She’s got red-tights on and she’s got her nose in a book. It’s pretty a-typical.
The Bigot watches her drink her hot chocolate (with Almond milk, hold the whip cream, nix the vanilla) until she picked up her copy of SMITTEN this is what love looks like / poetry by women for women.
The Bigot made clucking sounds as he reads from the table over, the front cover of the poetry anthology written by 120 lesbian and bi poets and artists and eventually, unable to restrain himself, the bigot came over to her table (uninvited, as bigots usually are).
“Young Lady. Do you realize homosexuality is a crime against humanity?” He proffers in the same calm tone he might have asked; “Do you really like Hot Chocolate on a 80 degree day?”
She might be a little vain and a little shy. She might not like putting her face in the limelight but she’s met enough people like The Bigot to know how to respond. “Says who?” (She wanted to say a great deal of other possible replies, but holds her relatively well mannered tongue).
“Says GOD” said The Bigot.
“Have you spoken to Him lately?”
“I speak to Him every day.” (a self-satisfied grin)
“He makes that much time for you?” (raised eyebrows)
“Well that’s good then. I’m glad you have someone to talk to.”
“He would talk to you too you know. If you weren’t hurting him.”
“I’m hurting God?”
“All Queers hurt God. You go against the natural order of the world. God wants us to procreate and have families, God wants us to be happy. No homosexual is happy.”
“I think 120 poets might disagree with you here.” (points to book, which looks pretty happy next to a half-finished hot chocolate).
“They’re lost souls.”
“Lost from whom?”
“Lost from God. Shut out from God because of their behavior. Their choices.”
God doesn’t talk to them because they’re gay?”
“He wants us to love one another but obey the natural laws. Homosexuality is not a natural law.”
(thinks of stories of gay penguins or cheap shots like ‘oh but it feels so good’ and then decides it’s Just. Not. Worth. It.)
“Well you are entitled to your opinion (thinks; although I’d rather not hear it) Sir”
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” (I guess he’s not getting the reaction he wanted, wonders what reaction he expected?)
“I am not sure you can speak FOR God Sir.”
“That’s right you can’t.” – Young man, green waistcoat, brown eyes, standing to the right of The Bigot.
“This is between myself and the young lady” The Bigot is not pleased at the interloper’s presence.
“Not as long as it’s about hate it isn’t”
“You one of those fag men then? Standing up for bestiality and abomination then?”
“What if I were?”
“Then you Sir, would be a sinner.”
“Says God.” (he sounds awfully sure)
“I don’t hear Him saying that.”
“He wouldn’t make himself known to you, if you were sinning Son.”
“I’d have thought that’s EXACTLY when he’d make himself known. After all why would He talk to YOU if you have all the answers? Wouldn’t He talk to the Sinner most of all?”
“Do you KNOW your Bible Son?”
“I know THE Bible Sir. I know the Koran too. And the Talmud. I try to stay up-to-date with things of importance. To avoid being a bigot.”
“You calling me a bigot son?”
“I’m saying the chances are it’s not God talking to you Sir, it’s your own fear and hate. I’m saying that if God exists He wouldn’t hate someone for being born unable to love someone of the opposite gender.”
“You’re just making excuses for criminal acts son. God would be disgusted at the lot of you.”
“Including the 120 poets in SMITTEN Sir?” I interrupt (pointing to the book, now next to a 3/4 empty cup of Hot Chocolate, I managed to get a few sips in).
“All of darnation if you intend on spreading that FILTH.”
I think of the words. FILTH. CRIME. HATE. CONDEMNATION. DISGUST. I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother who had unexpectedly converted to Mormonism a few years prior to her death.
“Grandma, I think I like girls.”
“Sure you do sweetheart.”
“No. I mean I really like girls.”
“We all like girls sweetheart.” (we DO?)
“I like girls in the way you like boys.”
A HIDEOUS SILENCE
A BOOK PLACED NEXT TO MY BED THAT EVENING, ENTITLED: Why Homosexuality is a Sin.
NOTHING ELSE EVER SAID.
I think of all the kids who had these and worse experiences. Of the kids who were kicked out of home. Of the kids like me who grew up to lose jobs, lose friends, struggle to fit in. I think of the hate that became okay to spout without any basis and without any defense. I think of the Supreme Court hearing the case right now about Discrimination in the Workplace and whether it should be legal for a person to be fired based upon their ‘sexual preference’. I think how it’s nearly 2020 and we’re STILL asking questions like that. I think of how I made the point to a friend of mine about how if it is wrong to stop people of different races from marrying, the same argument can be made against firing someone because of something they are born with. I remember my friend saying it’s not the same thing. it doesn’t say in the Bible that people of color marrying people of another race is wrong, but it does say homosexuality is wrong. I think of how that’s not exactly true and without being pedantic none of us really know the background of Sodom & Gomorrah but it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than ancient homophobia. I think of how women who menstruate aren’t forced to do so outside of city walls and how everyone eats shell fish but somehow that’s okay. How we pick and choose our hate. How we still as gays, have a long way to go and being only 2/3 percent of the world this will likely always be the case.
The Bigot has moved off. He was talking to the brown eyed man but I had tuned them out. Thinking instead of how maybe 20 years ago I wouldn’t have read a gay book in public I would have been too afraid. How there were still reasons to be afraid but I’d be dammed if I stopped now. Now I’d create the damn books myself if I had to!
The brown eyed man comes back to my table. He smiles a warm smile and says; “I’m sorry about that. I’m really sorry about that. I couldn’t keep quiet when I heard what he was saying to you.”
I smile and thank him quietly. What I really want to say is; Thank you for standing up for me. For all of us. Because so often people don’t. They don’t think it’s necessary. They don’t think it matters. They don’t think it affects us. Or that we feel any less safe than anyone else. Just like a black man walking down the road with a hoodie on. A gay may fear being raped or beaten for kissing someone they love in public. It still happens. IT STILL HAPPENS.
“I used to be a homophobe.” The brown eyed man explains. “I’m sorry but I did.” He sighs. “Until my daughter came out. And then I had to re-think everything. At first I was angry, disappointed, confused. Now I understand much better. I try to speak out for her. I want to be part of the change.”
I give him my copy of SMITTEN and I say; “This is a present for your daughter.”
“That’s terrific! But this is your only copy? You haven’t finished it yet?”
“I’m the editor of this book. I was re-reading it because it brings me so much joy. I’d be honored for your daughter to have a copy.”
I leave. It’s time to get back to work. The trees are beginning to look bare and the wind is picking up. My cup is still 3/4 empty and now it’s cold. But I feel really, really warm inside.