Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hop Against Homophobia

I think I've been lucky in my life. 

I have always been a big guy, looked older than I am and what would be called "masculine".  So I never get much crap thrown my way.  Partly, I'm more a peace-maker and a thinker than a someone who gets in the middle of things.  And, yeah, my size and gruffness intimidates some people.  I'm okay with that.

But what that means also is that I never caught much guff about being gay.  Early in my life, it was all internalized, and I did a much better job beating myself up than anyone else could do.  Then I got over it, accepted it, made my peace with it.  I also decided to adopt an attitude of "Don't Tell Unless Asked".

That served me well for many years.  I was out at work from about 1992, when I worked for Grady, the indigent care hospital here in Atlanta, until today.  Never caught shit for it - and I made it a point to only work for gay-friendly organizations.  With my passion for non-profits, it's been easy.

But I had one experience that totally shattered me for a day and I still look back on it and remember I am not safe.  No one is safe.

My partner, Sam, and I took a vacation and drove to Florida, and we invited my friend Bill to go with us.  Now Bill is not the most butch guy.  He wears many many rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings.  Flips his hands around when he talks, and rolls his eyes on average a hundred times an hour.  He's about ten years older than me (I was about thirty-five at the time, and never paid much attention to how we acted when all of us went out), a big guy, and has a mouth on him that I admire.

Anyway...on the trip, I was driving, Bill was in the front seat with me and Sam was in the back.  We were singing along to a Patsy Kline CD and having a good time.  The windows were open, and I didn't have any rainbow flags or anything on my car, but Bill was making kissy faces out the window at passing cars and generally just being himself.

Then it happened. 

An eighteen-wheeler was beside us, looked down and glared.  Then sped up and cut in front of us, clipping the right front bumper of my car.

I slammed on the brakes, immediately pulled over on the interstate and sat in shock.  None of us could speak.  Then Bill jumped out of the car and threw up on the side of the road.  We finally pulled ourselves together and made it to Orlando, but it put a damper on the whole trip.

It was the first time I ever felt personally threatened for being gay.  That someone would actually try to harm me and my friend and my partner because of my sexual orientation.  Yeah, I've mouthed off to straight boys and taken verbal shots back and forth a couple of times, but never had I ever had that uncontrollable fear, that "Oh Hell I am going to die!" sickening feeling directed at me.

Homophobia kills.  Fear, misunderstanding, loathing, hate, ignorance - whatever it is, it is deadly.  

Ask Matthew Shephard's mother.

Ask Darnel "Dynasty" Young.

Ask Jonah Mowry, Jay 'Corey' Jones, Jamey Rodemayer, David Levitt.

Ask the young man Mitt Romney attacked.

Ask me.

Stop the hate.  Stop homophobia.

Tom.  Out


  1. ::hugs:: It's always so shocking to me to think that someone would want to harm a person for something that doesn't even affect them. I mean, really, what impact does who you sleep with have on anyone other than the person you sleep with? I grew up in Florida, and for the first year when I was living on my own and out and proud, I wasn't really dating anyone. But when I brought a woman home (I was living as a woman then) and she spent the night, the next morning my tires had been slashed. I refused to bring her back to my house, despite how much she wanted me to. I just couldn't risk it. What if we'd been outside? What if we'd been an easy target? What would've happened? I still to this day am uneasy about going certain places with my Husband. I'm obviously queer, and I'm not comfortable placing him in what I feel is a dangerous situation. It's not me I fear for - it never has been. Living out is my choice. Being flamboyant is part of who I am. But it's not my partner's choice, especially since he's essentially "gay for me." I struggle a lot with the reality that he could be hurt because of me. It's very scary and very real, and I just don't understand what gives anyone the right to act like that. That trucker in Florida - what would've happened if you'd lost control of the car? Would he have just driven on like it was nothing? Or would karma have kicked him in the face and made him help you? I think sometimes, people don't fully think their hatred through. I asked someone once, "You know, you make all these threats and say we should die, but do you really understand what you're saying? Are you really prepared to murder someone you don't even know over something so trivial as who they sleep with? Really?" She didn't have an answer. I don't think anybody does. ::more hugs::

  2. Tom, what a frightening ordeal. Thank goodness you came through it safely. (Notice I didn't say "thank goodness you weren't hurt," because you were. In a very personal and painful way.) It means a great deal that you would share this experience--the deepest cuts, the ones in our souls, are the most personal and difficult to recall. I applaud your courage, and I remain in awe of your gentle spirit. Much love!

  3. Great post! People really need to get a grip on themselves and their behavior. It's never all right to discriminate,threaten or treat someone badly because they are different than you are and we should all be free to be who and what we are.

  4. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. We tend to forget that the worst part of homophobia isn't the hurt feelings or even the inequality, but far too often it's the precious lives lost.
    I'm so glad you were all okay and I'll say a little prayer for the guy who tried to hurt you. Why? Because, should his son, daughter or other loved one find themselves in your shoes someday, I would hate for karma to pay him back at their expense.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I often wonder how people justify hate like that.

  6. *hugs* Scary story, indeed, darlin'. This issue has, I think, begun to reach a polarizing moment. Just as with the civil rights movement in the 60's, hate gets dragged out of the dark corners at times like these. Stay safe, everyone. I fear we may be entering interesting times.

  7. I will never be able to understand how someone can hate a person who they don't even know so much that they would be willing to take their life. Such a horrible thing.

  8. Tom, thank you for this post it brings it right back there in our faces that this is real. Real people get killed on a daily basis because of this. Thank fuck it was only your car that got hit and he didn't cause more damage. My heart goes out to you. One day fingers crossed people will wake up and realise what idiots they have been. Well, I can dream can't I?

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that me and my children will still be here when this becomes a non-issue. I want my kids to grow up feeling like they can be themselves and feel safe doing it.

    *love and hugs*

  10. Thanks for sharing your post. Somethings are difficult to talk about but need to be said.

  11. Slowly, too slowly, attitudes are changing. I'm so sorry that you and your friends had to endure that, and that so many others suffer such unfounded hatred, and worse. Hatred is a strong emotion, requiring a lot of energy. If only folks would channel that energy to better use.

  12. Being a straight women with many gay friends it has scar my soul so deeply to see them turn to drugs and alcohol to try and cope with so much hate when all they are trying to do like the rest of us is live the best life they can, but are not being allow to!

  13. Og Tom! How awful! Thanks for sharing that heart rending story. I'm ever so grateful nothing worse happened.

  14. I was raised by my mom and her trans gender, and very gay room mate for almost 3 years before my mom moved back home. I regret i dont remember him but mom told me plenty of great stories of our time together. But they did catch a lot of heat over it. I have a few gay friends and the thought of any of them getting hurt hurts my heart and makes me angry. Homophobia is a sad affliction too many suffer from. I hope one day folks will imagine the shoe on the other foot

  15. Thanks so much for sharing your story and honoring those boys. My friend was reading over my shoulder and asked me who they were and it broke my heart. This is such a huge issue yet it has the tendency to be swept under the rug or overlooked. Thank you for helping bring light to this very serious issue.

  16. That's terrifying, Tom. The self righteously stupid are so dangerous.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Tom. So important to remember the ones we have lost and those who have been bullied and attacked because of such hatred and violence. This is why we must keep on talking about it and sharing and trying to stop the hate. Hugs to you, Sam, Bill and everyone else who’s ever felt unsafe for just being the person you are, for being alive and living your life exactly as you should.