The countenance of hate and anger was clear on the man’s face wearing a Fox News hoodie. Sometimes his upper lip would twitch into almost a snarl. His gaze did not leave me the entire time we were on the bus. My child asked me if I was safe. I honestly didn’t know the answer to that question.
A few days ago I was in the Chicago Loop to have lunch with a friend and seek job opportunities. To get home from downtown, I take a train and then a bus. Public transportation is one of the great advantages to living in an urban area like Chicago. It was very cold that day so I wore a scarf.
The scarf I own was a gift. It is very long and has rainbow colors all over it. I do not wear it to make a statement, I wear it because it is fun and makes me think of my child who is away at college.
The Man in the Fox News Hoodie
After I got off the train, I walked to the bus stop and got on. A man sat down across from me. He seemed a little younger than me, broad shouldered, shaved head, working man’s hands and was wearing a Fox News hoodie (I cannot make this stuff up). As he was getting situated, I was unwrapping my scarf from my nose and mouth. Then I saw something I could not believe.
The man in the Fox News hoodie looked at my Pride scarf and mouthed two words. “F***ing f*g”. I made eye contact with him for a few moments, he held the gaze and his face seemed very angry. I also noticed his right fist clenching and relaxing, clenching and relaxing.
That’s Homophobia Baby!
I looked away from the man in the Fox News hoodie as the bus left the stop. I looked casually into my phone. Yet I could see him still staring at me. At first I thought it was amusing. So I sent my child a quick text.
“So I’m wearing my rainbow scarf and I’m getting the stink eye from a guy on the bus. He is…swear to god…wearing a Fox News hoodie.”
A few stops and a few minutes later, the man in the Fox News hoodie was still looking at me loathsomely. I briefly made eye contact with him again and he flipped me the bird surreptitiously. It was hard to believe this combo platter of aggression and microaggression was being served to me. I sent my kid another text.
“He won’t stop staring at me! Creep!”
My child asked me if I was safe. I honestly didn’t know the answer to that question. There was a feeling of danger. This man’s expressions, mouthed words, clenched fist and middle finger were surreal and intimidating. With the strange nature of this moment, I had no idea what to expect.
Two stops later, he got off. I texted my kiddo and said the man left and it was weird. The response I got back was:
“That’s homophobia baby!!! That’s an everyday thing for some of us!”
Mistaken as Gay
The last time I was mistaken for gay that I am aware of was at a popular gay bar in Chicago. The circumstances there were far more warm and friendly as it was a flirting man trying to get my phone number. The man in the Fox News hoodie was anything but warm and friendly.
What I experienced was only about 15 minutes and several stops on a bus. That was enough. My child is right, that is homophobia and it happens to people every day. Sometimes it leads to violence, molestation or death. Other times it will be a refusal of service, adoption request, employment or a lease. This is the America we live in.
The Trauma of Hate
I am a man in my 40’s. My child and fellow classmates in college are in their late teens. They have experienced this and worse since middle school or earlier in some cases. Some almost daily. In my last article I wrote about how the “Never Safe Reality is an Unbearable State of Existence”. In that article I spoke about the how trauma affects the brain.
As a refresher, here is part of what I wrote:
According to the Blue Knot Foundation for complex trauma, the following can occur:
• Reduced activity in Broca’s area (this is the area for speech). This can make it difficult to talk about trauma and describe it with detail (Hull, 2002).
• The hippocampus becomes smaller and its structure is interrupted (Wilson et al., 2011; McCrory et al, 2010). This can affect attention and memory (Hedges and Woon, 2011; Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011).
• The corpus collosum which connects the left and right sides of the brain, is reduced. This prevents the two sides of the brain working in a coordinated way (Wilson et al., 2011)
• Changes to amygdala function (Wilson et al., 2011; Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011). This can make a person more likely to react to triggers, especially emotional ones. People can experience emotional extremes and struggle to regulate their emotions.
• Reduced activity in different parts of the cortex- frontal lobes (McCrory et al, 2012). This can mean a survival response/s is triggered in absence of danger (Ali, et al., 2011).
• Changes in ‘reward pathways’. This can mean that survivors anticipate less pleasure from different activities, and may appear less motivated (Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011).
A Taste of the Daily
For the first time in my life I got a small taste of what people like my child experience daily. I wonder if the man in the Fox News hoodie has a child. Does he care about the impact these actions have on children? Does it occur to adults who say horrible things to and about LGBTQ+ children that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in teenagers according to the CDC?
I recently had a conversation with someone who posted a meme poking fun at Greta Thunberg. When I challenged her she went on to call a 16 year old child a psychopath and then defend the behavior of calling her names. This is a woman in her 40’s. One only has to go on twitter or read the news to see what cruel and disgusting things people say about Greta Thunberg, including the president of the United States! When ABC News ran a story on me and my child some of the comments about my teenage child were horrific and disgusting.
I know trauma and violence. I also know what sustained trauma and violence can do to a person. That said, I will never know what it is like to face daily aggression over my sexuality or gender. I got a small taste and it was scary.
We need to stand up against hate and it needs to be done sooner rather than later. LGBTQ+ children and adults are dying in the name of grown men and women “speaking their mind”.
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