When the MAGA fashion police decide you’re a faggot

I was walking across a Menard’s parking lot a couple of months before the 2016 election when a car swerved toward me as if to run me down. It was a fortyish white guy in a white Buick with a red Trump bumper sticker. He got so close I could see the McDonald’s cup in his left hand, and the faded face of the old dog in his passenger seat. He yelled “faggot!” and then screeched away.

But let me start again. On this warm Michigan day in early September, I went to a big box DIY store to get a cover for an open drain on my garage floor which a gang of enterprising chipmunks had commandeered as a shortcut between my back and front yards. If this sounds sounds comical and cute, you should know that it was, instead, an epic battle in an ongoing war between Homo sapiens and Rodentia.

On this day, then, I was thinking about chipmunks, and I moved with purpose toward that store. It was one of those days Michiganders boast about and I was dressed for it: shorts, tank top, and sunglasses. From one angle, I was — I am — a non-descript, privileged, middle-aged white lady, rendered increasingly invisible by a sexism so banal I risk boring you by even mentioning it. (Sorry if I just bored you.)

But from another point of view, the one provided by this fella’s MAGA-vision ™, I was an ambiguously gendered god-knows-what threatening all that is holy and good in his great nation. And the swerve of his car was guided by the GOP’s activation of grievances he’d been harboring for years — fucking freaks and their special rights! He swung that front end towards me with casual entitlement, as kids stomp anthills.

I was, as I said, wearing shorts and a tank top. Denim cut-offs and a white tank top. You know, the sort of thing you might wear to the DIY store on a gorgeous late summer day in Michigan when the chipmunks have gnawed through your last nerve. My hair was moppy and growing out, and my tattoo was visible. And as I’ve been told all my life, I’ve got an unladylike stride. But I wasn’t carrying a protest sign or holding anyone’s hand. I was just sort of existing in, what to this guy’s Trumped-up eyes, was an unacceptably ambiguous gender-space.

“Faggot!” he barked when I raised both hands and yelled, “What are you doing?” as the fender of his made-in-America Buick was about to hit me. Then he smirked that way little boys do as they pull the wings off beetles. It was no big deal. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” his eyes said, and I could see he was made even angrier by my instinctive verbal challenge of his right to “pretend” to run me down.

It turned out okay. By which I mean that I bought the damn drain cover and (temporarily) showed those chippies who was boss. I wonder, though, what Captain MAGA would have done if it had been night, if I had been Black or Latina, if I’d been with another unacceptably-gendered person, or if he’d had a gun on the seat beside him instead of a Golden Retriever. Or, you know, if he’d just been fired up at a Trump rally, reminded that “people like them” — people like me, apparently — are vermin to be cursed at and eliminated.

It’s not the first time I’ve been called faggot. The last time was in the 90s, as I flew down a jaw-jarring cobblestone road on my bike, having just completed my PhD comprehensive exams. In a neighborhood peppered with frat houses, a couple of young white guys in a truck pulled up close. I remember they seemed energized and ebullient, as if they were cheering at a football game. “Faggot!”

But having been gifted with variously vicious homophobic epithets over the years — not to mention a generous pile of garden variety sexist street harassment— something feels different now. Mr. White Buick was not merely roaming around as an unofficial, hobbyist image critic and enforcer, he’s in cahoots with a major political party that features the POTUS himself. And he receives uncoded instructions every day, via Fox News, Twitter, and, most significantly, Republican silence and complicity, on how to treat the fucking freaks and interlopers.

He identifies these undesirables by skin color, style, and comportment on regular patrols he conducts while eating his McMuffin in the company of his beloved dog. He performs his labor of love in between errands: buying tires for his wife’s car and picking up his daughter from swimming lessons. And it’s the whims of such everyday-Joe vigilantes that the rest of us are supposed to keep in mind as we decide what to wear, how to move, and where to go. I mean, they’ve got guns and the government to enforce their very narrow standards of how the rest of us should look and act.

But I do not lose heart. Having the power to capture the focused attention of these righteously entitled white guys, as I apparently do, simply by existing in the nooks and crannies of their world, points to the subversive presence of a life-force that is ultimately stronger than fences, guns, or taunts. I know this because I have been battling the chipmunks, squirrels, moles, and mice for years. And even when it seems like I’ve won, they are still there, usually out of sight, gaining strength and making plans. Not only will such “vermin” outlive me and this pile of dirt, sticks and stucco I insist is MY home, they will frolic and cavort on my grave.

2 thoughts on “When the MAGA fashion police decide you’re a faggot

  1. I remember the days where a person wouldn’t call a stranger that but it was only used to scream at a friend, (and yes, a close friend. It usually would be followed up by a hug and/or laugh)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s