On a very warm and muggy evening in Washington DC in 1988 (it may have been 1989) I walked out of a DC gay bar (The Brass Rail) very drunk. I had walked home from The Brass Rail many times; it was about a 20 minute walk home.
I decided to take a shortcut through an area that was also well known as a gay cruising spot (not only was it well known, but I knew it as such very well). I had taken the shortcut many times, at all hours of the day and night, drunk and sober; I had never before felt unsafe. I don’t recall having the desire to linger there as I approached the shortcut; I seem to remember that I was far too drunk (and therefore vulnerable) to remain out on the streets for any length of time; this was a time, remember, when Washington DC was becoming known as the Murder Capital of the country.
Halfway through the shortcut, I noticed a group of boisterous young boys, all African-American, walking in my direction. (My memory calls them “a pack;” I know that this is rather dehumanizing language but it is what I thought of them then and now.) I decided then and there to speed up my walking pace and to try as walk as straight as I possibly could. I’ve had a naturally effeminate walk as long as I can remember but I had been known to “butch it up” before.
I walked past the group of boys with a quickened pace, scared out of my my mind.
Suddenly, I noticed that the voices which were fading for a second had begun to get louder again as I heard their footsteps approaching from behind me. Finally one (or two or three) of the young men were in front of me, facing me, and gave me a series of blows to the face. The other young men of the crew attacked me from behind and I fell to the ground as I continued to be pummeled by punches and kicks.
I thought that I was about to be killed (a killing that could technically be called a lynching, considering that there were anywhere from 8-10 young men in this group). At some point, my glasses were knocked off and the kicks and punches continued.
For some reason, I seem to remember having lost consciousness for a few seconds. At some point, the young men decided that enough was enough, I suppose, and went off into the night as I layed on the football field.
Eventually, I crawled across the field and somehow, some way, actually found my glasses, which were still intact; no lenses broken.
Before I lost my glasses during this gay bashing, I’s briefly noticed there was a lone man sitting in the bleachers. After finding my glasses and putting them back on, I noticed that the man was still there.
I crawled and then was able to get up and walk over to the bleachers where the man was sitting. I remember that we even talked for a few minutes; remember that this was before the cellphone era, so calling the police at that point was not an option. (And even if it was, remember this was a known cruising spot). I don’t remember what we said to one another. At some point, I think that he urged me to get home and clean myself up, which I did.
For reasons that I am not willing to share at this time, I have resented and hated that man even more than my attackers that evening/morning.
The Sunday morning massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a massacre where 50 people were killed, is the result, specifically, of Omar Mateen, a 29-year old Afghan-American who pledged allegiance to ISIS (and the Boston Marathon bombers) in a 911 call prior to the Pulse nightclub massacre; a man who, from the account of his own father, was “not religious” (although the father has an interesting biography in his own right).
More generally, according to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and many in the right wing press and blogosphere (and even the occasional commenter here at Daily Kos), the Orlando massacre is the result of Islamic homophobia, extremism, or what Donald Trump calls “radical Islam” ( words that Mr. Trump dares presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to say).
To which I say, are you fucking joking?
I’ve looked directly into the face of potentially murderous homophobic bigotry on several occasions; in the aforementioned incident in Washington DC, at a (now called) Blue Line -el stop in Chicago, and in the streets of a Southern city near a college campus (in the same state that the Pulse nightclub massacre took place).
(Oh, and in the case of that Southern city, the other gay bashing victim who tried to protect me as best as he could, since he was physically bigger, was a Muslim.)
Physically violent and murderous anti-gay bigotry comes in all colors and ethnicities.
Nor do I recall any of my attackers ever saying “praise Jesus” or “praise Allah” as they beat me and (on one occasion) a friend down.
Yes, I am quite aware that state-sanctioned executions of LGBT people take place in Muslim countries.
I am aware of the state-sanctioned filth like HB2 that comes from state legislatures here in the US.
I am more than aware of the sanctions as described in the Abrahamic holy books and preached in churches, synagogues, and mosques.
Hell, I remember hearing these words from the occasional street corner preacher (especially the one on State Street by Marshall Fields in Chicago).
And I know that these words say that people like me are not OK. Sinners. Abominations. The cause of the downfall of the black family.
There’s nothing particularly “Islamic” about anti-gay bigotry, to me.
Granted, I don’t live in a country where these beliefs actually do have state-sanctioned power behind them.
I live in a country where, nowadays, people have to take the law into their own hands in these anti-gay matters. And, in fact, many people do.
This country wasn’t always like that.
And far too many people on the GOP side (and even a very few on the Dem side, to be brutally honest about it) of the aisle are simply envious of what the Irans and Saudi Arabias of the world can actually do. And would, of course, like for things to return to the way they used to be. And will use anything to get them to that point.
I’ve come too far and experienced a little too much in my short time here on Earth to think anything else.
(And now…maybe this can get back to being the weekly column that I originally planned!)
Chitown Kev 1:58am CST
I want to add a thought here that I want on my record.
There is no functional difference between this attack on Pulse and the attack on Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston last year.
I say this as a black gay man who is very familiar with both types of spaces and the reasons that these spaces exist for my communities.
I understand that this statement might make some people mad. All I can suggest to you is to note the title of my column.