“GET OUTTA THE ROAD YOU FUCKING DYKE!” The car swerved around me, three twenty-something US enlisted guys in crew cuts screeched so terrifyingly near me I could see the pimples on their bland, white, crazed faces. They sped off in their silver Skyline, preferred car of douchebags on Okinawa, muffler sputtering and growling as I galloped the rest of the way across the crosswalk.
I was in THE CROSSWALK. People coming from the other direction had stopped for me and saw the whole thing play out and looked as perplexed as I, as they drove past me, grimacing sympathetically in my direction.
What the ACTUAL FUCK JUST HAPPENED HERE?
My first thought was strangely “Did I drop anything as I flew across the road in fear for my life?” I glanced back. Nope I was good. Then “Oh shit, they were so ANGRY! Are they gonna come back?” I ran into the nearest building in some irrational fear, watching through the window for a few minutes to see if these guys were gonna come back and…I dunno, do something that scary, mean, stupid man-boys do to women. I am quite certain I had a little PTSD breakdown right there. After all I have been assaulted by men in the past, but those were men I knew. This wasn’t the same as those…this was….almosted expected, in my mind, and I didn’t know why. But, but, but…I was in public. It was daylight so….my breathing returned to normal. And then I just started laughing.
“They called me a DYKE? That’s rich! Wait til I tell all my lesbian friends. They will think this is hilari…..Wait a second. Just hold the phone. What EXACTLY is funny about that? Just because I am a straight woman, this is not really funny. This is some serious shit.”
Then I became really superficial.
What about me screams “dyke” anyway? I did a survey of my look du jour. Ok short, punkish hair. Check, I guess. Flannel shirt. Mkayyy. Combat boots….right. But I thought that the great Hipster Movement of the Aughts stole these things from the lesbians and, in a load of pretentious irony, made them mainstream. For hipsters.
WHY THE FUCK AM I THINKING ABOUT MY CLOTHES!?
Pure and simple, these redneck chodemuffins tried to THREATEN ME WITH AN AUTOMOBILE. IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. ON A US MILITARY BASE. USING BIGOTRY.
This is NOT Ok.
Being a cisgender, white, educated, upper-middle class woman, I can’t say I have really felt any obvious hatred toward me in my natural state. Especially as I was born blonde and lived most of my formative years and early twenties being a “blank canvas” for casting directors, which has its own sort of weird sexist intonation. “Don’t do anything extreme. Keep your hair natural and long so they can cut it if they want to. Don’t get tattoos. Dress this way.” The drill I heard since I was 8 years old. But when I got over all that in my mid 20s I rebelled and I suppose that could, in theory, make me a target. I have five tattoos now. I dye my hair funky colors and I dress in whatever style suits me on the day. I sometimes go out of my way to NOT look “normal.” Yet in the US or on US “soil,” I have never faced any FEAR because of this. I still have that white privilege “thing,” that I never really recognized as a “thing” for so many years of my oblivious life.
Like the color of your skin, you can’t change your sexual proclivities. Unlike skin color, unless you are Rachel Dolezal, you CAN hide your sexuality, although much like Dolezal, eventually it will probably come out in the end. I have been there during the first moments of several of my friends’ “out of the closet” events. The reactions ranged from hugs to rage. I never had to deal with that. The worst I ever had to admit to my parents was that first tattoo. Or that I was quitting college to move to London. I do, however, know, I have seen, the struggles of my LGBTQ friends and family, but I have never had them myself. That was why this bizarre encounter was so strange and terrifying to me. I simply wasn’t expecting that in my afternoon. Or my life.
I have lived for 7 years in Okinawa, Japan. My husband works on the base and therefore I spend a few days of the month on said base, just running errands and so forth. I have NEVER had anything like this happen to me. And it’s not just a change of “look.” I have had every hair color and style imaginable, including a very gender bendy faux-hawk. I wear outrageous clothes because without a theatre around I have to be my own character. I entertain myself with dress-up just like I did when I was a kid. I have NEVER been even verbally harassed, let alone nearly struck with a car. So why now?
My only explanation is that the new people coming over, fresh from the USA, most in their late teens and early twenties, are different than they used to be. That the USA I left 7 years ago is different. I mean OBVIOUSLY, it is different. We all know it is. I just have not seen it with my own eyes until now. I’ve been involved politically from afar, but I have been too busy flitting about Asia and living in my expat bubble that I hadn’t realized how really fucking bad it had gotten.
I am gobsmacked.
I am superbly, unequivocally, intensely disgusted.
I am not a lesbian but if I were I wonder how different I would be now. One of my closest friends on the island is a lesbian. In fact I have been friends with more LGBTQ folks on Okinawa in the past seven years than I had in all my years in New York City. I wonder now if I have not been enough of a safe space for them. If I, in my self-absorbed whirlwind of existence, have not been everything they needed me to be. I wonder if they have had this experience.
When I finally had collected myself, the kaleidoscope of emotions and thoughts subdued enough for me to continue on my journey, I couldn’t shake the idea that society, at least American society, was on a backward spiral, and actions need to be taken to prevent this, because I know, that my 30 second brush with bigotry was the tiniest tippy tip top of a fucked up iceberg that the country I was born in was headed to. Perhaps it had actually already hit that big icy fucker. If that is so then now is the time for those of us who are not saddled with a minority status to board those metaphorical Search and Rescue choppers, build some lifeboats and swim out one by one to make sure that our people are not left alone in a cold ocean of hatred.
Or at the very least not just nearly hit by cars and yelled at.
Below are some links to some very noble sites. Not to sound like a tv show but if you or someone you know needs help or if you would like to help with those lifeboats, here ya go!
The Trevor Project: A national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth.
PFLAG: “Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy.”
Pink Dot Okinawa: Okinawan local LGBTQ support group.
SPART*A “SPART*A is a group of LGBT people who currently serve or have served in the military and our families as well as veteran and uniformed allies.”
GLAAD “GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.”
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