I hate confrontation. I absolutely hate it! In the midst of a heated exchange with someone, my heart starts to race and I sometimes even lose the ability to speak. It’s even more intense when I feel I’ve been disrespected and treated unfairly. It happened to me on June 13 just one day after the three-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando and nearly 50 years after the Stonewall Riots in New York City. I say this because no matter the period of time, we still have to fight for our right to exist amongst this sea of heteronormativity that seems to plague even the gayest of cities.
It was a Thursday morning and my husband and I were off to the gym. I’m very comfortable in my own skin, wearing pretty much whatever I want because I have a right to and if you got it, flaunt it! I was in a crop-top shirt and some tight shorts for our workout. I understand that my attire gets looks and even some stares, but what we experienced once we left the gym was beyond just a glance. As we were walking out to our car, two men (employees of another store in the Ansley Mall shopping center) were giggling and over-dramatizing their mannerisms to be more feminine. The two were staring and pointing at us. I assume it was because of what I was wearing even though I never knew a guy wearing a crop-top constituted as feminine. I just thought clothing was clothing, but apparently not. Our next stop was the grocery store to pick up a few items before we headed back home. As we checked out, I noticed a group of Kroger employees behind two glass swinging doors by the checkout area giggling, pointing at us, and laughing. I caught them in the act and made hardcore eye contact followed by my comment, “Do you have a problem?” A few seconds later, the handful of employees scurried off out of sight. A woman next to us saw the entire incident and wasn’t happy. As I asked for a manager, she spoke up saying she didn’t like how we were treated. I breathed a sigh of relief and felt like I had at least one person that was an ally to us in that store.
A manager came shortly after the incident and I told him exactly what happened. His response was, “It doesn’t matter what you wear, you spend money in our store and this isn’t ok.” Again, I breathed a sigh of relief feeling as if there were more people supporting us than against us. He swiftly walked into that office where the employees were standing and had a few heated words with them. We walked out and went on with our day, but the feelings from that incident continue to sit with me. I know I wasn’t gay-bashed or called a faggot, but the stares, laughs, and pointing fingers felt like it. I was treated differently because of what I was wearing, just like drag queens are treated differently or someone else who stands out for their self-expression.
On this anniversary of the Stonewall Riots where Marsha P. Johnson threw the first brick to jumpstart the LGBTQ rights movement, our bricks in 2019 are our words when we speak up to closed-mindedness. I know it will truly never go away, and that’s why each of us, straight or gay, have an obligation to stand up to any type of injustice. I thank the woman in the Kroger checkout line for speaking up alongside us when something went wrong. The LGBTQ community isn’t an exhibit at the zoo or a performing act under the big top circus to be gawked at, we are humans who deserve respect. Although I am very confident and comfortable in my own sexuality and skin, I still am deserving of respect whether or not you like what I wear or who I love.
To the men and women at the Kroger near Ansley Mall, just because I am gay and wear different clothing than you doesn’t make me any different than you. Shame on you for making our community feel less than when we spend money at your store so you can have a job! There’s no excuse for this type of behavior, especially during PRIDE MONTH, let alone any other time of the year! This is why we have pride marches, pride festivals, pride events, and pride parades! Your straight pride is being able to walk into a store without being called a faggot or having fingers pointed at you like you’re an escaped animal.
To those of you reading this who’ve experienced some type of discrimination, don’t stop doing what you’re doing because of hurtful words or actions. For nearly 50 years, members of our community like Harvey Milk and Silvia Rivera have spoken up and continued to shine in the midst of injustice. They weren’t silenced and continued to fight for our rights. That’s what we should continue doing today. Soon, the world will realize that we’re human beings too and that we’re damn good at loving who we love and fighting for equality in the face of hate and intolerance.