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I Wish I Hadn't Heard It
Speechless, but getting ready for the next time. And there will probably be a next time.
I heard something yesterday that really bothered me.
I was underground at the Capitol Hill transit station, waiting for the crowd to exit the newly-arrived subway train so I could step onto it and head home after a tough set of back squats at my gym.
Now, you need to know, dear reader, that the Capitol Hill neighborhood is the gayest part of Seattle.
Capitol Hill’s got gay bars, queer gift shops, rainbow crosswalks, tons of restaurants and cafes, the coolest bookstore in all of Seattle, and a big old sex toys shop right next to the longest-running lesbian bar in America. To top it all off, there’s Big Mario’s, where you can actually get an almost decent New York slice. (Seattle still has a lot to learn about pizza.)
As you can tell, this is one fucking cool neighborhood.
I love going to Capitol Hill because even though it’s an urban area with street crime and a fair number of drug-addicted folks, there are also many young people and this pervasive feeling of being ALIVE.
I see women who have fades like me and there are men wearing tank tops that shout “Queen!” in pink letters — and even the skater bros in the park share the ramps with transgender women doing kicks and ollies.
Here, we are all safe — or as close as we can be, lately.
In a country where we are witnessing (and not seeming to very effectively stop) the rise of the Christian Taliban, safety has become kinda important again to those of us who don’t look like Lauren and Ron.
Then This Happened
So it was extra-disconcerting when, as the crowd of people stepped off the train and passed me, I spotted these two 20-something women as one said to the other, “Get ready, you’re going to see LOTS of faggots here.”
Not just for her grammar (that should be “many” and not "lots”, you BEEYOTCH) but for the fact that in 20motherfucking3, someone had just spoken a gay slur here in my gay wonderland.
And this woman had said it LOUD, like she wanted it to be heard — here among a crowd of people that was likely at least half queer or queer-adjacent people, maybe more.
It was especially cruel.
(And yes, if you’re playing American Taliban Bingo, she appeared to be a long-haired white woman.)
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And Then I Did … Nothing
My mouth opened but somehow I was speechless.
Me, the quick-witted woman of retort had zippo, zero, nada.
My part of the crowd continued pushing forward into the train car and although my feet moved, my neck stayed turned and I saw the thin, black-dressed back of this rude woman disappear into everyone else boarding the escalator.
As the doors closed, I wanted to run out and follow her up the stairs and ask her, “Who the hell do you think you are? What makes you think it’s okay to use that hurtful word about other human beings? Especially here?”
But I didn’t. I stayed on the train. And her remark has bothered me ever since.
Why Would She Say That?
I’ve tried to imagine reasons why she would use that word —
Did she just not know? (Impossible.)
Did she think she had reclaimed the word? (Not possible — she wasn’t a gay man so there’s no even going there.)
And the only answer I could come up with?
The cruelty was the point.
Saying it loud in that crowd was the point.
Saying that word in the gayborhood gave her a thrill, a feeling of superiority over us. She could use that slur in the middle of us and — look — nothing happened.
Sometimes, I wish there were sudden physical consequences for cruelty.
Like a punch in the face
A kick to the shins
Or a lightning bolt from the sky
Something to make jerks think twice before they foist their wretchedness upon others again.
But Writers … Write
Yet, that’s not my way. Never has been. Somewhere around the age of 3, my mother told me to “use my words” and I’ve been using them ever since.
Not yesterday, though. My words didn’t come fast enough.
So, instead, I write them here — and urge you to be prepared for when you hear such a slur in your midst … because if it can happen in the Seattle gayborhood, it can happen anywhere. And it’s not happening now due to ignorance. Nope.
Cruelty is the point. This is the stage we have reached in America. And that makes me a bit scared for what comes next.
But I’m not backing down and I hope you don’t, either. Because cruel is not who we are — and it’s not what we’ll accept for ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors.
We are free and we are all in this together.