2.27.2011

An event.

The day I received word I'd been awarded a sum of money for poems about loving men--in fact, a particular man--a friend of mine and I were publicly humiliated by two teenage boys for being gay.

I've been writing about this incident since it happened, recording my intellectual and emotional responses, pulling the event apart; letting it hurt me, pushing it away; being a subject to it and a master of it.

Even now, writing this blog post, my first instinct is to minimize--minimize the event itself; minimize my anger, frustration, embarrassment, and shame; minimize the significance of when and where it happened; minimize its overall importance to this community and to my friends and to me.

In fact, more than minimize, my first response is to apologize for responding. To apologize for having been hurt and embarrassed and shamed by it, which, by extension, may be an apology for being gay in the first place.

That I am starting out this writing with these hazards and explanations is, too, a kind of apology.

Dear America: you hurt me, but it's not your fault.

Dear America: you have fucked up your kids and now they are fucking me up.

Dear America: you remind me I am less.


* * * *


I can hardly bring myself to recount what happened.

To do so is not an act of empowerment. It feels more like a confession--which, again, implies that I am the guilty one, that I am the one who transgressed, that I am the one in the wrong, who broke the law, who should be punished. I do not want your sympathy, reader. I might not even want your compassion.

You should know they were recording our reaction to them on a camera phone.

This might be the ultimate crime. Not that this happened, but their harassment of us was a performance--we were made to perform for their delight, their mockery--something they could share with friends and the world via YouTube.

While we sat there eating our Chipotle.


* * * *


We had committed the crime of losing our self-consciousness.

We had been lulled into the suggestion of safety, that we were in a safe place, that our identities were no one's concern. That we were undetected. Flying under the dominant radar.

We were wrong.


* * *


More minimization: their actions were so stupid, childish. We shouldn't have cared. If we were not gay--and maybe this is my fear in sharing the story--we would have laughed. But we are gay, and we did not laugh.

My first instinct--a new one--was to rise out of my chair and beat the ever loving shit out of them.

I own that response. Look, this is my whole life we're talking about, of being literally and figuratively pushed around for seeming gay--not even being gay, just seeming gay. For something that is, essentially, only the business of someone I am actively loving. Which excludes about 307,999,999,999 people in the world.

Their joke was what you'd expect from high schoolers--something about when spring training starts, and did we know that pitchers and catchers need to show up three weeks early?


* * * *


Our first instinct, when they approached us, asking a question, was to help them.


* * * *


Our shamed reactions, captured on camera.


* * * *


That moment--the one where your personal difference is handed to you like an object, like an albatross you have to wear around your neck.

I have not healed from shame. It hurts less as I get older, doesn't debilitate me quite as much, but it continues to exist.

It waits to be called upon, then too eagerly reappears.


* * * *


This is my home people, my city. This is where I live my life.


It is not more theirs than mine. This country is not more theirs than mine.


* * * *

I wanted to kick the shit out of them. They left. My friend and I sat, speechless.

What is the right recourse in this situation? Someone please tell me because I would like to know.

I sat there, my appetite dead. Half-eaten lunch, nausea. The two boys walked by the plate glass window where we sat. I started him down. I did, I gave him the look, the one that says, "Fight me."

He stared back. Then was joined by 8 friends.

I looked away.


* * * *


Before they left, they all watched the video. I watched them watch it. I watched the 8 of them stand there, laughing.

One of them looked back at me, pointed at me, made a gesture like a batter hitting a baseball, almost fell over laughing.

Please explain what is the proper way to respond to this.

8 comments:

  1. Dear friend. I don't think there's any possibly reaction to this that would be totally satisfying. You are right on all counts here, and you are wonderful.

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  2. I wish I knew what to tell you, about what the right response might be. I don't know if there is one right answer. My guess is that the ways you've been writing about it are all some of the answers, and that it's going to take a whole pile of them to feel like you've even gotten close.

    I know you said you don't want anyone's sympathy over this, or their compassion, and fair enough. You've certainly got my anger though, and my hope: I hope your writing about this keeps getting you closer to resolving the feelings you no longer want regarding this one event. I hope your writing keeps getting others closer to not repeating it or allowing it be repeated.

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  3. This truly saddens me, but I am glad you have found words to relate this and remind us that there is still so far to go in our progress to become a society where this kind of thing does not happen.

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  4. Charlie, I love you. You're amazing. That's all I wanted to say.

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  5. When we're combated by "society-sanctioned" hatred, I don't know what kind of reaction is "called for." It does start with parents teaching kids to respect and love. When we're bombarded with reminders that we don't matter, I don't know where, or to whom, we turn for "protection." But please know that every single one of "us" has felt exactly the way you did/do! And we feel it almost, if not every single day!

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  6. Dear Charles,

    Another gay blogger, posted a similar soul-searcher recently.

    "Most times I forget the way the world looks at my life. I have never accepted the idea that being who I am is a thing to be feared or hated. I thought I had healed that vision of myself a long time ago."

    The rest here.

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  7. I am so proud to have you as a friend.

    This blog post is very affecting--when I hear stories of discrimination and violence, they're often presented in a manner of otherness--something hard to imagine which I (baby totin' lady) will never experience. It's hard for me to wrap my head around--I can only look on, there's no opportunity for involvement except as an onlooker in those stories. But this telling, focusing on shaming, implicates me, involves me. I can imagine being shamed this way, and that is a powerful, personal reaction.

    I can only hope that by encouraging identification, going a step further than empathy, you are doing something a lot more potent than beating up a bunch of teens. Although I'd be happy if the story ended that way as well.

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  8. I'm not sure what my response would have been either. I might have flipped out and gone crazy on them, esp. if I'd had some back-up. I would have most definitely pulled out my phone and started recording them and then posted it on YouTube. Reverse humiliation. I'm so sorry it happened to you, Charlie.

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