It’s 2008, People Shouldn’t Have To Deal With This Crap

I was dismayed to receive the following note from a very good friend of mine:

“Yesterday my fiancée and I walked out of Whole Foods with our arms around each other, and when we stopped at the intersection of 15th and P to wait for the light to change, I kissed her cheek. Behind us, a man commently loudly, “you shouldn’t do that in public.” Upon turning around to gauge whether he was serious or joking, the woman with him laughed and said “he’s just jealous.” As we started to walk across the street, we heard the same voice, this time with unmistakable disgust say, “you’re a waste of two good women.”

This is not the first time a passerby has felt it was his right (thus far, comments have only come from men) to insult us because we are two women walking hand-in-hand, yet every time it happens, it catches me off guard. My initial reaction has always been that the person must be joking or that I must not have heard him correctly.

By the time we got home I was holding back tears – tears of hurt, yes, but also of frustration that I hadn’t realized he was serious earlier than I did and that I hadn’t had a witty comeback to throw at him so that he might have left that corner the one who was embarrassed.

So my question to the PoP readers is: What would you have said in this situation (if you were me, or one of the 5 or 6 other people also waiting on that corner)? Has a similar situation ever happened to you?”

43 Comment

  • At a loss for words … certainly shakes up the vision that we are an enlightened city, or at the least, more progressive than, perhaps, across the river (no offense, enlightened VA).

    It would have taken all I had not to say Go F**k yourself.

  • I am very sorry that happened. As much as I think most of us want every one to be excepting, the honest truth is that is probably not going to happen. We can’t do anything about what others think and say. Often we can only act with in the bounds of our lives. If you are doing what you think is right, honorable, and ethical, you should have the confidence to walk and act how you feel is right. That said had I been there I would have probably yelled “Grow Up Asshole!”

  • I am really sorry you had to deal with that crap, but sadly, not surprised. I feel like despite being a big city, DC can have a very provincial attitude in some ways. On the other hand, my brother encounters homophobia quite regularly in NYC, so the whole world could use some growing up.

    I’d love to hear suggestions for snappy comebacks from other readers, but I honestly think your reaction – visible surprise, and then simply walking away – is probably the best one. No quick quip is going to change a bigot’s mind, but maybe seeing a sufficient number of people react to his immaturity with calm and grace will.

  • i think its ridiculous that HIS woman (and im sure thats what she was, judging the character he showed in this situation) felt the need to make an excuse while laughing at his stupidity… why is it that so much of society thinks its ok for grown men to lash out with their thoughts and feelings when they are confronted with something different than their norm?

  • I’m sorry. I think the best way to deal with assholes is to laugh at them. It’s the opposite of what they expect and totally disarms them, I believe. I probably would have said something to the effect of “you’ve got to be kidding” and then just laughed.

    His girlfriend should have dumped him right then and there.

  • I think the default reaction has to change. The default reaction shouldn’t be to think someone’s joking – because it’s not a very funny joke to begin with. I think that people, not just the people directly affected, but also those on the street corner, have a moral obligation to express their outrage at such displays of bigotry. It’s the ability to empathize with and stand by those who are different from ourselves that gives force to the ideals of a free and flourishing society where everyone has an opportunity to be comfortable and happy with who they are. I think everyone suffers from the little pangs of regret when they come up with the witty one-liner 20 minutes after that situation has passed, but be comfortable with simply saying to someone: “You’re an idiot. And it’s unfortunate for you that you’re so insecure in who you are that the mere sight of someone different from you is unsettling.”

  • Maybe: Not your loss, I still wouldn’t date you if I was straight? And remember, everyone gets harassed on the streets… Don’t feel too isolated.

  • this has also happened to me on many occasions in my 7 years living here, and unfortunately the words I was confronted with were often much more hateful that what you heard.

    with the recent stories of gay bashing and hate crimes in DC — there was a man killed near Be Bar recently — you really still have to be on guard and stay safe. I’m sad to admit that I don’t walk hand-in-hand with my boyfriend in DC because of the harassment we have received… we all wish the world was more enlightened, but in many cases, we’re not there yet, folks.

  • I can’t say I’m totally surprised to hear something like this happened — homophobia is really the last major “socially acceptable” form of discrimination left in our society. Stories like this and the recent murder of Tony Randolph Hunter make me glad that my brother and his partner live in San Francisco.

    That said, what about catching a guy like this off guard and saying something religious in response? Like “you know, I can forgive an ignorant remark like that because God tells us to love all his children” or something like that. I’m not actually very religious so maybe someone else can come up with something better — an angry retort it totally justified, but I personally would get more satisfaction out of making him feel ashamed for having said something!

  • heterosexual couples that shop at whole foods should not be harassed, people! this is 2008!

  • I agree with the “you shouldn’t do that in public” portion of the person’s comments. I don’t like PDAs.

    That being said, the last group that needs to be called out on public displays are gays/lesbians. They get enough crap on other fronts and usually the most egregious lipsmakcing in-your-face kissers are heterosexuals.

  • i want to make out w u

  • She should have looked his companion up and down with sexy elevator eyes, then looked at him with disgust and said “No… that’s a waste of a good woman.”

  • Just remember that what one jerk says to you matters very little when you have so much love and support from other friends, family, and the PoP readers. That’s 1,000 of ple to 1!

    I also know how you feel. I am a Latina female who has also gotten similar harrassment by folks who oppose my dating someone outside my ethnicity or race. Or when guys say “I wouldn’t date a Latina, BUT you are different you are not like THEM”….

    big hug to you and your fiance!

  • It took me two reads to figure out that this was an anti-gay incident. I’m not gay, but my reaction would have been in-your-face humor: “Don’t worry, man, I’m not letting her go to waste!” with a squeeze around her hips.

    You can’t be passive, you can’t be insulting, but I think being all outraged and PC is totally a waste of time and energy. That you’re shocked at this amazes me – you need to get out of the city more, ladies.

  • haha! yes anon 12:09!

  • I would have just made out with her furiously – no, it’s not mature, but it probably would have been pretty awesome to see the look on his face.

  • Turn around, kick him in the balls

  • As someone who often “acts straight” when walking with my girlfriend down certain streets in certain neighborhoods, I understand your frustrations. I’m both ashamed at my own fear of others’ homophobia and upset that such discrimination can exist in as progressive a city as DC. But as others have already said, there are a lot of people out there who are going to do and say ignorant, homophobic/discriminatory slurs. While it’s not easy to just sit there and take it, I’m often too shocked to respond when confronted with prejudice. Recently, I’ve felt less and less like coming up with a smart-ass response (who am I trying to prove to that I’m smarter and the bigger person, anyway?) and I’m more about telling it like it is. I just call them an ignorant bigot and walk away.

    Don’t let people like that get you down.

  • Say nothing. Really, you can’t get vested in what random ignant people on the street have to say about you and your relationship. Why even waste that energy?

  • Despite DC’s large gay population, incidents like this (and worse) happen all the time.

    Don’t be afraid to use the B word next time:


  • Don’t say anything. Just ignore the person and go on living your life the way you want to. Its none of his business, and obviously nobody takes him seriously, including his own companion. Telling him off won’t change his mind, and probably will only lead to more frustration on your part. Don’t let people like that ruin your day.

  • About 4 months ago I was walking down 14th crossing the road beside the Heights to get to what was then the pebbled common area in front of Ritas. I was following two men, one looked like a normal guy though well groomed. The other was clearly a bit more effeminate and carrying a man purse. They were not touching at all just walking down the street. If they weren’t walking together you probably wouldn’t even know either of them was gay. (well minus the man purse.)

    Anyways this women none the less started yelling comments at them, which I cant recall anymore. I was stunned at such bold hatred being spewed at loud volume in the middle of the busiest part of CH. Especially since there was nothing to provoke it as described above. Thankfully the two men were apparently versed in dealing with such people as the one responded with a witty retort that shut the woman up, and they kept walking never missing a beat.

    I was glad they dealt with it so well because my mind was still reeling the entire episode. If they hadn’t handled it so well I would have probably told the woman off.

  • “You shouldn’t do that in public”

    – Why, do you have a problem??

    then let him try to fumble his way around “its a sin blah blah blah”
    then laugh and walk away….throw something over your shoulder like “Read a book!”

  • I would err on the side of being cool… There are some seriously sociopathic people in this area/society.

  • First things first: ignorance can breed when it’s not confronted. What the idiot probably took away from your encounter is that gay people are accustomed to harrassment and responses cannot be evoked. Until you respond, whether it be clever, PC, witty, etc. the guy and his girlfriend may think it’s okay to provoke the next set of hot girlfriends walking down the street.

    If it were me and I were you (keep in mind I am a homo card carrying 23 year old male), I would have asked him if he had a single sister.

  • Let it go. You answer back and all it does is 1. let him know it bothered you and give him great satisfaction, and 2. set you up for more verbal (physical?) abuse.
    The fact is there are stupid, ignorant, bigoted people everywhere…and there always will be. I always remember what a friend once told me – just think, if this person has that kind of hate inside them, they deserve pity…because it must hurt to be that hateful.

    “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.”

    Mahatma Gandhi

  • Thank the Lord/Allah/YHWH/Buddha that I make enough money to shop @ Whole Foods in this economy

  • I heart will!

  • DCist is reporting about a 19 year old man who tried to pick up on a girl sitting on her stoop, was rejected, and returned shortly thereafter and shot and killed her and shot and injured her Mom. This was in NE.

    I’d say ignoring people is the safest bet in this city.

  • I agree with DC Dire… I have a good friend who likes to jaw at folks ( and rightly so) who ignore the right of way of pedestrians… These days, some folks could kill you, go home and eat a sandwich-watch tv, whatever. And, to quote Malcolm X, “you’d be just as dead.”
    I implore him to be aware, but be cool.

  • I’d say you should’ve done the following….

    1) Grab his lady by the ass and lay one hell of kiss on her and then

    2) Toe kick him in the junk.

  • Sorry you had this exchange. I want to reiterate another commenter’s point that you are not alone in getting harassed. I get stopped regularly by people who want to “konichiwa” at me because I am Asian-American. My 7 month pregnant friend was harassed and mock humped in front of the Verizon center. There are unbelievable jerks around. I totally understand the desire to reply to the comments, but please be careful.

    I wish people would realize:
    1. No one asked for your opinion
    2. Mind your own business

    Good luck…

  • I don’t think you have to be witty or outraged in response, but I def think you should let them know it is unacceptable. All those people that sat there and said nothing take away with them the feeling that it was ok as well to talk to you that way. And the ones that were bordering on coming to your defense but hesitated will hopefully see that they can speak up too. Although I think every situation is different because like DCDire was saying people are crazy and they might do something back. But, that said, if they are the kind of person who would take that next step they will probably do it anyways. It’s hard to know whether its ok to ignore, politely decline, or speak out. I was on the metro in Petworth and I had a guy sit almost on my lap with his arm around me ask me what I was reading (clearly the metro paper) and then if I had a boyfriend. I just politely said I wasn’t interested and continued to read my paper, however when I got on the train he followed me and put his hand on top of mine that was holding the pole. After ripping it out and giving him a dirty look he stared at me and then finally sat down. He chose the seat next to me where he proceeded to stare. He called me a Bia and mumbled other things until another man started chewing him out. He spoke up in my defense and told the guy to leave me and the other girls on the train alone, that his actions were inappropriate and that he was being extremely rude. That man speaking up for me that night made a huge difference and I am truely grateful.

  • When I am harrassed by “straight men” looking to be assholes I either;

    1. Just turn around and say “WOW”! As if I just heard something amaizing.
    2. Just turn around and say Ewwwww! Like they dog poop in their eyebrows.

  • It may be 2008, but homophobia is a daily reality for gay people. As a lesbian, I encounter it when I listen to politicians on the tv or radio, when I hear others use the word ‘gay’ as an insult, and when people stare at my partner and I going about our business in the grocery store, restaurants, etc.
    Props to us for having the courage we do, to unapologetically just be who we are. It’s not easy (or safe) to react to every remark or slur from strangers. Take it easy on yourself. And to our straight friends and neighbors, know that this problem is real (2008 or otherwise) and that we ALL have a responsibility to address it when we hear it or see it in our company. Help make it socially unacceptable.

  • “Well you’re a poor excuse for a man.”

    Followed by a junkpunch.

  • I think for those who posted comments insinuating this situation is not a big deal (“That you’re shocked at this amazes me – you need to get out of the city more, ladies) should perhaps think about this situation under different circumstances; what if this man wasn’t with his girlfriend and instead with his peers (assuming they have the same views)?. If he thought it was appropriate to approach these woman in the presence of his girlfriend, how would it have ended in the presence of other men? Being vulnerable can be a scary place.

  • In the spirit of jiu-jitsu, I think flowing with the thrust of his attack might have worked best: “I’m sorry, we did not mean to offend anyone.”

    Show him the respect of treating him as a reasonable human being, even if his stupid remark does not deserve it, and you may give him a nudge toward acting like one.

  • This is the point of the conversation where I usually say something completely racist and offensive and then feel bad in the morning.

    But to the OP, of COURSE people have said such horrible things to me on the street and I’m a heterosexual male.

    Over the weekend a teenager told me to “watch myself in HIS neighborhood” and I “best get back to Virginia.”

    1. I am 90% sure I’ve lived in this neighborhood since before he was born
    2. I have never lived in Virginia
    3. Our block is majority white in a neighborhood without a single racial majority

    What disturbs me most of all is just the willingness to yell at someone on the street. It’s nothing short of severe mental illness. seriously. you’re on the street, you’d have to be mentally ill to say something like the OP mentioned. I firmly believe that people who say that kind of stuff on the street need to be taken to a hospital and interviewed and no, I’m NOT joking. You get the mentally ill onto some mood elevators and you end the shooting.

  • oh my god, I didn’t even know about the Tanganika Stanton story when I wrote the above. I just threw up in my mouth.

    Talking to people on the street is straight up mentally ill and unacceptable in polite society, period!

  • I happen to spineless, so I would have just walked away. Were I someone willing to standup for himself, I’d have gone with sarcasm. Unfortunately, all of the snappy comebacks I can think of involve using the same bigoted assumptions about ignorant-douchebag-simpleton-fucktards.

  • I would have pointed to my beautiful partner and said “Well look at her, I’d rather sleep next to her than you any day of the week.”

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