It isn’t that I haven’t been exposed to the parts of the US that hate us. My husband is from a small former steel town in Pennsylvania. Before moving to Athens, we lived in the southern tip of Newton County – technically in the metro area, but really in the middle of nowhere: one of those places where a gas station selling Confederate flags is where we did a lot of our grocery shopping.
But twice in the last two weeks or so, my husband and I have had to confront people who yelled gay slurs at us. Once on the street in Athens, and another in a gas station – by the worker behind the desk – in Nashville. The former directed at me, the latter directed at him.
In terms of the history of discrimination, neither of these really scaled high. I have written before about how I felt in danger at a Garth Brooks concert I went to in Birmingham a few years ago, and how we left a rodeo in Athens because we were afraid of being attacked. Neither of these more recent incidents made me feel in danger, but they really pissed me off, and both times I considered attacking the perpetrator.
Now, I get there’s a whole First Amendment thing going on here and Americans are perfectly allowed to say whatever the hell they want. But as someone who realizes the power dynamic at play – for every one of us there are at least six to 13 of them, depending on what numbers you believe – I feel like a strike back can be justified. It isn’t that I want to hit anyone, but it is completely unjust in my mind that people, with one or two words, can make me feel in danger by merely looking for an insult.
I was drunk during the first incident and was ready to go and put the guy’s nose through the back of his head before my husband stepped in and warned me I have a citizenship application pending, and committing assault wasn’t likely to look good on my record, especially since the US really loves to jack off hard on its merciless attitude toward criminals.
Free speech is something I hold very dear. But it isn’t an equitably distributed right. Straight people who want to fuck with us, or couldn’t give a shit about us – and that’s about half, if the 2016 election is anything to go by – can make us feel like we might be in danger by, quite literally, shouting one word at us. We can’t do that.
There is nowhere straight dudes feel unsafe because LGBT people have some sort of systemic power over them. There is nowhere they have to be worried about being killed by us, or beaten up by us for no reason other than they hate who we are. While in some places, like Athens, we have legal protections if we are attacked, we’re relying on a dodgy justice system that wanks off on traditional power to enforce it. They have the power to make us shit ourselves. And we don’t have the power to do it back. So as lovely as it would be knee a bigot’s balls into his undercarriage, we don’t really have the option to do that.
So as things stand, I am probably not going to beat a bro who yells “faggot” as me and my spouse walk past. But I’m going to send a fucking cookie to anyone who does.