bethofalltrades: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] bethofalltrades at 10:36pm on 27/04/2009 under
In Boston, walking home from the Mac store and tea with a friend. Three young black men passed me on Mass Ave and I heard one say, "And it doesn't matter if they call you a faggot. Let them. Keep your head down."

I walked a little faster so I could eavesdrop on their conversation. Nothing in their manner of dress screamed "gay," but there were the slightest societal indicators in their mannerisms. Gestures that said, yes, the one with the braids who was speaking was, and the tall, slightly chubby one he was speaking to certainly was, as was the tough, quiet one who walked just behind them as they argued. They were younger than I was, early college. Maybe high school. Kids.

"No, if they call me a faggot I'm gonna walk with my head up and say, 'So what? I AM gay!'"

"Then they'll jump you."

"Let them jump me! I'm gay, I'm not going to apologize for being gay!"

"Lower your voice."

"No! Look, if they called you a nigger, would you keep your head down?"

There was a long pause. The kid with the braids had no response.

"That's right," the tall one said, adjusting his backpack with a slight swagger of triumph. "No way am I gonna keep my head down."

"But they'll jump you---" the one with the braids began to argue, before the quiet one interrupted, speaking for the first time.

"And if they jump you, they jump a proud gay man. Even if they beat you, you win."

The three of them walked in silence for a moment. I thought about speaking to them, to tell them that I understood, but as we reached the corner the quiet one felt my eyes on him and turned and looked at me.

We stared at each other for a moment, then I ducked my head to him. He smiled and nodded back at me. In that moment, we both understood.

Someone asked me recently why I insist on labels. Why not just love, she said, without regard to the gender of the person? Why be so loud about it? I didn't have an answer until yesterday, in the car with Sean, when I was finally able to articulate that the reason it is important to me to use the label is that people have been fighting, sometimes even dying for it since before I was born.

I give it a name because there are still men who keep their heads down when someone calls them a faggot for fear of violence.

I give it a name because women are being raped and murdered in South Africa for being lesbians.

I give it a name because fifty years ago, no one could.

"And if they jump you, they jump a proud gay man."

Yes. This.

Love,
Beth

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