“Faggot” on the 38-Geary: A Love Story

muni 38 pride
Photo by torbakhopper

Muni rider Jesse James wore his Little Mermaid backpack on the 38-Geary. What followed his backpack was a story that we wish didn’t happen, but it did.

Lately I’ve been called a “faggot” with much more regularity than I appreciate. Having the f-bomb lobbed at you in San Francisco is the definition of unexpected. Like a sunny afternoon in August, it’s just not something you plan for as part of modern city living. And yet, it happens. To me it seems to happen with a frequency that is beginning to trouble me. In fact, it just happened the other day. On the bus. On a Wednesday.

The morning was chilly and damp and the 38-Geary was completely packed, as per its usual wants. To combat the elements, the driver had taken it upon herself to crank the heat up to its upper limits. When matched with the panting exhalations of the four to five thousand passengers crammed into the coach, a Floridian, sub tropic humidity enveloped us all and created an environ that left my brow sweaty at 9 a.m. I’d been on the 38-Geary for less than five minutes when I felt a gentle tug on the strap of my Little Mermaid backpack. Wondering why someone was touching me on the 38 this time, I turned slightly to see who was molesting my belongs only to find an adorable, child-sized little girl grasping to the dangly bits of my pack.

Looking down at this little mini human holding on to my backpack, I offered a polite smile, the kind you offer a kid when you want to convey a friendly, “Hi there. You’re not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure you’ll get better with time but I know what you’re up to and how about you go ahead and stop grabbing things that don’t belong to you.” The little girl blushed and grasped my pack tighter. It was around this moment when her mother, a heavy set woman wearing an animal print blouse and leggings for pants, caught wind of the interaction and reacted. Like she caught her daughter holding a rattlesnake, or a well worn, dog-eared Hustler, she moved quickly and with violent purpose, slapping away her young one’s hand and pulled her bodily away from my Little Mermaid backpack. As vitriolic icing on the cake, she admonished the little girl, declaring, “Don’t be touching no faggots!”

I’m not sure what gave it away. Maybe it was the hot pink sunglasses I was wearing. Perhaps it was my cocked hip and jaunty je ne sais quoi. Probably though, it was the Little Mermaid backpack. She figured me out right quick and, before I could slip my homosexual agenda recruitment pamphlet to her little girl, had taken decisive actions against me and my people. Though the triple negatives at play in the statement, “Don’t be touching no faggots,” are fraught with opportunities for confusion, her daughter seemed to get the message and proceeded to stare at the ground for the next fifteen minutes, while we steadily, sweatily, trundled our way down Geary Boulevard.

In truth I kind admire this concerned mother’s conviction to her homophobia. I don’t know that I would have the wherewithal to flagrantly slander someone while trapped in what amounts to little more than an overpopulated, mobile prison train. There are submarines that have more legroom than the 38 Geary. Passing motorists have admonished me with a handful of colorful slurs over the years. Once, a sport utility vehicle full of wayward Abercrombie & Fitch models careened passed me on Polk Street, pausing momentarily to exclaim, “Fag! Fag on a bike!” which was both hurtful and accurate. For the most part, I wrote off these drive-by hate crimes as a passing act of homophobic cowardice. “I’d like to see them say that to my face!” I’d tell my friends later, while recounting the story over my third or eighth adult beverage. Finally faced with an in person encounter of the homophobic kind, I demurred. As much as I would have liked it, I didn’t feel like being that person on the 38-Geary who takes the bait and enters into a fight they can’t possibly win. Rather, I turned away, switched my iPod over to “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and let Ariel do all the talking.

You may know Jesse James as a favorite storyteller at Muni Diaries Live. Read his story about a misfired projectile on the 1-California.

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