If there’s one thing that being in a gay interracial relationship has taught me, it’s that there are way more assholes walking among us than previously thought. Let me explain. Have you ever seen the movie “They Live”? It’s a B-level sci fi flick about a man who finds a special pair of sunglasses, which reveal to him that there are skeleton-faced aliens walking around town, disguising themselves as plumber and lunchpail Joes. Well, while I don’t have a special set of Ray Bans, I do have a black boyfriend, and rather than discreetly revealing the racist homophobes around me, it moreso provokes them into acting out in the worst ways possible. Honestly I just wanted to talk about “They Live” in a blog post. Mission accomplished!
But seriously, my boyfriend remarked yesterday that he’s never had as much harassment as he’s succumbed to since he started dating me. I thought about it, and I had to agree. This weekend alone, we had some pretty shitty incidents on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday my man and I were waiting to cross the street. We were chatting each other up, and I, being pretty expressive, for some reason reached over and grabbed him around the waist and hugged him. Then the light changed and we began to cross the street. Across from us a white, middle-age man in a Land Rover was waiting to make a right hand turn. Here he had two options. Either quickly make the right-hand turn before my boyfriend and me get into his path or wait until we cross. This man decided to do neither. Instead he waited until we were just about in front of his car when he decides to whip around and turn right in front of us, giving us a death stare as he crosses our path, narrowly missing both of us.
The other incident on Sunday was less exciting. My boyfriend and I were waiting at a bus stop when a car drives past us with a bunch of 20-something guys in it. The windows are rolled down and one of them, after just passing us, leans his head out and yells, “Pussy.” I don’t know if he was making a request (that’d be like ordering a burger at a vegetarian restaurant), but I thought it was ironic. If pussy is meant to mean weak or cowardly, that’s not really the kind of thing you call a gay man who was raised on Chicago’s South Side or one who was raised in Texas. It is, however, something you might call a kid who yells slurs out of a moving car.
Obviously these two incidents highlight homophobia. The man in the Land Rover glared at us, trying to scare us with his car after I hugged my boyfriend. The punk yelling “pussy” attempted to emasculate us by calling us female genatalia. But my boyfriend and I have never received this kind of treatment…not when he was single and not when I was single or in a long-term relationship with another white guy.
Our conclusion is that while homophobia is definitely at play here, there’s something else if you dig under this homophobic shell. That’s right! Sweet, sweet racism. For some reason, people understand it is inappropriate to be overtly racist. You can’t yell the N-word from a passing car and get away with it these days. Your “bros” aren’t going to high-five you for that behavior. Rather, they’ll probably chastise you and then hold you down as they take turns farting in your mouth…as bros do. But being homophobic is still considered socially acceptable by many, and so they can mask their inner racist feelings by acting on their feelings of homophobia. It’s a twisted sort of logic, but so is trying to run over two grown adults for hugging.
I do want to say I’m not being overly sensitive or trying to be a martyr. I’m not trying to say, “Look at me! I’m double plus oppressed now! Boo-hoo! Life is hard!” No. I’m just wanting to raise awareness that racism and homophobia are still a pervasive problem in our society, in our city and even in my predominantly gay and liberal Andersonville neighborhood. I find this experience unique, and I’m glad my boyfriend and I are close enough to discuss such charged topics as sexuality and race, extraordinarily candidly. I guess that’s what you get when two armchair philosophers get together. And I find that as I learn from him and our experiences, I am in a position to share this with the rest of the world, to better inform both gay and straight society.
Because all too often we all just want to clap our hands together and say, “Well that’s that,” to things like racism and homophobia. We desperately want to believe these are nasty relics of our country’s past that we’ve overcome. But truth be told, we haven’t. Both have just become more adept at hiding, and if you are in the right position, if you look close enough, you can see that it’s everywhere.