What a Hate Crime Feels Like

This isn’t a poem so much as a story written in stanzas.

I left work today.
Wearing a collared shirt
and corduroys.
I was wearing shoes,
A backwards cap over
my freshly shaved head.
I also happened to be wearing a binder.

Nothing out of the usual.
If I’m not wearing a flannel
or a sweatshirt,
this is my look.

I’m just genderqueer,
and I’m learning.
I’m learning what that means for me,
I’m learning what that means for others.

I dream of top surgery,
not to transition fully,
But be in a body that really expresses
who I am.
What I feel.
I don’t want boobs,
If I could cut them off myself I would.

All the same,
this is what I was wearing
and that is how I have been feeling.
And today, I became the victim
of my first physically threatening hate crime.

I left work,
It was cool out but not bad.
And I sat on the bus,
which would bring me around one campus
to another where my car was waiting for me in a park.

And 5 minutes into my ride,
at a bus stop not so far away –
a person walked on – saw me – and made a decision.
He sat next to me, and simply stared.
Uncomfortably noticing this, I kept my eyes down.
I already have anxiety on the buses.

And he stared, and he stared.
And he stared…
For what felt like an eternity.
Then as if he was struck by lightning he stood up.
Angrily and loudly he looked down on me –
Asserting himself,
“WHAT THE FUCK EVEN ARE YOU?”

I felt my stomach drop,
My anxiety closing my throat.
I didn’t answer, I didn’t look up.

He continued,
“SERIOUSLY, WHAT ARE YOU?
LIKE I CAN’T SIT NEXT TO THIS –
I WON’T SIT NEXT TO THAT!”

And people on the bus listened.
People on the bus watched.
And yet they all stood back and did nothing.
And I sat there with fear.

“SERIOUSLY I WON’T SIT NEXT TO THIS,
WHERE ARE YOU FUCKING CUPPING YOUR BALLS AT?
WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO BE?”

The bus was stopping, thankfully.
And as I got up –
he glared at me and shoved me… just a little.
but just enough.
And I silently got off the bus 3 stops early.

3 stops doesn’t seem like a lot,
but it is when it involves walking
on a highway bridge overpass from one city to another.
And yet, that felt safer to me,
than staying on the bus.

I have used men’s bathrooms,
I have binded,
I have learned who I am.
And today someone took their beliefs
and used them to attack me.

And I had no breath.
And I had no answer.
And I felt such shame
And defeat.
because I fought so hard,
to find out who I am –
just to be hurt by others.

So, what does it feel like to be the victim of hate?
It feels scary, and frustrating, and overwhelming.
And it feels unjust and wrong because it is.
And yet, even after he said all those things –
I didn’t want to take my binder off.
I didn’t want to grow my hair out.
Because at the end of the day,
this is who I am –
And his anger won’t change me.

-cdk

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