As my boyfriend and I walked into the subway car, a seemingly homeless and unstable man began to immediately berate us about our sexuality. Being gay is wrong. God created Adam and Eve. We’re going to hell. The fire surrounds us. We’re what’s wrong with this world now.
I’ve experienced judgement for simply being black while walking down the street or flamboyant looking while wearing glitter on my face. However, I never experienced such instant and explicit judgement, outrage and a sense of danger from just walking into a space. While I didn’t feel like the man was going to attack us, my body felt a sense of danger from how physically nearby he was in case he wanted to escalate the situation. The simple truth is that you never know what people are capable of.
For centuries people have been inexplicably attacked and killed for being who they are, and I’m doubly aware of this fact as two minorities in one – gay and black.
As the man continued his tirade, I avoided engaging him, and as I looked around, I surveyed the faces of nearby riders. I wasn’t looking for help, but I was looking for something.
I saw a woman close to him, become physically upset as the man went on talking out loud to himself, and she closed her book. She sat for a second thinking and then walked over to stand in front of us to protect us. She said something back to the man about how he is wrong, and I felt humbled and grateful for her courage to be an ally.
Her moment of courage sparked a teenager – who just entered the train – to also talk back towards the man, ultimately saying that our happiness is none of his business. As the teen jumped into the exchange, the disturbed man continued with his thoughts but also retreated down the train. As he moved back, a few others engaged him about how no one wanted to hear his hate.
Eventually we get off at my train stop and made it safely away from the man. Yet the woman’s actions and those of others still stuck with me. They had the courage to do what was right and to be a visible ally in the face of conflict. And for that, I am forever grateful.