What if you came home after a hard day’s work with a full heart to witness a glorious setting sun on an average fall day to notice in your peripheral vision through the dappled shade of a stand tall oak in your front yard that something just wasn’t quite right? Without rolling down the window, you smell the irregularity first. A mildewy unpleasant acrid smell, if you had to guess, burnt compost? Putrid. And you step out of the car to see it, and you don’t want to believe your eyes, so at first you convince yourself it is just a result of the sun going down; shade coming from the oak, holding on to wishful thinking.
By now you should know better. You who have had DYKE spray painted on the driver’s side of your your Camero. You who have had your partner’s picture defaced at work with an anonymous note attached to the broken glass that said, “Die faggot freak!” You that had relatives disown you even before you came out. And others insisting you change the subject when you finally did find the courage to come out, with silencing words, “That subject makes me feel uncomfortable,” or “Why don’t you look into conversion therapy?”
Holding your breathe, you look down at the ground, allowing your eyes to witness, briefly, with dry cheeks because you are long out of tears.
A cross. Burnt. Across your entire lawn. A cross that was not there when you left for work. Telling you that this abomination had to take place in broad daylight, to the heads of neighbors turned away. Turned towards what? God? The bible? The bible that teaches love your neighbor as yourself? And the note. Hung with masking tape to your front door confirmed the horrifying hate crime, “Sinners beware. God’s wrath will find you.” So with incontrovertible proof, only a fool wouldn’t call the police. They will help you, make you feel secure in your sanctuary again. Restore your dignity.
Stepping inside, grateful that the house wasn’t burnt down to the ground, you call the cops, they come out, make a report, investigate, and reassure you that they will get to the bottom of it. And then they call you in a week to tell you they have caught the perpetrator. They tell you he is sorry, he won’t do it again, and no they will not reveal his identity to you, and they urge you not to press charges, so you don’t.
Instead you go outside under the cover of darkness, plant some grass seed and then you watch it grow from the inside feeling lucky, because you know all too well how much worse today was for others like you. The suicides, the physical violence, the murders, HIV. And you wait facing down fear, for the next big dose of hate to find you, keeping a smile on your face, because you refuse to give them that too, unwilling to let the haters define you, knowing you are who you were born to be, ignoring the tag with your number on it spinning in a lottery cage, hopeful against odds your fatal number is not drawn, smiling, living, breathing, inside their world, until, as you.