Social Issues

experiencing hate as a queer woman

For almost a year I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of finding out that people I know hate me. I had to look in their eyes and see nothing but rage and disgust at my very existence. It’s been difficult in a way that few things have been, in a way I wasn’t able to articulate until recently.

***

I hate someone, too. The man who raped me. The fact that he exists, that he is out there, somewhere, carefree and happy and free while I’m burdened with everything he did to me… it fills me with fury. I am disgusted by him, by what I know he’s capable of doing. The fact that he can still suck air into his lungs and be filled with life makes me want to retch because I can barely stand the thought that I am utterly helpless to stop him from hurting other people.

I’ve done the one thing I can– I reported him to the police. Hopefully when he hurts another girl, another woman, if she decides to go to the police there will be a report there saying you’re not alone, he’s done this before, he deserves to go to prison, and we can send him there.

I hate him. The world would be a better place if he weren’t in it.

***

It was hard looking into someone else’s face and seeing that feeling there, directed at me. To see hatred for everything I am as a person, everything I represent, flickering at me in their eyes. Wishing for my disappearance, my non-existence. Not that they want me dead exactly– just to have never existed in the first place.

It’s a different sort of hard than the banality of hatred I encounter almost daily. Lots of people think I’m uppity, or selfish, or a liar, or stupid, or fat, or unattractive– and have told me so, as loudly as they can manage through a keyboard. There are people out there who love to pick me apart or whip up angry, pitchfork-toting mobs. While occasionally frightening, and certainly disruptive, mostly it’s simply a matter of time before I can set it aside and not let if affect me. I don’t have to pick up any of their labels and carry them around with me. If someone calls me stupid, the only reaction that calls for is laughter. If they call me a liar, well– I know I’m telling the truth, and that’s all that really matters.

But when someone you know reacts to your presence in the room with loathing it’s not possible to just set it aside. It’s not some ridiculous accusation hurled in your direction over the internet for you to ignore and delete.

If you’re a good, decent person, and someone looks at you like that, your automatic question is going to be what did I do? People typically have very good reasons for their hatred and disgust. I hate a rapist because of what he did to me, and what I’m afraid he’ll do to others. So, of course, the natural impulse will be to try to figure out what you could have possibly done to provoke that reaction.

When the answer is “you exist,” it’s devastating.

If you’re a good person, you want to try to fix whatever you’ve done, or change it. You want to undo whatever’s happened and earn their forgiveness– because irrational and bigoted loathing simply doesn’t make any emotional sense. You can objectively know that bigotry exists in the world and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, individually, but then you encounter it in someone you care about and what you objectively know doesn’t matter as much as trying to do everything you can to make them stop hating you so much.

Queer people encounter this in our friends, our family, our churches, our communities. We can feel all the revulsion directed at us, and our reaction is so human. We want to fix it– and it’s not like we haven’t been told how. Lie to yourself, lie to us. Let us electrocute you. Take this mountain of shame and self-loathing and carry it on your back wherever you go. Never love anyone the way Christ loves the church or Jonathon loved David or Ruth loved Naomi. Deny every chance at romantic happiness. Never have a family.

Do it all alone, because we certainly won’t help you.

Many of us have tried. Many of us have died trying. I certainly tried for most of my life– and was somewhat good at it, too. Until the moment I realized that being queer makes me incandescently, buoyantly, happy. Until I met someone that didn’t force me to lie to him in order for us to be together– who finds as much joy in my queerness as I do. Until I discovered acceptance among my queer family in a way I’d never felt before. Until I discovered that I can feel pride in who I am and what I bring to the world as a queer person.

I had the chance to let my burden fall off my back and tumble away, and I will never go chasing it down. Not even if all the dishonesty and deceit and duplicity in the world could wipe away the disgust I see in their eyes. It’s just not worth it, however much their hatred hurts. I’m not going to stop existing to make anyone else more comfortable. I will not light myself on fire to keep you warm.

Love isn’t the thing that needs to change. Hate is.

Photo by Alex Holyoake
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  • Beroli

    It’s not that there’s anything wrong with you. It was never, will never be that there’s something wrong with you. It’s something wrong with them.

  • Shaina

    This is really beautiful, thank you for writing this. I love it when other LGBTQ+ people talk about how much joy they find in their own identities. There’s still a lot of pain and angst in the world that surrounds our stories, unfortunately. We have to keep fighting until every child is loved for who they are. But until then, the defining moment of LGBTQ+ stories (for me, anyway) is and always will be the moment when we looked in a mirror and saw something profoundly, earth-shatteringly beautiful.

    I love my pansexuality.

  • Veiled_In_Dance

    “I will not light myself on fire to keep you warm.” What a powerful statement. That’s precisely what you’re being asked to do as a non-straight Christian. It makes me sick and sad that so many Christians feel justified in treating their LGBTQ brothers and sisters like that, and ashamed that I used to be one of them. Thank you for being brave enough to be honest and unashamed about who you are – the church desperately needs you and others like you if we’re ever going to see an end of the ingrained homophobia and bigotry that fills so many congregations.

    • To be honest, “I will not light myself on fire to keep you warm” is not original to me, but I can’t find the original source.

  • Plain English

    Very well written expression of your you! I can only applaud and wish you well. I have no idea what queer really is because it has so many meanings. Everybody I meet is queer in some individual and often wonderful way. I just like that you say who you are and i want to say thank-you for being you. I am so sorry you have been brutalized. I hear such a powerful heart in your voice! If you are homosexual, well then good and fine and if you are bisexual, okay and fine too… who cares? Why are so many people so interested in orientations, in whether you are hetero, bi, homo, whatever…. I only want you to be you and share it! Thank-you.

  • Sheila Warner

    I’m still new to the words, so, what is the difference between being bisexual and being queer? I see LGBTQ, and now I’m not sure what Q is for. I always assumed it was a “none of the preceding” letters kind of thing. Please be gentle with me–I honestly do not know.

    • This is a really good question, and actually comes charged with controversy!

      So, for people my age (so 20s-30s ish) “queer” is a widely accepted umbrella term for LGBTQIA+. It’s a reclaimed slur, but it’s closer to “fag” than “gay” in terms of how much of a slur it was, so people slightly older tend to be more uncomfortable with it. When Huffington Post changed their LGBT section to “Queer Voices” it caused a bit of a stir because of all of that.

      Many bisexual people opt to use “queer” entirely because it avoids some stigma and invites less questions and assumptions. Straight people have all sorts of ideas about “bisexuality” but are confused by “queer” so it can skip that conversation to use this label. There are other reasons for a bisexual person to use “queer” though.

      There’s also “queer” as in “gender queer” or “not straight, but lesbian, bi, or gay doesn’t fit me.”

      • Sheila Warner

        Thanks. So, then, what is “IA”? Sorry to be a pest.

        • Beroli

          Intersex, Asexual.

        • “I” stands for intersex, which refers to people with anatomy traditionally associated with both sexes (formerly called hermaphrodite, a term no longer popular)

          A stands for asexual, referring to a lack of sexual interest.

          • Sheila Warner

            Thx, Kevin. I like being taught & corrected as well.

        • The A also stands for aromantic (lack of romantic attraction) and agender (not having a gender or a gender identity, depending on the person)

      • Sheila Warner

        BTW, can you tell I’m “older”? I’m 61 & so worried about offending people.

  • Jiggy_with_it

    Samantha, you’re amazing. Thank you for existing. So much of your writing has helped me grow and given me hope.

  • Faye

    I remember being able to tell exactly when my dad had told my mom I was transgender. For a few days, there was nothing I could do to make her laugh, or smile, or anything. It was killing me. I finally told her so, and she started acting normal again, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forget how much that hurt. Even if she actually accepts my identity one day instead of just trying to keep an uneasy peace, that’s the kind of wound that leaves a scar.

    I do hope, one day, we’ll be able to talk about healing from the awfulness of the last two years. But for now, I’m afraid she’s not open to that at all. People just don’t understand that it’s so much more hurtful than just saying “I disagree with your choices.” It’s questioning our very selves, not a simple lifestyle preference.

    • Ysolde

      My father kicked me out when I was 17 and came out as transgender. I lived with my grandparents after that. Some years later my father was in an auto accident that sent a bone spur into his brain. After that he was disabled with back pain, PTSD from Vietnam, Paranoia, and Schitzophrenia. He ended up needing someone to be his Social Security Payee and handle his bills from afar. Even so he never accepted that I was a woman.

      It’s been 27 years and my father passed from Lung Cancer a few weeks ago. I was in Oklahoma with him and helped settle him into the Hospice where he spent his final days. Even at the end, though he appreciated what I had done he was never willing to recognize me as a woman.

  • Madeline Ghosta

    I’m sorry that this is happening. It hurt to read this, I hurt for you, but I also hurt for the church and for the times I was unkind to the LGBTQ community. Keep up the good work.

  • Angalee

    This is so incredibly beautifully written. I wish I had a LGBTQ+ family. it would make it so much easier if I could breathe without having to keep a constant an eye on who’s around me. In my job, I am constantly working with churches, pastors, ministers, and very religious guests. I walk through the door and I often feel like I have heterosexual binding automatically encase me. If I could count how many times I’ve had my guests start spouting off about why I am hell bound, and have to keep my composure with a smile on my face I would be a very wealthy woman.

    • knownever

      It is so hard. It feels that amerikkka is stacked to favor hateful people.

  • Jim Baerg

    http://markhumphrys.com/laws.html#no.2
    Law No.2 (The Paradox of Cruelty): The greater the hatred, the less the reason.

  • Josie Yarham

    I love you, Samantha. Because of your words and your truth and your courage. And because you are my sister in Christ. So there’s that <3

  • KellyLynne

    I’m really sorry you have to go through this, but glad that you’re able to be honest and true to yourself and have people to support you.