IDAHO(T) May 17 – Turned Down At The Picket Lines
To celebrate IDAHO(T) 2013, Polari Magazine is publishing stories from its writers about their experiences of homophobia and transphobia. Some tales are funny, some are shocking and some are sad.
Walter Beck writes about how he was turned away from helping out at a Day of Silence demonstration because he was not a well-groomed a-lister.
It was a nice warm day in April 2008 at Indiana State; I was walking to class, decked out in my black John Lennon “REVOLUTION” t-shirt, ripped jeans, black leather engineer boots and my dirty gray flat cap. My headphones were on, barking out some good punk rock as I strolled down to the English building. As I reached the fountain in the middle of campus, something caught my eye.
It was a demonstration. I saw people holding signs calling for equality and an end to the bullying that had made most of our childhoods a living hell. They had red tape over their mouths. It was the annual Day of Silence rally.
Now, I had never heard of the Day of Silence, apparently I missed that memo, but being always up for action as I am, I went over to the table where the main organizers were and offered my help, “You guys need a hand? I’ll man the table, set up chairs, hell, I’ll even hold one of those signs.” I hadn’t done a gay rights demonstration since I had left Vincennes the year before and I was thirsty for a bit of action.
So what did they do? Did they throw their fist up in solidarity and give me a sign? No, they just stared at me like I was sort of scumbag who had come to crash their party. I heard a couple of them giggle condescendingly. I stood there a bit a confused, and then I took a good look at ‘em.
They were the pretty boy types; they stood there in their nice khakis and designer jeans, their perfectly laundered polo shirts, with the bright sun reflecting off their gelled hair. They didn’t have a place for the likes of me, no, not a grungy looking street fighter who had eyes that said he had been a veteran of the picket lines. Truth be told, I think I frightened them, I wasn’t a let’s all hold hands soft-soap speech type, no. Stood before them was a living breathing, let’s kick down the fucking doors and get what’s ours kind of deal.
I turned around and walked on to class.
It was really a strange experience; I had never been turned away from a demonstration by people who were supposed to be my brothers and sisters. Down in Vincennes, we all stuck together in the Gay-Straight Alliance. Sure you had rock ‘n’ roll types like me but you also had more mainstream people – it didn’t matter down there. Maybe it’s because we were small in number, so we had to stick together, external differences be damned.
At Indiana State, apparently it was different, Advocates for Equality was a closed society, it was a place for politically minded comfortably middle class LGBT college kids to make their laments and hit the campus once or twice a year. As far as guys like me went, well I think Mick Jagger said it best, “There’s just no place for a street fighting man.”