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COMMENTARY: Sticks and stones may break my bones … but your words may hurt me

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Who hasn’t heard that American idiom? Who hasn’t had its message – that people cannot hurt you with the bad things they say or write about you – drilled into memory?

The idea is ideal, but it doesn’t always ring true.

How did it feel the first time a kid on the playground called you a faggot? It happened to me. Billy was an older boy who used to torment me in elementary school, and demand my lunch money. Billy's bullying didn't stop until I summoned the courage one day and slugged him in the nose, a desperate decision on my part that I as an adult do not recommend as a solution.

How did you feel when your pastor ranted that gays were going to go to hell? It happened to me. It also led me to mistrust religions that practice hate, not love.

And how to you feel when celebrities insult others using vulgar anti-gay slurs? What message are they sending to their fans?

Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant got into trouble for screaming an anti-gay slur at a referee. He was heavily fined by the NBA. Did that stop NBA players from using homophobic slurs? Nope, weeks later, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah yelled an anti-gay slur at a Miami Heat fan during a playoff game. The NBA quickly reacted, properly, by producing public-service announcements stating that it is not OK to use hurtful language.

With all the attention that Bryant and Noah brought to the issue, did that stop the homophobia? Nope.

Two of the four judges on “The Voice” on NBC – Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green -- were caught making anti-gay insults, and were forced to apologize.

Not to be outdone, Tracy Morgan, of NBC’s “30 Rock,” shocked a comedy-show audience in Nashville, Tenn., with an anti-gay rant filled with violent imagery. He has since apologized and visited with LGBT homeless youth and families who have lived through deadly anti-gay violence.

And still the hateful, hurtful language continues.

This week, TMZ is touting its video of singer Chris Brown dropping a gay slur while sweet-talking a parking officer to avoid a ticket.

Don’t know any of these celebrities, and therefore don’t know if they are homophobic or not, but their actions suggest bigger issues that need to be confronted.

It is not OK to insult people using derogatory language. It’s not acceptable to use the “N” word, and it’s not cool to use slang that is anti-gay.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, and your anti-gay insults may indeed hurt me.