Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fag-Baited in the Castro

Yes, fag-baited in the Castro in front of my house by a pert pretty early-20s-something female school teacher leaning out the window of her vast SUV planet killer bought for her by her parents in Kansas.

Back in the early 80s, I was fag baited a few times in the Castro. I remember a bunch of christians driving by and scraping their fingers in the "shame on you" symbol as Gaetano and I walked hand-in-hand ... this was at a time when the christians were routinely invading the neighborhood and staging little performance autos-da-fe, as it were. I was once threatened, and scared, by a group of cholo dudes yelling "fag" from a fast car screaming around the corner at 16th and Market late at night. And some kid once showed me a knife ad gave me the finger through the window of a bus at Castro and Market. All those were in the 80s. Once in the 90s a decrepit foul homeless guy screamed "fag" at me at Castro and Market.

But tonight was the most unsettling I have ever experienced in this neighborhood.

I really do not like SUVs ... and I especially can't bear the really big ones. Cities are drowning in brain-dead, me-me-me, SUV driving. I hate it when they buzz you, I hate it when they run stop signs, I hate it when they conspire to destroy our planet. So, Wednesday last, I arrive home from the dog walk, blissful from the oxygen notwithstanding the fatigue from a long day of labor in the modern work force ... and there in the driveway is this enormous blood-sucking SUV with those blinding "screw-you" lights flooding the front of the house, idling, and this tiny little missy blabbing away on the cell phone. You know, I would have let it slide if the thing hadn't been idling. But it stuck in my craw. I tried to get her attention, but she turned so she wouldn't have to look at me. Well that did it.

I have a voice that can crack concrete. I can project right through the president-for-life black-tinted windows of the most armored gargantuan SUV ever made ... and so I let fly with a "Hey" just slightly below the decibel level of a 747 preparing to take off. Little missy snottily powers down the window, and I told her ... let me not quote exactly ... to get her friggin planet-killer out of the driveway. She bleated something about how she didn't tell me how to live so ... I cut her off and said to get her planet killer out of the driveway. This went back and forth, and at some point she tried to excuse her behavior by proclaiming "I'm a school teacher" and "my parents bought me the car." It had Kansas license plates. And when I still insisted that she park somewhere else, she stated, "You're a homosexual so you're being mean to me." I'm pretty sure that is exactly what she said. I know I heard "homosexual." I suppose part of my problem was that that she had no more wit in her tiny gray matter than to fag-bait as repartee.

Little missy, on the dole from her Kansas-bound parents, can afford to invade the heartland of gay liberation and fag-bait her neighbors who express their considered opinion that it is an obscenity to drive an SUV larger than the houses in which 75% of the world's population live. I figured that she was raised religious given the snake-spitting manner in which she recited the word "homosexual". I called her on the fag-baiting, at which point she looked at me pissy, and backed out and went away.

Unsettling ... this neighborhood is going straight, and that is the result of the real estate crisis and 'publican favoring of the rich in public policy. Not much one can do. People can go where they want, and that is the way it should be. But it raises two issues for those of us who were around before and during gay liberation. Firstly, roughly 99.99% of all neighborhoods in the world are straight. There are perhaps a half dozen, maybe 10, gay neighborhoods in the United States, and in a decade, there will be none. We've already seen the self-righteous new helicopter parents in this neighborhood demand that gay bookstores not display erotic images, and we'll see more of that. And we'll see coddled little missies gay-bait their neighbors casually and out of that special haughty preciousness that is the gift of over-protective parenting to everyday life.

But secondly, and more significantly, when we came out publicly during the high days of the gay movement, we did so not just as individuals and groups of individuals ... we also did so as people, primarily men, who had relocated and collected ourselves in neighborhoods. We had behind us a place ... really two places, the neighborhood and the bars. In Vancouver, we used to call the bars "the ghetto" ... a lot of gays guys used that language ... you'd say, "what are you doing tonight," and the reply would be "I'm going to the ghetto," which meant going to the bars. So the neighborhoods were then and have been a source of strength and organization and creativity. I know everybody likes to assume that the intermingling of open gays into other neighborhoods presages the "happy" elimination of a distinction between gays and straights, but only those ignorant of history, whether coyly or foolishly, would deprive us of the ability to fight back should our militant enemies seek to move against us. Not having neighborhoods will make us more vulnerable.

And that is what is so unsettling. The little shit in her monster SUV felt perfectly comfortable gay-baiting, just as comfortable as she feels in driving a planet-killer in a crowded city for which she has no native feel. The history and edge and charm of our city were built by its rebels and misfits and free-thinkers, and not by the rich or by the coddled ... and we are increasingly at danger of becoming just another suburban hellhole drowning in SUVs and prams and plastic packaging and the self-centered.

Gay liberation consciously took as its models women's liberation and the black movement. But the truth is that we are more like Jews, minus the genealogical and religious angles, than women or blacks. Just as with the Jews, for millennia we have been the ever-present other, always available for a timely pogrom should the powerful or the ideological or the sanctimonious feel the need for it. It is hard to imagine a full-scale attack on Jews in America, but when you think of the social dislocation of the decline of the empire over the next decades, it is not hard to imagine gays taking the brunt of some misplaced rage. We are, after all, the target of the single most virulent religious and ideological hatred in America today. One of the two main political parties has come to power in large part by attacking us.

I have been reading Tom Reiss' The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, the story of a Jew born in Azerbaijan who masqueraded as a Muslim prince in the gathering gloom of Nazi Germany. The Jews of the 20s in Germany played huge roles in society, as do gays today. They had been supporters of the war, they were nationalists, they were integrated into the economic engine as it by turns sputtered and roared. They lived and worked side by side with everyone else ... but none of that saved them.

Would the Kansan school teacher in Papa's SUV come to our aid if we are attacked? Or would she view it as a real estate opportunity?

I fulminated over this post for a long time ... and when I fulminate, I do not write. I am sitting in the garden on a beautiful day as my ex pulls out the winter's weeds. I will try to write something happy soon. Photo by Arod of some street art that appeared in an abandoned gas station at Sanchez and Market in the Castro. They plan to build condos there now; perhaps there will be room for a few more Kansan remittance babies.

1 comment:

T-Bird said...

f--- SUV's. now with gas running 4+$4 a gal, they will alls oon be on blocks as yard ornaments across the american heartland.