I’m cozy and comfortable writing in a café in Boystown, Chicago. Buzz. My phone vibrates and I look down. A text message appears from my roommate, “They’ve done it. They ripped our flag down.” A week after a hysterical man screamed hate speech outside of our home, “I’ll be back for you fags,” when the campus was quiet on spring break, the rainbow flag that hung from our porch was ripped down. Liquid was also thrown on our porch and the side of our home was viciously beaten. Like cowards, they waited until most of us had left campus. One of our roommates endured this act of stupidity and hate alone.
Since the start of the semester, when my roommates and I settled into our home, we planned on demonstrating our pride. This was the first time I had lived with other gay folk, and it was many of my roommates’ first times too. It felt special to be living in a place surrounded by supportive and sustaining queer friendships. A city native, I had never lived in a house of this size, a home that immediately felt so comfortable and full. We ordered a gay rainbow flag and, upon its arrival, we proudly hung it on our porch—a visible sign to our community. Aside from being declarative, I hoped it could be antidotal. I hoped that it might give others some extension of comfort that the home gave me.
“But seriously, do people even have to come out in 2016? Being gay is hardly the pariah it once was,” a professor of mine inquired. She did not do so ignorantly, and she did not intend to erase difficult experiences, but rather she inquired honestly and hopefully. Perhaps there is some merit to this antidote. Same sex marriage is legal; some members of the LGBTQ feel little necessity to publicly announce the gender of their bedroom partners, and in some neighborhoods in America, gay people feel like the majority. But marriage does not equate nationwide acceptance—just ask the people of North Carolina! Gay enclaves—gayboorhoods--are safe heavens carefully crafted, and these neighborhoods exist out of necessity. Gay youth have shockingly increased rates of suicide, and being a person of color and on the LGBTQ spectrum is not a safe identity to claim. Being gay is not easy nor trendy.
Greencastle is no gayborhood, but I never asked it to be one. I asked to be safe. Perhaps naively, I did not think that my roommates and I would add ‘hate crime’ to our list of experiences at DePauw University.
But that’s life. There are simply a lot of people that do not like gay people. DePauw does not exist in a vacuum, and I have a strong suspicion this attack on our home came from the larger community. I could be wrong, but it signals to me the need to collaborate with this larger community, to strengthen our glimpses of sameness and attempt to understand our diverging experiences.
How do we feel about it? First and foremost, angry. Dyamond would like her $10 dollars back. We are sad--sad that just outside of our door lies so much hatred and ignorance. We are restless--we are too hasty to leave this place. As we prepare to graduate, we should be savoring our last moments, not anxiously awaiting our departure. But we are not shameful. We are not broken. We are not embarrassed or scared. I am no less proud of who I am.
Viti is a senior conflict studies and women studies major from Chicago, Illinois.