On the Road to Equality: Reflections on the Gay Community’s Political Progress—and Its Future
The week after Barack Obama was elected President, I attended a music festival at Arizona State University, in Tempe. Because Veterans Day was the following Tuesday, it was a party weekend at the school, and thousands of students swarmed the main strip. The central event of the festival ran long, and around midnight I went with another participant, the writer and filmmaker Paul Festa, in search of somewhere to eat. The only place we could find was a Jack in the Box.
We gave our orders at the drive-through window. A car was idling there, with several college students inside. Moments later, a second car roared the wrong way up the drive-through lane and screeched to a halt. A visibly drunk young man, tall and blond, wearing a standard collegiate uniform of T-shirt over long-sleeved T and jeans, lurched out, shouting, “Some whore called me a faggot!” The cashier handed Paul a strawberry milkshake. Paul and I are both gay; we traded uneasy glances while the guy carried on.
“My parents raised me right,” the blond guy hollered at the students in the second car, who turned out to be his friends. “And I’m proud of who I am.” Paul and I looked at each other again, now in amazement.
A beefy, sour-faced guy wearing a backward baseball cap came around the corner. This, evidently, was the person who had called the blond a faggot. “I’m going to beat you up,” the newcomer shouted. A friend was trailing behind him.
Like most gay men, I have been called a faggot a few times. I’ve seen friends talk back to homophobes. But I’d never witnessed anything like this: it had a weird theatrical intensity, as if the young man were being goaded by an offstage director.
“How dare you?” he yelled. “Our forefathers came to this country to escape from their religions and be free. How dare you, asshole! Don’t you know this is the land of equal opportunity? Go back to fucking Connecticut with your two cars and a garage!