Friday evening I had to pick Beloved up (his car is dead, again. I honestly have no idea what he does to his car – beats the engine with hammers I think) where he had decamped to a pub (Beloved doesn’t do waiting – which inevitably means if he’s ever waiting for you he will go do something or go to a pub and then you end up waiting for him). If there’s one thing I dislike more than straight pubs, it’s being in a straight pub when I’m driving so can’t drink. And if there’s one thing I hate more than that it’s being in a crowded straight pub when I’m driving so can’t drink.
So I was sat there, drinking something caffeinated and dropping not-so-subtle hints that Beloved and his friend J need to finish their drinks so we can leave when one of the loud and not entirely sober group of older men next to us makes a comment about a paedophile who has been in the news lately – his comment including several anti-gay slurs, accompanied with general nodding. The group of not-entirely-sober younger men not far away agreed rather loudly and made many disparaging comments – about gay men not paedophiles (thank you homophobic media for constantly conflating the two).
Then group number three made jokes and more jokes and jokes tinged with violence and then…. Jokes which weren’t even jokes at all but were rather menacing.
It’s at this point Beloved and I decide we did not want to be there. It was also at this point that J decided she wanted to speak up.
There followed a brief whispered argument in which we said if we wanted to commit suicide we’d make the choice ourselves, thanks; and we didn’t appreciate her nominating us for Gay Martyr to Hate Crime #7889675764746 and #7889675764747. Counter of needing to speak, to reject this crap while we pointed out we also would like to remain in once piece and I already have enough scars and a trick knee, I don’t really need to add to the collection – and if a pub full of violent homophobes realised we were gay, we were the ones spending the nights in the hospital. And we left, refusing to argue any more, leaving her the choice of speaking up without us in the room, following us, or arguing with our rapidly retreating backs. She followed.
But the car journey that followed was less than pleasant and contained an awful lot of me counting to 10. But she was in full on lecture mode about the need for visibility, how these opinions need challenging, how gay people should be able to go anywhere and feel safe yadda yadda yadda “I totally need to yell 101 stuff at gay guys who won’t play grand heroic martyr for me” with a side order of how brave X Y Z gay person was who stood up loud and proud at the Westboro Baptist church flamethrower and bible verse convention. And a firm belief that everyone was just talking shit and would totally have backed down if they’d been called on it., they were egging each other on and a reality check would have probably embarrassed them.
I dumped her on the pavement outside her house in ringing silence after Beloved (for once – and thankfully because I don’t like telling his friends when they’re being arseholes) was the one to snap and adamantly refuse to listen to another damn word and turn the radio up high when she tried to continue.
Needless to say this lead to a rather shitty feeling Saturday. Between logic and guilt – and always that sense that, yes there are some fantastically brave, heroic people out there past and present who have rose above far worse than this; but it’s not failure not to be a damn superhero. There’s no shame in trying to be safe and you don’t make a safe space by spilling lots of blood somewhere until it mystically becomes safe and, even if it does feel shaming or like failure or cowardice, sometimes you have to run. The first rule of any overwhelmed force is picking your battles. I’ve been beaten before, and burned and had bones broken – it doesn’t solve anything. There’s not a mystical amount of pain we can suffer that will suddenly make things better, a number of hospital hours you can clock up to gain an achievement.
And the police? I can see it now – I’ve seen it before - “your mouthy friend was giving them attitude and they retaliated let’s file it in the big section entitled ‘no-one gives a fuck’”. It’s not like they particularly give a fuck about anti-GBLT violence anyway – especially not when someone gives them a gold plated “they were asking for it” excuse (an excuse that applies to anything from “brushed past him in a crowd” to “held eye contact too long” to “look at what he was wearing!”)
Shouldn’t be that way? Yeah – “shoulds” are all very well and good, but “is” is what we live with.
The weekend has been brought to you by lots of booze, lots of cake and lots of angry baking and curtains that haven’t been opened for several days, because sometimes the world needs to stay out there.