Moments Like These (Where People Are Repulsed By My Existence)

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Here’s a story I will never in my life be able to come to terms with no matter how many more times I hear it: a man decided to amass himself with weapons suited for war, went to the gay club, and ended the lives of 49 people in a single night. Initially it was speculated that the motive was a kiss — the sight of two men kissing, but the kind of hate that’s required in this story takes grooming. It takes meticulous, repetitive effort, from multiple vectors. This idea, though, of the kiss, has been significant enough that it’s made its way into most — if not every news source, even if later developments have contextualized that differently, have suggested that this story is not so obviously originated from a single point.

I keep thinking about the men he allegedly, maybe, reportedly saw kissing from their perspective. If in that moment they registered his presence. If for a second they hesitated. If like me when I’m in public, their heads were on a swivel, looking for every possible source of kickback. If when they did it anyway, they heard air puff, a word spit out of his mouth.

I know this moment; you do, too.

Like the time I told a white man on Halloween in an Osama Bin Laden costume he was being offensive and having him tell me I offend him everyday of the year.

Like the time I was on a bus with my girlfriend one night, felt lingering eyes on our hand holding, and when we were exiting hearing a man to our left say, “Next time I see you I’m going to rape you.”

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Like when I signed up to be a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters where they’re legally obligated to reveal your sexual orientation to the parents, and even with this particular chapter’s overflow of kids, never being paired.

Like the time I had another woman shoved at me by a man who just found out I was gay.

Like the time I heard “fucking dyke” while peacefully overlooking the lake, “fucking dyke” at that tailgate party, “fucking dyke” at that bar that was always the last stop, “fucking dyke” from that group of girls who thought I was out of earshot.

Like the time I was at a my favorite queer dance party and got locked downstairs by staff for 30 minutes because of the targeted stabbings that just occurred upstairs.

Like the time we got kicked out of a restaurant mid-meal by the owner because of a kiss.

More often than not, I find myself spreading these moments out on my bed on mornings before Pride. I sit with them, politely flick each one of them off, and gather them neatly in prep for next year’s additions. They are reminders, each one, of how things could be worse but are not, that I am still here, and most importantly: that this shit is not about me anymore.

It’s about that girl I saw at the Orlando vigil who was so young and new in her queerness that she was chaperoned by her mom. It’s about those queens who have a categorical breakdown by decade of this kind of horror, who smiled but looked tired. It’s about that person who was on the other end of the line whose words were enough for their friends at the march to say together into the speaker, “Please, you have to come. We know that you’re scared but we love you.” It’s about those no longer with us, and those who still are. It’s about you, our family.

And oh boooooy will I continue to carry those moments where people are repulsed by my existence, and use them as tools to cushion each and everyone of of you, because what they don’t seem to get is that we will continue to show up and show out for y’all despite them, even if it really is the last thing we do.

Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 208 articles for us.

118 Comments

  1. Reading this at lunch, I had to stop eating because I felt physically sick at what you have experienced.

    And again and again by knowing it is the norm, not the exception.

    Love should not need to be armor-plated.

    You should not need to be brave just to exist, but you are, gloriously so, and I thank you for it, and for all of you fierce beauties reading this too, who are exhausted but still here, still here.

  2. Don’t know you but I love you; thank you so much for writing this. I’ve cried every morning listening to the news these last couple of days, and this made me cry too, but they were a different kind of tears–tears worth shedding. <3

  3. Thank you for your vulnerability in this article Erin. I have never lost the moment of fear right before kissing my girlfriend in public. And I live in NYC. The comments, the stares, the threats really do add up over time. If it weren’t for this community and articles like this I would feel so alone.

  4. Thank you! Sad / pissed / thinking how to better student teach elementary school in the coming year… how to raise the next generation of mostly straight people to become decent, not only decent but active allies who speak UP when this is happening in front of their faces

  5. Thank you for putting this into words so beautifully. It’s jarring every time I encounter this repulsion, but I put myself out there and face it so that someday, hopefully, future generations of us won’t have to.

  6. Thank you for this piece- very well written. It brought tears to my eyes as it also made me remember my moments…far too many reminders. But like you said “I am still here and we will continue to show up and show out for y’all despite them”. We are family, let’s pave the way for others and heal together!

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And thank you to all of Autosraddle and the community that exist within.

    I am so deeply disturbed by what has happened this week. I’m so sorry for the families and those who lost their lives to such ignorant hate.

    I’m pretty solitary in regards to my existence as a queer person, i’ve alway felt it’s something i don’t think should define me. Times like this remind me that it’s important to connect with and appreciate the wonderful community of people who are fighting the good fight. I truly appreciate those who are standing up and using their voice, especially in such difficult and pressing times.

  8. I am so grateful for this site.

    As the week has progressed and the statuses have dwindled on my newsfeed, I at least know I can come here and find beautiful reflections and spaces to continue to be sad when it seems like other people are already forgetting.

  9. an unexplainable combination of joy and sadness have followed me around this week. i’ve been feeling like thousands of people are echoing my movements. all of you and the people who died.

    i started a new job monday. a new group of 30 students every week for the next 6 months, and i’ll be making sure to be open about who i am with all of them.

    love and affection to you all

    (sasa)

  10. “fucking dyke” from that group of girls who thought I was out of earshot. They and all of them know when we’re within earshot. They do this because for now they still can. Hopefully not for much longer.

  11. The first person person I can clearly remember responding negatively to my existence was my kindergarten teacher, I was five years old. My whole class joined in the negativity that she never made an effort to curtail when it got physical except to punish me when I fought back. One time I got ganged up and shoved into trash can when she was on lunch duty.

    After her it’s pretty long ass line before I ever did or looked anything identifiably queer or got called dyke while at the same time derided as a slut for sitting with my legs open.

    Something at some point twisted in me and I began to live for negative responses from people. If someone was ‘nice’ to it was immediately suspicious and I’d push them away by being awful. Sometimes it was benign grossness, being a bit creepy, other times it was horrific glory details on some past event I studied in great detail.
    It was like I completely rejected humanity because I felt rejected by humanity and wanted to burn out any attachments. There are things and details I know about atrocities and the human body that I wish I could unknow, but that just not possible.

    Sometimes the line between “fuck you I will not back down” and this old buried monstrous destructive aspect of myself that embraced and relished in negative responses blurs. Like when someone says something ignorant/nasty I get a rush of joy because I can rip them a part, make them cry maybe and it’s gets to be correct rather than cruel.
    Sometimes I still feel broken when someone is nice or kind me. Like there’s a bit of panic “what do I own them, is this a trap” or just an inability to deal with the nice and I get overwhelmed with it.

    Take pride in not backing down from those negative responses, in fighting back but don’t live for the fight or for negative responses. It’ll fuck you up in ways someone enacting violence against your person for being you just can’t.

  12. I feel very sad for you that you feel it necessary to go through this yearly ritual before PRIDE. It’s not self-empowering to collect past grievances like mementos. It’s like ripping off old scabs every year to re-savor the taste of your own blood. The valorization of victim-hood is nihilistic and self-injurious.

    As for safe spaces, there’s really no such thing. And why would there be? The world is full of dangers, and if we want to do more than merely exist in confinement–if we want to REALLY LIVE–then a certain degree of calculated risk-taking will be required. That is how you build inner-strength, self-esteem and self-efficacy; you roll with the punches, you learn from mistakes, you grow more skilled at standing up for yourself and projecting confidence, you learn not to let life’s indignities bother you.

    I say this to you as a gay woman who has learned many lessons on the path of life… The rest of the world doesn’t respect perennial victims. The world respects people who decide NOT to be victims, regardless of how many obstacles are thrown in their paths and how many indignities they’ve had to endure.

    • hi there i don’t identify as a victim and i’m actually empowered by my experiences but shout out to you for taking this entire thread of support and commitment to community and turning it into a weirdly condescending lecture!

    • Decide not to be a victim? How does one decide that?
      Malt whiskey, cocaine and pretending to be Ernest Hemingway?
      Stiff upper lip or the ole bootstraps?

      Please oh great and wise sage how does something by definition that isn’t a choice be unchosen?

      How is the remembering of reasons to be unbowed and stand tall victimhood?
      How is standing up and refusing to be knocked down for anything nihilistic?
      Nothingness is nothingness standing up is not embracing nothing, standing back up is an ethos at least. Occasionally self injurious sure, but at least it’s something.
      Seriously go watch The Big Lebowski, Walter might be a crazy fucker but he knows what the fuck he’s talking about. Or be boring and read a dictionary.

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