you so much Johnny for writing “My ABCs,” for publishing the book, and for joining me on my blog to talk about the book and the POWER OF WORDS.
Johnny Miles has been writing erotica since 1985. His work has appeared in various magazines but it wasn’t until 2008 that he began to take writing seriously. That’s when he submitted his first m/m romance, Casa-Rodrigo, to e-publisher Loose Id. His second novel, Lauderdale-Hearts, was also released by Loose Id. Now, Johnny is spreading his wings and branching out into different genres.
“My ABCs” is the fictional account of a little boy who endures, physical, sexual and verbal abuse. But it’s more than that. The book shows how words frequently do far more damage than anything else a person can endure because it is a subtle form of emotional bullying; whether directed at children, spouses, friends, even other cultures. In the end, the damage cause by verbal abuse -- specifically ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks -- can lead to violence from a person who has been conditioned that it’s okay because mommy and daddy said so. So the next time you hear the expression, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me,” think again.
Johnny is currently working on a third romance entitled “Learning To Samba.” He currently lives in Fort Lauderdale with his partner (and silent sufferer) of 15 years, along with 4 lunatic Pugs and a prissy, Prima Donna cat.
His romance novels are available through Loose Id. For more information about the author, you can visit his website.