I wear these things like words

I hate to begin any post with something so trite as Life’s complicated, but that seems like an easier lead-in than When I was at university, I was threatened with corrective rape.

When I was in university, I was threatened with corrective rape.

By fellow students, people I knew, people who lived in residence halls with me and served in student organizations with me, because my having a girlfriend made the school look bad, they thought. They were just going to show me what I really needed. I had to have campus security posted outside my dorm room door.

That was the same year I had to take a friend of mine to the ER after he and his boyfriend got jumped on a street corner for holding hands. There were stitches involved, because of where his head had been slammed into the corner of a newspaper vending machine.

This was also the same year I had beer bottles thrown at me from a passing truck, while walking hand in hand with my girlfriend. No, they weren’t just littering and didn’t see us; there were some slurs and the truck slowed down, pulled over, and she and I climbed over a barrier and ran through a field because we thought our lives were in danger.

It was 1991, and I had just turned 18. These experiences were hate crimes, before there was a national legal definition of such in reference to LGBT people in the US, and I was lucky they were so minor.

Yeah, I live in a world where rape threats are minor; where only20 stitches is something to be grateful for; where the fact that they didn’t catch us, means it doesn’t really count.

I don’t wear these things like badges of honor, because they’re not. I wear these things like words, because they are part of the story of my life.

Which means you don’t get to tell me, no matter what your own experiences are, how insulted or threatened I’m allowed to feel about anti-gay discourse. You also don’t get to tell me what is and is not a hate crime (it has a legal definition in the US; and we’ll try to run with that). Nor do you get to put words in my mouth when I talk about some stuff that has offended me. Believe me, if I were going to call something a hate crime, I’d use the words.

The ones that are written on me, by all the terrible things that I’m supposed to be grateful didn’t quite happen.

Life is complicated. Your mileage may vary. But don’t tell me what mine should be. Not on this subject. Not ever.

8 thoughts on “I wear these things like words”

  1. While I haven’t any right, and haven’t the audacity to tell you what to feel–gods forbid–I would like to offer empathy, and a virtual hug. I was 1, the year you were 18, and here, at least, nothing much has changed.

    So, yes. *hugs*

  2. This post is excellent, truely excellent. In ’99 my boyfriend and I were followed through our deserted uni by two guys that believed we were lesbians, and then, on finding out he was a guy, instantly switched to the idea that he was gay. All this because he was a goth, was wearing make-up and had long hair.

    Your post has been the most perfect thing that I have read today, and for that I am very grateful. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for all your words, as always. Your essays and posts help me keep believing in the power of sharing words and knowledge.

  4. Don’t you just love how they are more offended by those expressing outrage over being threatened with violence than they are by the fact that there are folks walking around with a hair trigger on their berserker rage? They truly don’t see the latter as being a problem to society at large?

  5. Thank you. I’m a tad younger than you (baby of ’88), and can gratefully say that I’ve not had someone bash my head into anything for public displays of affection with any boyfriend of mine or chuck glass at me, or attempt to rape me. I’d like to think that’s because things get better. On some days I believe that and on some I don’t. But whether they are or not, I’m grateful for men and women who remind me that many of the rights I have are the result of long hard struggle on the part of others. A large part of that struggle seems to be making sure people cannot help but hear you. So amen to not letting some bugger dictate terms to you. I still feel queasy every time I think about the rate of sexual violence, and the lazy assumptions that speech so full of hate as some of what one hears over here is okay. And I’ll tip my hat and sketch a bow to anyone calling such bollocks out.
    I don’t very often find myself in positions where someone tells me how to interpret experience or talk about it, but it came up this past week in my staff canteen, bizarrely. Ran into a woman I know from church, and stopped off to say hello. Got introduced to the lady she was lunching with, who was heavily involved with the living wage campaign in the city. I’d been to an earlier rally for it, and talk turned to the upcoming city council hearing, and planning to pack the public space. I made an off-hand remark about being happy to rock up so long as we punters would be far from the politicos involved, as I’d come away absolutely livid at hearing Ruben Diaz Jr. pontificate about equality, and Charles Rangel talking about fiscal responsibility. Got asked what I had against Diaz Jr. (reasons for disliking Rangel being bleeding obvious), said it was the fact that he’d voted against marriage equality in ’07. And then both of them turned to me and told me I was mixing him up with his father. And then the woman I knew asked if I were gay. I said yes, told her to feel free to fact-check me (re Diaz’s voting record), and went on my way, with a quiet rage rumbling away. And then I spent some portion of the afternoon hunting down the relevant data, and slung it her way.
    I’m still not sure what stung me more – the assumption that I’d take against a politico without doing my groundwork first, the assumption that I could only possibly care about marriage equality if I were queer (which might be true to some extent in my case – I’ve a host of pragmatic reasons to pay attention), or the idea that somehow I ought to just not care so much about it. I’ve not felt quite that furious in a while, and that was over a relatively petty point. I don’t think that degree of fury unjustified, and it makes me wary of trying to place a limit on the emotional responses of others. I’d hope simple manners and decency would have kept me from such a course regardless.
    I’m not sure that hugs from random queers are a great comfort under the circumstances, but if you find them so, consider one offered.
    (As ever, I mean to write a quick note, and vomit text. Apologies, etc.)

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