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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Intersectionally Offensive

I went on a date last night. We got drinks and ice cream (not together, obviously), then went for a walk. During our walk, a terrible thing happened. We were approaching a street corner, holding hands, and an older woman was standing on the corner. I noticed she was glaring at us from afar, but I didn’t think much of it. As we got closer she started to look physically uncomfortable by our presence and she quickly shuffled away from us in order to maintain her distance. She made a disgusted shriek as she scurried away like we were diseased. Her scampering and noises were so bizarre that we both turned around to see what she was doing as we walked by, and upon turning around, she spit at us. Don’t worry, the spit did not hit us—fortunately. We kept walking and I uncomfortably said, “okayyyy” to my date as we shared a mutual what-the-fuck glance. 

Once we were out of ear-shot, I asked, “Was that a mental illness thing or...?” She responded, “Was that a homophobic thing?” Then I was like, “Was that a racist thing?” (My date was Black.) We decided the explanation was all three. I think her reaction to us was the result of homophobia and racism, but her mental state (something seemed really off) allowed her to express those feelings so overtly to us. 

My date, being the fantastically strong woman she is, made a joke about how we were an “intersectional couple” since there were multiple layers of identities that could offend random street strangers. We laughed and carried on with our night. 

When I got home, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about this encounter. Here are the reasons it upset me and continues to occupy my mind:

1) The woman looked at us like we were disgusting and less than human. While I can write her off as ignorant, I was reminded that so many others—especially those from my hometown—feel this way about gay people, they just hide it better or say it behind my back (if I’m lucky). But their hatred and disgust are the same.

2) I felt like the main reason for the spitting was because we were an interracial couple. I hate that my date has to constantly endure racism.
3) It reminded me of all the reasons I’m afraid to be gay. When I walk around holding women’s hands, I always feel a little uneasy and hypervigilant—both for myself and for my date. When I used to hold men’s hands, I always felt more safe than I did when walking alone. 
4) I thought about my family and home community’s reactions to my coming out. I then thought about how the negative reactions I got would be multiplied exponentially if I brought home a Black woman. Thinking about this breaks my heart.
My heart is heavy for my date and her experiences in this hateful world. My heart is heavy for LGBT kids who have to confront this kind of discrimination during such a fragile and confusing life stage. I’m a grown-ass woman and this idiot’s hatred shook me to my core. But mostly my heart is heavy for people who carry blind hatred against other human beings—what a miserable existence that must be. 

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