Some years back an acquaintance called me a “fag hag.” It wasn’t long after I’d moved to Seattle — I’d fallen into the company of a bunch of gay men. I hate this term, it denigrates both parties — I’m not a hag and my gay friends, I’d never call them fags. I like “straight girlfriend” — a term my best friend here in Seattle coined for our relationship — and I was happy to call him my gay boyfriend, I still do. It makes sense that I had lots of gay friends, I’d moved to the heart of Seattle’s gay neighborhood. Having gay friends doesn’t make you a fag hag, it makes you human.
When I woke up to the news about 50 people murdered by a gunman in a LGBT club in Orlando, Florida, my first thought wasn’t for the victims or their families. It was this: That could have been us. That could have been ME. We used to go out together, my gay friends and their straight girlfriends, and drink cheap beer and dance and ogle the boys and laugh and sing and sleep at each other houses. There was this myth that we straight girls wanted to “turn the boys” but I loved — love– these guys for who they are. It never occurred to me that they would see me like that and our friendships were — are — all the better for it.
And I loved that I could go to a club full of totally hot guys who didn’t care what I looked like, they just liked that I could dance and was funny and knew all the words to the great disco songs. It was fun and you know what? It was safe. A gay disco is a fantastically safe place for a woman to go dance because she likes to. The guys don’t care if she’s fat or nerdy. If she looks amazing, they’ll tell her and if she looks less than amazing, they won’t comment on her appearance at all because it doesn’t fucking matter, oh my god, I love this song, girl, let’s DANCE!
(If you don’t know this experience it is not too late to have it and maybe ask the DJ to play “Take Your Mama Out” by the Scissor Sisters, it’s a good disco anthem about coming out and showing someone who needs to see what your life looks like outside the closet. Plus, it’s groovy, I like it.)
“That could have been us,” I said to my gay boyfriend. “I don’t want to make it about me, I really don’t, but it could have been us.” And he agreed, because he was there with me, more than once, on 80s night or Sunday afternoons at the Timberline and that one time, maybe it was The Pony, I can’t remember, only that it was hot in there, and smelled like sweat and nowhere in the world but a gay bar can a 5’2″ woman feel completely safe in a room full of butch men. “No, it’s okay,” he said, “it’s your community too, you’re part of it.” “It’s my FAMILY,” I said, “Goddammit, it’s my FAMILY.”
24 hours later I still feel deeply saddened and, more than that, angry. This isn’t just about guns, though god knows I become increasingly nihilistic about this nation’s hope of ever enacting the most basic of common sense gun laws. Why not just issue guns to everyone and let us shoot it out, it might be cheaper in the long run, though we will have to arm women, blacks, the poor, the Jews and Muslims, the queers, yeah, the queers get guns too now. Everyone we are supposed to fear will be armed, I’m not sure how white supremacists are going to take to that idea, but whatever, second amendment, yo.
But it’s not just about guns, it’s about hate. A hater without a gun is unlikely to shoot me and my friends in a gay club and I am all for that. But hey, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Indiana, state governments all made news this year for legislating to protect those that discriminate against LGBT humans. We’ll never be able to make discrimination disappear entirely, but could we maybe not pass laws that support this behavior? We invoke the Second Amendment to justify our obsession with guns (though this militia does not appear to be well regulated) but we do not apply the same zeal to the Civil Rights Act.
Once a month I play ukulele with the Seattle Ukulele Players Association. Since I’d spent the morning grappling with the whole “that could have been us” thing, I wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed. But I dragged myself across town and when I walked into the hall, the group was crashing through The Rainbow Connection. I was hit with a wall of emotion. Later, the group asked me to lead I Will Survive. It’s been a while since I’ve danced in a gay bar, I don’t know if it’s still the iconic disco anthem, but it holds that place in my mind. A person should not have to fight back tears while playing I Will Survive on the ukulele, that is the silliest thing ever, but there I was.
Because we won’t survive if we keep feeding hate to our people, if we keep protecting hate and giving it a gun. I don’t want to make it about me because I don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of bitter homophobia, of being called names or being turned away because my partner is the same sex or, oh, there’s a lot of things I don’t know. It’s not my experience, I won’t speak for it or claim it.
But I know that my heart is so broken over this.
And that it could have been me.
- The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has a list of actions you can take; if you do nothing else, contact your legislators down to the city level to ask them to enact gun control legislation.
- The ACLU works tirelessly to protect our civil rights. They also have a list of actions, or you can become a member.
- Sing and dance with your friends. It’s hard to drag yourself out into such a gray world, but do it. Ask the DJ to play the hokiest of gay anthems and sing along, as loud as you can.