Michael and I took a stroll on the streets of downtown Salt Lake on Friday night as we often do. And as we often do, we hold hands.
We approached the intersection of 300 South and State Street where we waited for the light to change. While waiting for a green light a young blonde woman and a man about her age approached the corner of the street, also hand in hand. We waited for the light to change then proceeded to cross.
Half way across the street a car turned and a deep, masculine voice from the car yelled out “Fucking faggots!!” and sped north on State Street. Ever so politely, I waved at the car as the cowardly driver drove off in anonymity.
The eyes of the young blonde woman nearly popped out of her head, she looked over her shoulder, then at us as a look of shock spread over her face. Then she looked back over her shoulder again and back at us with her mouth agape.
“Oh my god…” She said. “Does that happen often?”
“Not all the time, but sometimes. Goes with the territory.” Michael said.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” she said with the same look of shock and astonishment. “Grow up, Salt Lake.”
The man in the car may have felt good about himself for expressing his unsolicited anti-gay rhetoric, so what was his goal? He didn’t un-gay me. If his goal was to terrify me into becoming something that I am not, then he failed. But he did accomplish something unintentionally: he opened the eyes of that women and created a moment she’s unlikely to forget. I can’t know for sure, but I would bet she is now more alert to the bigotry LGBT people face than she was before that experience. For most people who fit into the proverbial box- the box where class, race, sex, sexual orientation and religious belief are the “right ones,” then you never really have to see or experience first hand just how hateful people can be. Let’s face it, the world is cruel to those who are different and that animosity is expressed through legislation, verbal attacks, and physical violence. I’m well aware of the fact that people stare at me when Michael and I hold hands in public and for that reason I do have look over my shoulder every now and then to make sure I’m not being followed by someone who wishes to harm me simply because I’m holding the hand of the person I love.
But for every “Fuck you, faggot!” that someone calls out to me and Michael on the street more voices of “I support you!” or “You guys rock!” are shouted at us as well. Even in Salt Lake City.