by Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Last October, I posted a “No on Prop. 8” sign on my front gate — with staples spaced every inch along the edge to assure anyone who wanted to steal the thing would have to work hard for it. The general election came and went, but the sign has remained; not because of the staples, but because I am determined to keep it up until we overturn the California ballot initiative’s resulting constitutional amendment that denied marriage to the approximately six percent of our population that is gay. Okay, and because I’m a stubborn wench.
When I first put up the sign, I expected a neighborly frown or two in response, so I was pleasantly surprised when the UPS driver came to the door, rather than leaving a package in our designated drop-off spot, to tell me he likes the sign. And were I not suffering from middle-aged pee syndrome, I would have jumped up and down when a gal from the opposite side of the block, with whom I regularly swap mis-delivered mail, dropped off a letter and said, “I really like your sign. Thanks for putting it up.”
I was disappointed, though, when none of my local friends posted similar signs or bumper stickers. They feared the signs would be stolen and their property vandalized. And, indeed, when someone scribbled on my chili-red VW bug, in an effort to reverse the positive message of an Obama bumper sticker, I suspect my friends felt as vindicated as my self-satisfaction was diminished with each angry stroke it took to scrub the black marker from my car.
Nonetheless, while I can understand my friends’ discomfort, given the overt disdain some local leaders, media and letter writers in our town of Fallbrook, California regularly express for gays — along with immigrants, Democrats, feminists and any other designation they find threatening — I believe the failure to challenge prejudice perpetuates it.
So, the other day I ordered a bunch of “Don’t Be Gaycist” bumper stickers and, when they arrived, I taped one inside the windshield of my car and headed to the grocery store. As I puttered down the street, I automatically readied my hand for those little steering-wheel waves we toss in small towns, but to my dismay, instead of reciprocal smiles, my car and I received uncharacteristically averted eyes and even glares from folks who did not acknowledge the cheerful vibes we were putting out.
My wave hand instinctively withdrew to a self-protective posture, and I felt, well, I wasn’t sure what I felt, other than really, really uncomfortable.
I pulled into the Major Market parking lot, did my shopping and returned to my car.
That’s when recognition struck. As I put the gallon of extra-virgin olive oil and the phallic French bread in the passenger seat, it hit me like a ton of fear-fired bricks. I had made myself a target of the angry mobs of “God hates fags” sign bearers. I had thumbed my nose at the downtrodden masses virulently riled up by hate mongers into tying gays to barbed wire fencing and pummeling them into oblivion. I had stood up in proud declaration and rendered myself as vulnerable as a lesbian stumbling into the arms of gang-banging troglodytes who imagine their penises imbued with the power to screw gay women straight. I had plunked down my wheeled soapbox at the figurative Speakers’ Corner of Fallbrook and loudly offended the local populace by proclaiming them prejudiced against gays.
Oh ye gods, had I gone too far? Had my obstinacy overpowered my good sense? I knew what I was feeling: It was fear, and I wanted to get the hell home and remove the offending message before my obstreperous protest proved the death of me!
Except, well, I had to take pause.
The local populace is bigoted against gays to a disturbing degree. Prop. 8 passed with 52.3 percent of the statewide vote; in Fallbrook, it passed with 67.9. That’s a damnable number, and I have to wonder how many of the 11,298 Fallbrook voters it represents acknowledge their votes were discriminatory; I wonder how many people across the country would acknowledge the same intolerance. It’s a prejudice that cries for challenge of some sort or another, fear or no fear — and I happen to have just the thing for it.
I’m not taking the “Don’t Be Gaycist” sticker off my windshield; instead, I’m putting a few more on, and I’m encouraging my friends to do the same. Then we’ll practice ducking.
(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)
For more background on this issue, please also see:
(The political poster is by Shepard Fairey who has donated its use to organizations promoting gay rights and the repeal of Proposition 8. This version is from Join the Impact.)
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by Kit-Bacon Gressitt