I was squished between a guy who felt his legroom included two chairs and a woman who kept squinting her eyes around as if someone was after her. I sighed in relief. This was my refuge.
40 MINUTES EARLIER…
I was working on my computer, waiting to take the ASU shuttle from Tempe back to downtown. Students commonly question the best mode of transit between campuses — the school-provided shuttle or the light rail. I had been a light rail girl last semester but thought I would try the shuttle life this time around.
A guy from my history class walked up and attempted to engage me in a conversation. I, however, was rushing to finish something on deadline and wasn’t paying him much heed. He didn’t seem to notice and continued to ramble about something or the other. I finished with my work, closed my laptop and began to give the conversation more of my conscious thought.
Pretty soon he asked, “So, are you seeing anyone?”
I was not into this guy. He really shouldn’t take it personally, though, because I’m also not romantically interested in the entire gender. Classic lesbian drama.
After a pause, I responded, “No, but I’m also a lesbian.”
“Oooh, that’s cool, that’s cool,” he said. “You do you. I respect that. The First Amendment gives you the right to do what you want to.”
Hmm. That’s not quite the First Amendment, I recall. Let’s just look that up:
And if I’m correct — wait, let me check — yup, still can’t get married in this state. In fact, I think there was recently a bill (cough cough, SB 1062) that didn’t look too favorably on me and my peeps. But this guy meant no harm and clearly fell asleep during the Bill of Rights portion of history class, so I went along with it, thinking we would change topics.
But no. We didn’t. Instead, the rest of the wait for the shuttle was him going on and on about the gays. I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s a typical response for straight people to become overly obsessed with my lesbianism the first time they find out I wave the rainbow flag. But I typically view it as a good-natured person trying to become comfortable with someone in a community they don’t know very well and let it slide.
“But I mean, if there are two girls and they want me to be a part of it, well, I’m not going to say no,” he said.
He laughed. I didn’t.
Excuse me, sir. Exactly what part of me being interested in women tells you that I want you all up in my love-making? Additionally, my love is not something for you to sexualize and make your own.
In a deadpan voice, I shot back, “A typically straight man’s response.”
Side note: sorry to the straight men who don’t respond like that. But I panicked.
The shuttle arrived, and we got in line. I was beginning to realize that I would have to sit next to this guy for the whole ride back.
“Do you know the story about St. Valentine’s?” he asked.
“He was a homosexual and created Valentine’s Day for his lover.”
Again, I don’t recall that bit from my Catholic high school, but I just wanted to get on this bus.
“Yeah, he was a f-ggot and–”
I missed the rest of the sentence.
“Okaaayyy, no need to use that word.”
“Hey, hey,” Now he was on the defensive. “It’s my First Amendment right to say that. I can say whatever I want.” (Back to the First Amendment again.)
At that time, I received a phone call from a source for a story and rejoiced. I hopped out of line, talked with her, finished, then waited for the bus to drive off before I lowered my phone.
So I went home on the light rail that day, and it was glorious. I also read gay news outlets to pump up my rainbow pride. Now, I realize none of that is a big deal but, frankly, I don’t want to sit next to someone who throws out slurs. So the debate is settled: I’m a light rail girl. And I pay tribute to the gods who created multiple modes of transportation every week.