By Author, Blogger, and Wilde City Press editor, Jerry L. Wheeler
In terms of rights and issues, gay men and women have come a great distance from those dark days of the Fifties and Sixties when gay clubs were regularly raided. But it seems for every positive step, we must stagger back a few in the face of violence and anger. Still, the news reports come from Texas backwaters and Mississippi mudholes where really urbane people wouldn’t be caught dead, right? And those of us who live in large urban gay neighborhoods and work with other gay men and women get smug after a while. We figure it couldn’t happen here, right?
Well, it does.
A few years ago, my friend Pete and I took his daughter, Whitney, to a show at the Bluebird Theatre here in Denver. We went to see L7. Whit was kinda goth, as I knew the crowd would probably be. Being gay, I wanted to dress appropriately. In black. Eschewing the black eyeliner, I donned my Doc Martens and black jeans but the only black t-shirt I had clean was a souvenir tee from the Stonewall Bar in NYC. I didn’t think too much about it.
We had a great time at the show. Whitney, then all of eighteen, went down into the mosh pit where she sweated and jammed and tried to get out of the way of everyone’s elbows while Pete and I, aging gracefully but drinking liberally, sat at the bar in the back. Whit caught the eye of the drummer, who shoved people aside at the end of the set just to hand Whit her drumsticks. Nice. The house lights came up, and we joined the general crush for the door.
As we exited the auditorium, I got separated from Pete and Whit. I passed a thuggish-looking guy leaning up against the wall, who looked directly at my chest and read my t-shirt. His brow furrowed, then his eyes got angry. I saw then how drunk he was. I also saw him mouth the word “faggot,” or maybe he said it under his breath. It was loud in there and hard to tell. Either way, he purposefully propelled himself off the wall and hurried after me. I tried to lose him in the crowd, but he actually pushed a couple of people out of the way to get closer to me.I looked around but still couldn’t see Pete or Whit anywhere, and as the crowd bottlenecked at the door, he gained ground on me. He was about three layers of people away. “Hey faggot!” somebody yelled behind me. I didn’t have to look back. I knew who it was.
The crowd pushed me out the door and immediately began thinning out. The light at Colfax was green and many of them rushed across the street for their cars. We had parked in the lot in back, meaning I had to walk down the alley. I just got around the corner, looking for Pete and Whit, who still hadn’t appeared, when I felt his hand on my shoulder, spinning me around. “Hey, fa-”
From there on, things got fuzzy. Adrenaline brought up anger I hadn’t had to use in a long, long time, but it was nice to know it was still there. Before he had a chance to finish his word, I took him by the collar and shoved him with all my strength up against the wall. I heard his head hit the brick, and I saw the fear in his eyes. I don’t remember what I said, but I screamed it in his face and banged him against the wall a couple more times for good measure. I kicked him hard in the shin twice with my steel-toed boot and left his punk ass there. My legs shaking, I turned my back on him and walked to the parking lot at the rear of the building where Pete and Whit were waiting by the car.
Then I climbed in the back seat and cried like a baby.
I have a friend who believes rights aren’t won. They’re taken. And they’re taken by a combination of good cop/bad cop steps. Black men and women would never have gotten as far as they have with just Martin Luther King, Jr. or just Eldridge Cleaver. Both were necessary. You need someone soft-spoken to advance the agenda and a hard-ass motherfucker to show you mean business. I’m getting older now, but I still have no problem with being that motherfucker.
Because sometimes you just have to show them you’re not taking it anymore.