The Giants won the Superbowl! I went to a friend’s place to celebrate after the game, and the guests were raging. As I approached the dance floor, I spotted a cute guy at its edges. Our eyes connected a few times. I finished my solo cup of that-red-stuff and stepped forward. I knew I had to talk to him. After a bit of flirting, he saw right through me, and he was not happy. Disappointed, I decided to leave the party.
“Where’re you going? Come on, faggot. Turn around.”
When I faced those words, I expected to see the guy I had just flirted with. I expected to see his friend with him. I did not anticipate his fist racing through the air, and approaching the side of my head. After my face met the sidewalk and my back shook hands with their feet, I fought back with some quick blows — thank you taekwondo training! — and sprinted back to my apartment. They did not chase me. I spent most of the night cleaning blood from my face and head, and easing my mix of anxiety and anger.
I did not touch him, nor did I threaten him, so I was not prepared for a physical attack. Because I flirted with him and I was a guy, I needed a lesson, and it had to be violent. Textbook: hate. Teacher: limbs.
Hate is cliché and persistent. Until 1973, doctors diagnosed homosexuality as a medical condition, treatable and curable. The American Psychological Association removed such a category from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, although institutions like “Focus on the Family” and “Exodus International” continue to do the opposite today. In 1977, “Save Our Children” organized enough support to successfully overturn a gay-rights law that protected discrimination against homosexuals. In 1978, Californian voters went against a similar measure: Proposition 6. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) to uphold Georgia’s sodomy law, which prevented same-sex activity between homosexuals. In 2003, the Court overruled the latter decision in favor of Lawrence v. Texas because the U.S. Constitution does protect the liberty of consensual sexual activity between two adults, including same-sex activity.
The examples continue. Clinton put Don’t Ask Don’t Tell into practice, which was then revoked by Obama. The California public voted in favor of Proposition 8 — the “California Marriage Protection Act” — and the California Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the public’s decision. The Ugandan “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” still sits in the country’s Parliament. Gay Ugandans can already be arrested for same-sex activities, but the bill intensifies the punishments on same-sex people. The bill was reintroduced for voting late Feb. 2012. Republican Presidential nominees Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum vocally abhor same-sex marriage and activity, and cite gay marriage as precipitating society’s degradation.
Still, attitudes have improved. They tell me things will get better, and I know they will. Despite this, a hateful force in society continues to push us toward a sordid past. When contemporary leaders like Santorum channel the collective voice of the Westboro Baptist Church and the words of Leviticus, America’s social ills remain unresolved.
Super Bowl Sunday was an isolated incident. I have not experienced anything similar since, and I do not expect to. I will not live in restless anticipation of a fist or a slur. Years ago, my uncle told me an idiom: “Past waters don’t power mills.” The past has no hold on me. I won’t stay in the dark and pretend I am something I am not.
Show me why I deserved the assault. Describe how my attractions hurt you, personally. Explain to me how my existence endangers the fabric of society. In response to those who hate me without just cause, I have humility, compassion and understanding. I have the qualities of a good person. If they must ignore all of these qualities to attack my sexuality and make me appear evil, then who is the morally corrupt among us?
Tony Kushner wrote, “the world only spins forward.” We have come a long way in the past 50 years. I believe we should move further. When the right people are leading, much can be accomplished and changed for the better. Until then, I stand my ground. I will turn around and face those who hate me. I will smile when someone throws a slur at me because I know it will change. Things already have.
Chris Adams is junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.