As I hide behind my five-inch wide sunglasses on the steps of Angell Hall while the rain pours rambunctiously out of the gray sky, holding my umbrella and a copy of Hello! celebrity gossip magazine in one hand, I think to myself: I am utterly fabulous.
Who’s fabulous? First, they are not afraid to stand out. They venture outside of “the norm,” giggling at how uniformly people follow the pack. They dare to be ironic, they take risks or they break all the rules. And they’re easily spotted. Why do you think they hide behind huge sunglasses?
But for gay men, at Michigan and elsewhere, being fabulous often comes with a price: homophobia, because “men” are supposed to look like “men,” – whatever that looks like. All men wear ugly T-shirts and potato sack jeans. All men love sports. And any man who even tiptoes outside of the squishy box that separates men from women gets called a “fag.” Men, according to this rule, are not supposed to act like anything other than men.
I have never been intimidated by these comical sets of heteronormative ideas and codes. They are toxic. But this does not mean I have never faced homophobia.
Last summer in Chicago, after a long day of research, I decided to relax by treating myself to several cosmopolitans, good music and as many hot boys as I could see with two eyes.
I thought, “I’ll go dancing!”
I headed to my dorm and combed my closet for the perfect outfit – something that would say, “rock star chic” or “I’m the glamour you hope(d) to be.”
There I strutted, to Madonna of course, in my room trying to figure out what to wear. Fur? Somebody will undoubtedly shower me with paint. Popped collar? This look was out as soon as Abercrombie and Fitch started selling “pre-popped” shirts.
As I left the train station, heading now towards Hydrate in Boystown, Chicago, I learn that I am being followed by what is clearly a drunken man who only wanted to cause a ruckus.
“Hey! . Hey! I know you hear me talking to you. HEY!” he exclaimed with exponentially more force as it became evident that I was trying to avoid him.
Not certain if he was talking to me, but still on my cell phone and headed towards Boystown, I turned around only to find out that I should have never paid him any attention.
“Yeah, I’m talking to you,” he exclaimed, now hurrying towards me.
What could this guy possibly want from me, I wondered? He was quite the ragamuffin, a tall Chinese kid about 25 years old. He wore ridiculously baggy clothes, carried two bottles of Natty Light and seemed to get off on causing trouble. This is one of the types of people most dangerous to homosexuals everywhere.
Actually nervous now, I picked up my pace. But not quickly enough, apparently, for the Chinese ragamuffin was no longer behind me but in fact directly to my left. He stared at me intensely. And he spoke thus:
“Hey . where you going? ” he asked intoxicated.
“Excuse-moi mais je ne parle pas l’anglais, ” I said to him in French. I even began to speak in French on my phone in hope that this ridiculously crazy person would believe that I didn’t know any English. He didn’t.
“Man, please. You speak English. I know you speak English. Ain’t no damn black French people in Chicago! Wooooo shit! Let me take a look at that ass! Mmm, mmm, mmm, look at that tight little bubble ass! I bet you hungry for some dick, huh? You want a little dick? Mmmm! Man I tell you what, I’m not gay, but I’ll fuck you!”
And he actually said it a second time:
“I’m not gay, but I’ll fuck you!”
How do you respond to such a phrase? I may have even entertained his offer if he didn’t look so much like a gorilla. All the while I greatly appreciated his honesty about my tight little ass. “I’m not gay, but I’ll fuck you!” is quite the pick-up line. Now if I could only get hot men to randomly approach me with it .
This was a homophobic event. I hope you noticed.
I have spent a solid three years in Ann Arbor, and have never experienced such a blatant homophobic event. This is because Michigan is as gay as balls, if I may be colloquial. Many are still closeted, and some are out and about (yay for gay!), while others still haven’t figured it out.
If they have yet to come out, it is because homophobia does exist on this campus. One of my most memorable, but not exclusively homophobic, times happened at the beginning of the school year as I strutted down State Street at the end of a football game.
With them in their corn-yellow shirts and me clad in Dior, I’ve never felt quite so gay in my life. I don’t even have to tell you why. Nobody said or did anything, but the tension could be cut with a football.
What’s more, people in some of my classes actually believe that people choose to be gay. Hotly religious groups demand that rainbow “safe-space” stickers be torn down. Several employees at a popular Friday hangout have been accused of teasing the hundreds of gays who snack there after the Necto’s weekly dance party.
Homophobia at Michigan is due to us being plopped in the Midwest, a place full of people who still believe that people choose to be gay – where people purchase heterosexual norms in bulk. When are we going to change?