The barriers erected by prejudice always amaze me after they are gone. I have fought for women's rights, for civil rights for blacks, and for gay rights. But it is the latter which has claimed my greatest outrage. I think it is because I have been more seriously threatened as a gay person -- as a lesbian.
In Manhattan, two cops called me "faggot," forced me into an alley and pushed me around. I think they wanted to hurt me very badly. My friends intervened by refusing to leave the entrance to the alley so the cops no longer had the privacy to wreak their vengeance.
In Montana, my car was soaped with the word "faggot." This was not long before a known gay woman disappeared -- never to be found -- in a nearby township.
In Ithaca, N.Y., I was evicted from my apartment for being gay. How did they know? The town newspaper identified me as, "Cornell's first out lesbian professor."
In a Manhattan pizza parlor, a crazy street guy repeatedly stabbed me with his cane, shouting, "You the boy or the girl? Huh? Huh?" Two gay guys who were passing by saw it through the window and helped me out.
I have been called names, spit on, left out and disliked because I am gay. But I have not been thrown out of the military. Why? I would never have been so foolish as to enlist. Why go where you aren't wanted? We have enough trouble, don't we? We can stand raids on our bars by cops, we can brave anti-gay immigration laws, we can see our heroes gunned down, and we can still hold hands with pride. But why go asking for trouble? If you are gay, it finds you soon enough. The reality of hate crimes against gays may still be debated in the straight world, but we know the truth.
That's why whenever I hear the argument advanced that gays aren't really discriminated against, a part of me laughs. Inside that is, down in a secret place. It is here that I harbor a meme that believes all straights want to kill all gays. I don't mean this literally. But I do mean it figuratively. Straight people are the enemy. And it doesn't matter how well-meaning they appear or how evenhanded they seem. My little gay self knows that straights cannot be trusted.
Everyone is so worried about whether or not gays can be trusted. For me, it is the other way around. I've had friends who turned their back as soon as they "knew." My master's thesis adviser told me to excise the gay "stuff" from my dissertation. Somehow, she didn't understand that when the client asked if I was gay, and I said yes, I forged a bond so strong that my client was able to overcome her agoraphobia.
There's much more to say. But a part of me is less than transported by all the straight military types who now support gays in their ranks. Yes, I know, another milestone! Comparable to when the APA said homosexuality is not a mental illness. Fist pump. Yahoo. But they always knew it, didn't they? It's all politics. Recruitment is down. An all-volunteer military needs all the able bodies it can get.