For HuffPost’s #LoveTakesAction series, we’re telling stories of how people are standing up to hate and supporting those most threatened. What will you stand up for? Tell us with #LoveTakesAction.
Almost two decades ago, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and left to die because he was gay.
I was just 20 years old at the time and freshly out of the closet, so it wasn’t difficult to imagine facing a similar fate because of how I looked or how I acted. It was easy to think I might end up making eyes at the wrong guy at the wrong time. It terrified me.
Aside from the prickly panic that followed me from class to class across my Midwestern college campus that October, the thing I remember the most clearly is a sign that a member of The Westboro Baptist Church held up at Matthew’s funeral that read: “Fags Doom Nations.”
Today the “church” (I hesitate to even use that term to describe it) regularly parks its wicked circus outside of queer or queer-friendly individuals’ funerals, and so, I’ve become desensitized to their particularly gruesome brand of hatred. But in 1998 it was unlike anything I’d encountered before. And still, it wasn’t just their unspeakable cruelty that consumed me, it was also their fear that queer people could leave this beautiful nation in ruins simply by being exactly who we are ― like we carry some kind of insidious virus that would invade and eventually destroy any body or institution that gets in our way.
Though the idea of Fags Dooming Nations initially seemed ridiculous to me, the more I thought about it, the more obsessed I became with it and the more I wanted it to become ― and be ― true. I quickly took Westboro’s warning to flush queers from our cities and schools and grocery stores and repurposed it as a motto for myself. Fags Doom Nations became a personal declaration of the strength and boldness inherent in the queer experience and all of the beautiful things that we could accomplish if only we managed to harness ― and stop running away from ― the power of our vision for a truly queer America.
Whereas before, for almost my entire life, I had seen my sexuality and society’s fear of what I could do with it as a burden or a punishment or even a death sentence, I suddenly began to understand that the country I wanted to live in ― a country where I could love and fuck who I wanted to love and fuck without fear or facing violence or retreating into the sick, sad safety of my ongoing fantasy of taking my own life ― was a country worth fighting for. And if the country I knew and loved and called mine was “doomed” by my refusing to be locked back in my closet, then I was happy to bring about its downfall in hopes of building a new home where I didn’t have to hide or hurt or hate myself.
It was the first time I embraced the word “fag” as a declaration of everything I was and wanted to be ― as a promise to refuse to assimilate into any society or culture or community that, at best, did not hold dear what I held dear and, at worst, wanted me dead. Just over 10 years later I had the word “DOOM” tattooed on my knuckles as a very visible and personal reminder of who I am and where I came from.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about that sign again ― and about fags dooming nations. I’ve been thinking about what’s about to happen to our country and what it will mean for me and my community. To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time not wanting to get out of bed. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling hopeless. I’ve spent a lot of time talking myself and my friends off of narrow, slippery ledges. And I’ve spent a lot of time being angry. Anger is the emotion I keep coming back to and it’s the one I want to carry forward with me as we move into an America owned and operated by Trump and Co. I believe it is this anger that will help me to see clearly. I believe it is this anger that will help keep me alive. And I believe it is this anger that will help me and my misfit family to face those that want to see us disappear in every sense of the word.
In fact, a new wave of oppression has already begun. And I can only see it getting worse, especially if we don’t start resisting in whatever ways we have available to us. And you don’t have to consider yourself a “fag” or a radical queer for this to matter. Our enemies don’t care if you’re the most heteronormative gay couple on the block ― you’re still a target and you’ll still suffer. So, beyond simply resisting, I’m also suggesting that we need to wake up every morning and work towards doing exactly what The Westboro Baptist Church ― and so many other people in this country ― are terrified we’ll do: destroying this nation and creating a new one in our image where all queer people can feel safe to express their identities in whatever way feels right to them.
So, how do we do that? Last year after the Pulse massacre I came up with 106 easy ways to bring about the queer revolution and since it hasn’t arrived yet, they’re all still valid and you can read about all of them here. Pick one or two or 17 and get to work. But ultimately, the most important thing is for us to stop apologizing for our desires and our dreams and our history and our very existence and begin to demand that we’re treated with the respect and humanity that we want and deserve.
Make no mistake: I love this country. I’m not going anywhere. And I can think of nothing more American than standing up for who you are and fighting for what you believe in ― especially when your very existence is at stake. So, my fellow patriots, isn’t it time we started claiming what is so rightfully ours?
Come, we have a nation to doom.
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