Trigger warning–the following post contains triggering elements for anyone who has survived violent attacks. Please don’t read if this will be triggering to you, thank you.
I found out about the teen lesbian shooting Sunday afternoon. I thought and felt a lot of things about it, not the least of which is this sort of piercing sadness that’s quite difficult to describe unless I use words like sharp.
Though the details of the shooter and the motivation are still unknown, and everything’s conjecture until they’re figured out, I am incapable of believing that they were anything but sexual orientation motivated. I’m incapable of believing anything but because supreme violence was threatened to me, without a pretty girlfriend on my arm, just because some people knew what I was.
What I was. It sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, or a paranormal epic.
I’ve been struggling a lot, these past few days, with the violence of the crime, with my own past moments dredged up, with the haunting expression of playfulness on the picture accompanying the article everywhere. “Teen lesbian couple found shot,” look at how lovely they are, think of how bright their future was, think of how much they could have accomplished and done, and the lives they would have changed. Gone.
They wouldn’t want to be martyrs. Actually, I don’t know what they’d want. One is dead, one might never speak again, no one can know what they want, other than this not to have happened. They wouldn’t want, I think, to have random internet comments filled with derision for them, they wouldn’t want to have the motivation of the crime questioned, they wouldn’t want anything but that night to be taken back. To be given another chance.
I was given another chance.
I was eighteen. Eighteen and stupid, and I hadn’t quite figured out how the world worked, and this is before my life changed so completely, before a lot of things happened to me to bring me up to speed on what the world is capable of, both in its moments of brilliant beauty and also ugliness. I worked at a theme park, because that’s the sort of first job that will give you all sorts of fodder for a planned career of authorhood you’ve been reaching for all your life.
I wore my blonde hair in a bun at the nape of my neck and no makeup, because I wanted to be small and invisible, because every day, I got come-ons from drunk men and boys who gave come-ons to every single girl working there. I wasn’t special in that. I asked passerbys if they’d like to take a chance at a game, and that brought their attention to me, and if it was a slow day, or they’d had too much to drink, or if they were just being fucking stupid, they’d come over and harass me as they harassed the other girls.
One day, I’d had enough. I was angry. I was angry for always taking their shit, I was angry for the fact that they believed they had the right to say those things. I was never “supposed to engage,” according to the rules, but surely it wasn’t engaging to tell them why I would never, ever, ever be with them in a million years.
“I’m a lesbian,” I told them heatedly, stupidly. Stupidly. It was a group of about ten college boys, all jocks, all already sneering at me, calling me names, telling me what they’d do to me.
What followed was my nightmare. My personal nightmare. Because of course they were homophobic. Of course they were showing off to their friends, and of course they wanted to “change me.” Every cliche you could think of, they said, and then they surrounded me and came for me.
I don’t know what might have happened. I suppose I would have been beaten up and raped. I don’t know if they would have killed me. They were passionate and angry and raging in that moment, and I could not stop them, because I was one woman, and they were ten men, and if it was a fairy tale, I’d have a sword, and if it was a fantasy story, I’d have a magic spell, but I had nothing but fear, and the realization that this might be it. I remember thinking about a sword, in that strange, slowed-down moment of realizing I was about to be very, very hurt for no other reason than I was a lesbian.
A friend came to my rescue. He was huge and imposing, and he threatened to call security, threatened to have them arrested if they touched me. They considered beating him up, too, but they stopped when he started shouting. We were in an area that wasn’t frequented, that was alley-like, and of course there were no people in the park that day. They could have done what they wanted. The shouts saved me, because in that moment, I had frozen, and I was unable to do anything but stare. Worst nightmare. What has never happened since–in every compromising situation since, I’ve been able to use my vocal cords, my own strength. Not then.
I got a second chance.
My story isn’t special (apparently, things like this happen all the time in theme parks. Who knew.), and though I was threatened, nothing actually happened to me. Not like so many other lesbians I know, not like so many other violent acts I could recite to you. Not like so many others.
Not like those two girls.
Being a woman in a world that’s filled with people who think they can take anything they want from women is difficult. Being a lesbian in a world that believes that one time with a man will change them, that derides them, that makes them feel worthless and meaningless, that threatens men’s manliness at times (apparently) is dangerous.
Many things have happened since that first threat of violence to me because I’m a lesbian. Many things have happened to my lesbian friends. And you might ask yourself, person who has found this blog, and who might be a touch bit uncomfortable by all of the personal details I just gave you, “why is she sharing this?”
Those girls aren’t saints or martyrs. They’re mortals. I’m mortal. We’re all mortals. We’ve all been hurt in different, terrible ways, or perhaps just touched by the violence shown to those who are like us. Who are what we are. There is nothing that separates us other than the variations in the violence, but in this world, we are reviled for what we are. Not by everyone. The world is changing. The world is vastly changed from ten years ago, when this happened to me. I know it’s continuing to change.
But it’s not fast enough. It’s not good enough. Girls are dying.
I wish I had something pretty to wrap this up with. An anecdote that would make it just a little better. But I can’t and I won’t. We’re desensitized to the image of those two girls, because people in comments on those news pages still say stupid things. Hateful things. We’ve seen the image too much at this point, we’ve forgotten that they were just two girls in love, doing the best that they could.
I survived my threat of violence. One of them did not. One of them might not. There are girls, every single day, that might not. Don’t turn away from their picture. Look at it for a moment. Consider it. Consider that these girls were funny and quirky and lovely and full of possibility and it’s fucking tragic.
And don’t forget them.
Please consider donating to the fund set up for Mary Kristene Chapa’s medical bills.
(Comments on this entry are closed.)