The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Our Stories of Homophobic Harassment

Sarah Terez Rosenblum: Interestingly, I’ve only ever been gay-bashed when I was alone or doing nothing remotely gay. “Whatever,” you might say, you can get gay bashed alone. But, I’ve never particularly read as queer. So when men have driven past and yelled “Dyke!” from their trucks, I’ve chalked it up to a need to insult and diminish rather than a direct response to my queerness. We’ve made strides, sure, but terms associated with homosexuality still function as insults. Oh, and I also got called lesbo and spit on once while I was riding the El. Apparently reading US magazine is a super dykey activity. 
 
Valerie Anne: I’ve been extremely lucky, only having to deal with annoying comments from douchebros (including the time the mildly terrifying response to my “No thank you, I’m a lesbian” was “That’s okay, I like a challenge”) or unintentionally ignorant comments from friends (“you wouldn’t understand, you’re a lesbian” which is only true if you’re talking about actual penii…I can still empathize with a story involving an attractive man, I’m clever like that). But one of the reasons I didn’t come out until after college was because I went to Catholic school my whole life and it was basically encouraged to be mean or at least condescending to anyone who even looked in the general direction of something LGBT related. I had a friend who was harassed so badly that he had to transfer schools partway through sophomore year because he was beginning to fear for his life. Of course, there’s the double standard; my senior year, there was a rumor I was dating a female friend of mine (I wasn’t, but in retrospect my feelings were probably a bit more than platonic) and with the exception of teasing, the worst we got was a threesome proposition.
 
In college a few of my attempts to confide in friends about questioning my sexuality were usually met with eye rolls and declarations that it was just a phase. I once had a coworker who would, regularly, bring up my lesbianism without preamble and say things like, “How do you KNOW? Maybe you just need a good man. Maybe you just need to have good sex with a good man. You can’t KNOW until you’ve had sex with a man.” And I’d be like, “You haven’t had sex with a man, but you know you’re not gay.” To which I’d receive a panicked, “ACK ARGH THAT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT.” It happened more often than I would have liked, especially since I was a receptionist at the time so I couldn’t even get up from my desk to escape the conversation. But while the day-to-day frustrations are annoying, and can make me weary, I tend to “pass” as straight, and as much as the heteronormativity of that fact drives me bananas, I know it has probably kept some bigoted comments at bay. 
 
Emily McGaughy: Due to my femme-ness, I can typically walk the streets unnoticed as a gay woman.  I’ve been harassed way more for simply being a woman than for being queer.  However, there have been a few instances—mostly when I’ve been with a girlfriend, which effectively outed me to the general public—in which I’ve been on the receiving end of anti-gay harassment.  

 
After a night of cocktails in the Dallas gayborhood, my girlfriend at the time and I were walking back to the car. A creeper pulled up beside us and asked us to go back to his hotel with him. He swore he just wanted to watch; such a gentleman, right? Another time, my wife and I were leaving a restaurant and another patron walked out behind us uttering, “Faggots, faggots, faggots…” on repeat, under his breath. This gave me the perfect opportunity to use one of my favorite Schecter lines from The L Word, “We’re not fags, we’re dykes.”
 
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Chelsea Steiner: My femme presentation usually keeps me under the radar for anti-queer sentiment, but I get plenty of negative attention as a woman, and a few times, as a Jew. Antisemitism, how retro! But one night, I was out with some friends in WeHo and a guy walked by and shouted “Faggots!” at us. This took place on the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson, aka Gay Central. I was honestly more worried about his safety than my own, as he seemed to be the only straight person in a five mile radius. All these stories make me want to get on a rocket ship and go colonize another planet. Friendly people and their pets are welcome. 
 
Jenna Lykes Duggan: I, too, have had a lot of people shout or mutter “faggot” at me—whether I’m with my wife or alone. Which, like, I don’t get. At all. I often want to stop and ask them if they know what the word faggot means? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 
One of the most upsetting things I can remember happening to me was back when my wife and I were just young pups in love (probably around 20 or so). I was in the emergency room because I was (and still am) an idiot who drinks too much and gets hurt, and she was there with me. I think she was either laying or sitting on the stretcher with me, her arm around my shoulders. I’m sure we were snuggled close, and we may have kissed a few times, but it was certainly not a crazy make out sesh by any means. 
 
All of a sudden, a nurse came up to us and said, “I know you girls are young and in love, and that’s great, but there are children here.” I think I just stared at her, and she smiled and walked away. And I just remember being so sad, because I already was hurting and Steph was just trying to take care of me. Being queer was still so new to me, her words drudged up all my old Catholic guilt about being “wrong” or “bad,” but that nurse thought she was being nice. 
 
And, on the flip side, here’s a real quick story that hopefully restores some faith in people for y’all: About a year ago, I was going to Home Depot in the middle of the day with some co-workers (don’t ask…). It happened to be (bow)Tie Tuesday at work, so I was looking pretty masculine/androgynous with my short hair, bowtie, and jorts. The Home Depot was in Virginia, so I was feeling more than a little self-conscious. 
 
I had been wandering around by myself for a few minutes when an employee, a white, middle-aged man, walked up to me. I prepared myself for the worst, but all he did was smile at me and ask if I needed help in his southern drawl. I said no, thank you. And then, you guys, he told me he really liked my style! It was such a sweet little exchange, I’ll never forget it. 
 
This got longer than I meant it to. In conclusion, some people are terrible and some people are great. The end.