Sam Allen – Shelter in the Most High
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. – Psalm 91:5, New Living Translation
Their fists were palpable. Even though they never touched me. The girl with the baby carriage was the worst, silent but such a betrayal of our basic humanity, our shared existence. They chased me down Main Street in Turlock with a menacing swagger; I ducked in to a Jack in the Box near the corner of Main and Golden Gate, waited a minute, and snuck out the side-exit as they waited for me, imaginary chains in hand. I looked at a passing butch in a truck – maybe just a farmer – with desperation. “How the hell do you live in this body?!” I pleaded with my eyes.
For years I blamed myself. I never wore those jeans or that sweater together again. I didn’t call the police because I was just coming out and, in my mind, there was nothing to report. Now I see that there was everything to report, but my internalized homophobia prevented me from seeing that.
Despite that horrifying experience, I still called – and call – Turlock my home. My feeling of belonging there was stronger than their fists, and I continued to go out, even at night, but always with a handy getaway plan (usually my bicycle) or as someone as my safety. Cognitive dissonance is what kept me feeling safe: if I don’t wear that, if I just cover myself with a hat on the day of the Marriage Equality decision, then I’ll be okay, I’ll be safe. I rode my bike, got called a few names when I went jogging – yes, jogging! – but I was in a safe liminal stage where I was figuring things out and, except for the night when those people chased me, my world was unshakable.
But to this day, National Day of Silence rings in my ears as National Fuck Up a Queer Day, and whenever I see the mug shots of female hate crime suspects I’m instantly brought back to the terror of that twilight.