It’s 1 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, broad daylight. Cloudy and overcast but still nice out. I’m floating down 22nd Street on my way to meet a friend for a coffee at Starbucks, listening to James Blake because I’m going to his concert at the 9:30 club later on. I get to the corner where Whole Foods sits, cross the street, minding my own business, drowning in the beautiful sounds of electro-melancholy.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man materializes out of thin air and he starts walking with me at the same pace as I am. I racially and socio-culturally profile him and decide he’s not good news. He’s not trying to sell me anything, he’s not trying to get me to sign up for anything, and I know I don’t know him. The New Yorker in me is instantly thinking, “What the fuck do you want?”
The more I ignore him the more he insists. He’s walking close to my side, like we’re good friends, like we have things in common. But we don’t.
He puts his hands on my ass, first rubbing my crack and then giving my buns a little squeeze. I immediately know what this is about but I don’t really know how to respond. You think you’d know what to do in a situation like this, but you are overcome with so many emotions and they’re all hitting you at once so you’re sort of unsure what to do. You freeze.
So I ignore him, even though he and I both know that he’s touching my ass at the moment. He leans in and tries to kiss me. He grabs the back of my neck, tilts my head and tries to put his mouth on my mouth.
Just like that my instincts kick in and I start screaming at him in French. The rationale is that if I can freak him out by getting him to see me as a foreigner who doesn’t know much English, he’ll be too startled to know what to do next.
I’m screaming at him in French at the top of my lungs. I’m saying “Go Fuck Yourself!” and I’m saying “Leave me the fuck alone” and I’m calling him a fucking piece of shit and I’m making big gestures with my hands. He’s freaked out, but he keeps following me and starts calling me a faggot.
You were just grabbing my ass, and I’m the faggot?
He follows me for three blocks screaming faggot at me, telling me what he would do to my poor, unsuspecting asshole, how much he would fuck it, that he would nut inside and leave it there. I pull out my phone like I don’t know where I’m going so I can change my course of direction — a zig zag — so he would leave me alone. Also so he doesn’t see where I’m staying.
All this happened within a few blocks. Nobody noticed.
When we talk about violence against against queer men, we almost always talk about physical injury, about somebody getting the mess beat out of them for no other reason than the fact that they’re gay. I’ve said time and again that I’m sick of gay guys getting beat up, that we should start firing back at anyone who is so offended by queerness that they have to actually harm us. But the reality is that sexual assault is another sort of violence experienced by gay men, even if nobody talks about it because men aren’t supposed to be the victims of sexual assault.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve been sexually assaulted in broad daylight. When I was in graduate school, a guy once came up to me at a street light and said, “Look at you. I’m not gay, but I’d definitely fuck you.” I’ve had seemingly heterosexual men grab their dicks at me on the street, like I’m some ultra horny gay that will take any and all cock. Then once I was in a Greyhound bus going somewhere and this guy got on the bus and I barely glanced at him before he started screaming at me, “Don’t you look at me you fucking cocksucker. Gay ass n*gga. Don’t you even look at me you faggot. I will choke you with my dick you faggoty-ass n*gga.”
I am a cocksucker and I love sucking cock, and I am amazing at it so calling me a cocksucker is not bad, so get some new insults, homophobes. But I felt so nervous that he would hit me on that bus and I got so hot in the face because he was embarrassing me in front of all these people. Was he trying to prove his dominance, his manliness over me, the poor, powerless gay dude?
The curious thing about insults, though, is that everything is well and good until you do something that pisses the other person off or if you reject them in some way. Everything was cool before that guy tried to kiss me, but as soon as I told him no, then I became a faggot.
Why are people so threatened by and afraid of difference — racial, sexual, gendered, class, and physical difference — that they think the only way to cope with it is to dominate it in some way: to make fun of it, to beat it up, to touch its ass?