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To look, and see nothing but ink-black hate

I saw them across the street. Pitching a fit, like oversized toddlers. Screaming at dead air and live people. The protestors outside the UCC were all the funhouse mirror caricatures of blind bigotry I couldn’t believe I was looking at. Their incessant whines of slurs, scripture and stupidity formed this overwhelming blockade of noise that rooted me to my spot across the street.

I knew I had to do something. To turn tail and run would be letting them win, conceding to myself that on some level they held the power to drive me away. I resolved then to do something, but I was still scared. The police cruiser was parked facing them, but when push came to shove, would they really protect me? The many incidents of law enforcement’s failure to protect minorities flashed quickly through my head, and I decided to approach a white couple on the street to ask for their help, to just stand by in case anything happened. They didn’t “want to get involved.” And so I walked across the street, alone and quaking.

Queer. I removed my nose ring and made sure to wear no eyeliner as I walked up to one of the protestors. If I identified as non-cis, I’d be the subject to the same treatment as the brave souls taking the lonely walk up to the church, hounded with every step by the loud minority on the steps below. Once I started asking questions, poking and prodding at the incoherent contours of their flimsy justifications, the disconnect became clear. 

The men who talked to me spoke of concern for the people inside engaged in “sin” and “perversion”, and how much they wanted to just save these people from themselves. Not five feet away, an icon of zealotry screeched unceasingly about how they really felt about the people within, guilty of nothing more than attending a drag show. They were “perverts,” “homosexuals,” “sex-loving sinners” and more that

 I do not particularly care to repeat here. Reflected in his eyes was nothing but ink-black hate, seething contempt for those who dared to step a toe out of sync with traditional dogma. The froth at his mouth as he ripped his vocal chords to shreds fell limply to the ground.

  Non-white. I took immediate notice of the wary looks each of the members shared between them as I continued my inquiry. I did not look like them. My face was smooth, features dissimilar in everything from tone to eye color. They patronized me, for how could I understand the work they were doing? A heathen, to be talked down to. A savage to be gently guided to civilization. Verse after verse was quoted at me in futile attempts to sway me or the potential audience I was to convey their message to. The mask of civility hung half-tattered from the leers they forgot to hide.

  I walked away, barely able to hide the shake of my hands as I held my phone aloft to capture every word. I walked towards people scarier than the old fossils of the church, a new breed of monster. “Humans Against Groomers”. Festooned with signs calling for death and violence, they screamed and screamed and screamed.

  The person I interviewed seemed the most in-touch with reality, though the bar for that is in hell and he just managed to not trip over it. He mumbled something about wanting to protect kids, though he seemed to be trying to convince himself more than me. As his cohorts cursed and swore at the latest group of people trying to enter the church, he fell silent and looked on. What he felt in that moment, I can only speculate on. He seemed quite melancholy as I walked away and left him to his Saturday evening.

  But ultimately, they were but ants; bothersome and not significant enough to cause a mass panic. They could not even muster more than two dozen people in their almighty crusade against the heresy of an evening of song and dance in a church. The people inside far outnumbered the ones outside, and the people who supported the event outnumbered even them. The air they yelled so vigorously into was met with equal force by passersby gawking at and laughing at their rather sad attempts to make themselves heard. Women who passed by very loudly and clearly said what they thought of the men who dared proclaim any authority over matters they had no right speaking on.

  I can only speak for myself, in the end. The end-point of the ideology of the protestors that day is the death of everyone in the church that evening, and everyone who shares a gender or ethnic identity with me. If there were no consequences to their actions, I do not like imagining the acts they may be capable of. But that is why it’s important to talk about them, to not become complacent in our progressivism and activism. The fight for progress is not linear, and it is easy for bigotry to take root where it is not called out or challenged. I’m trying to do my part, but I have a personal stake in these matters. How easy is it for someone, a bystander perhaps, to not “want to get involved” since the protests are only attacking the “other”?

  The process of interviewing, compiling my notes and finally writing my previous article and this piece has not been easy. I had to stop at several points, realizing how different the day may have gone had I pushed too hard with my questions or asked the wrong part of that crowd. But I won’t let them win, I won’t let their voices drown out mine and others like mine. I know I owe that, if nothing else.

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