I don’t know why, but this memory popped into my head just as I was falling asleep last night. The details are lost to the mists of time – or at least the fog in my fat old lady brain, but I remember the important bits.
Like I could have died. Or just been badly beaten. Or sexually assaulted.
Often, after a Fischer Troupe performance, a group of us would head down to Flint to go to a gay disco called The Oasis.
The Oasis was an oasis, as to the second meaning below.
Definition of oasis
1: a fertile or green area in an arid region (such as a desert) The caravan stopped to rest at an oasis.
2: something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast. The small park is a welcome oasis amid the city’s many factories.
Let’s face it, mid-Michigan was not a bastion of gay acceptance. (It may be better now, but I kind of doubt it.)
The Oasis was also, kind of a dump. It was a very non-imposing edifice, inside and out. But they had booze, music and dancing and it was a lot of fun.
It was also in the middle of an industrial zone. So there was not a lot around it. Especially late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. In other words – isolated.
So this particular evening, me, Kim, Jeff and Ricky were at the Oasis. As we usually did, we closed down the place. Then headed to the parking lot. Apparently, we were about the last ones to leave, because there was nobody else out there.
Well, nobody from the bar.
There was a group of white ass holes looking to do some gay bashing; and the fact that there was a woman there too – well, that was just all the more fun. I believe they were carrying baseball bats.
They invited me to leave my friends and go with them.
Um, no thank you?
I told my friends (we were all tipsy to one degree or another – okay, we were drunk) to get in my car quickly.
Jeff’s boyfriend Ricky, decided he had to say something to these assholes, something that was meant to defend my (less than sterling) virtue. Bless him. Ricky was a very small and beautiful Mexican man. But Ricky was also very, very street; and when drunk he was fearless. I don’t remember what Ricky said, but it was not good – and Ricky was shoved unceremoniously into the backseat of the car and asked him to please shut the fuck up.
You know how when you’re in your own car with the windows rolled up and the doors locked you feel so safe? That’s how we felt – or at least that’s how I felt. We were in the car. Windows rolled up. Doors locked. We were safe.
Boy was I wrong.
I started the car, and the assholes got into their vehicle. And here’s where things get hazy.
I think they kept blocking my car. They may or may not have rammed me. I believe I did ram their vehicle – not hard enough to damage my vehicle (and I truly didn’t and don’t give a fuck if I damaged their vehicle). I just told everyone in the car to “buckle up and hold on”.
I do know that after making whatever contact I made with their vehicle, I tore the fuck out of that parking lot, and drove like hell (one advantage of always driving a stick shift, you can get going a lot faster than with an automatic). I ran at least one red light. I didn’t care. I figure if the cops stopped me, all the better, because cops meant the assholes might be caught.
Once we were down the road, we were all laughing and giddy over our escape.
It didn’t occur to us just how dangerous the situation truly was.
And that is one example of privilege – that someone would want to harm me just for going out and having a good time with my friends – that just didn’t exist in my sheltered (privileged) world; believing that cops would side with me and my gay friends – that’s privilege. The belief of the invincibility of youth (and whiteness) – that’s privilege.
Sheer luck, determination, and my belief (however misplaced) in my personal privilege saved us; and privilege allowed me to see the whole thing as a great story to tell.
I didn’t and still don’t understand where that kind of fear and hatred of the “other” comes from; but I can tell you it exists and it is ugly.
So when I say, oh to be young and stupid again. I mean it. I’ve been there. I was that.
And how sad is it that it’s 40 some years later and the hate and violence just keeps coming.