A tiny pride flag sticking out of a backpack and some black hats with Pride flags on them.
Walking down the street, back to our cars to return home from Providence Pride.
The wrong things are in the wrong place.
Men in a truck shouted at us, “Straight Pride, Straight Pride” and turned the vehicle quickly to make it seem like they were going to hit us.
Because of a tiny pride flag sticking out of a backpack, some black hats with Pride flags on them and our proximity to the parade.
I was out of the intersection when it happened, a fast walker and a few paces ahead.
I wasn’t that close to the bumper when they turned and then swerved.
The intention was to scare us, not hit us. To let us know that we were not safe to be queer people or allies of queer people.
But they made sure to let us know they could have killed us.
No one had ever threatened to kill me before.
We hadn’t done anything wrong, just existed and crossed the street.
Violence against queer folks is not news to me. I have read the statistics, fought for services and protections to be granted to those who fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. I’ve read the memoirs, and listened to the podcasts. But to experience a threat of violence, of death, firsthand, rattled me.
Had I done something wrong? I just walked across the street.
Suddenly my lifetime of living in the closet door, not quite out of the closet, but not quite in the closet, struck me. It hadn’t just been about judgment from a person who thought I was engaging in a seventeen-year-long phase. I feared the loss that can come with being open – The loss of life and the loss of love. I had been trying to keep myself safe from the threat of losing the things I cherish.
I spent the following day recalling all the experiences of homophobia and cissexism since coming out at twelve years old. Homophobia, cissexism, and biphobia come from within and outside the queer community.
Despite coming out at twelve, it was not until last year when I began consuming queer media – podcasts and books I had the experience of feeling seen and heard for the first time. I felt liberated. A weight was removed from my shoulders I had not known I was carrying. When another could put words to my own experience, I felt less like I needed to hide or disguise.
I share this as an encouragement to consider the spaces you are in and what you can do to make them safer. Who do you see in the spaces and who is absent? How can you invite people in? What services are lacking in your area and what can you do to provide or facilitate the provision of services?
I had spent the last two years quietly engaging in deep corporate advocacy within my organization to institute policies and changes to make the environment an even safer and more open space (to queer folks and other marginalized groups!).
When I moved back to Connecticut a few months ago, I realized there wasn’t much queer youth support. So, to change that, I have spent months working to establish a Queer Youth Support Group & Yoga Class, which is being made possible through the TEEG in North Grosvenordale, Connecticut. As a yoga and meditation instructor, former therapeutic mentor, and lifelong advocate for the queer community, this was my way to support creating a safe world for queer folks. I’ve also become a Yoga In Our City teacher, teaching accessible all-level, play filled yoga in one of the Willimantic parks!
I challenge you to take a moment and reflect on your life. What can you do with your skills?
Do your part to offset the men in trucks, the bullies, internet trolls, and people in a child’s life who may not support and accept them. Take your skills and build them a safe space. When queer kids have a single adult who they feel safe coming out to, the risk of suicide attempts decreases significantly. Be that person for the children in your life, in your community.
Aubrey Waz-Grant is a passionate advocate for social justice working to create safe spaces for all people to live their fullest and most beautiful life be this in one of her yoga or meditation classes, reiki healing sessions, or in her corporate job.