You’ve just finished Sunday brunch. You and your boyfriend are tired and bloated, accompanied by a clingy hangover, so pronounced that you’ve named it “Larry.”
For all intents and purposes, your life reads pretty basic. But there’s a twist ― you’re a guy. Your boyfriend insists on holding your hand as you meander a downtown street, even though showing PDA gives you anxiety. You bat away the insecurity, assuming you’re in a liberal enough part of town.
Suddenly, like a pigeon high-tailing it from a water fountain, you hear the snap, crackle, popping shrill of “faggot.”
Your boyfriend didn’t hear it, but you heard it before it had even been said; you were expecting it. What’s worse, your boyfriend notices your temperature drop, and after you explain what occurred, he antagonizes you. For caring.
Of course, apathy is a privilege. Not everybody enters the outside world and is granted invisibility. Minority populations ― namely LGBT individuals and people of color ― know what it feels like to be impersonally reminded that they represent a group rather than an individual.
“Don’t let anybody guilt you into continuing about your day like nothing happened to appease them and their reality.”
Even with the growing acceptance of LGBT individuals, homophobia is a business set on expansion. In Chechnya, for example, gay men are being kidnapped and tortured. In 2016, reported U.S. hate crimes increased by 20 percent, but the LGBT community saw the biggest surge. According to the “New York Times,” hate crimes against LGBT people are more common than hate crimes committed against any other minority group.
The worst part: We live in a world where LGBT hate crimes, even verbal street assaults, are so underreported that some Western politicians want reports to increase. The thought behind this is that if people are confident enough to report hate crimes, then a more accepting society is being reflected. (Depressing, amiright?)
Yet, nobody prepares you for the in between. Below, I provide some protocol for what to do in the immediate aftermath of being subject to a hate crime, be it verbal or physical.
If it’s a verbal assault, refrain from yelling back.
Be honest. It’s likely that you won’t respond. Your amygdala, the body’s resident alarm circuit, might numb any neurological reaction to an attack. This has been seen with many victims of sexual assault. However, the brain’s “flight or fight” response, hinting that you will choose to run away or prepare for battle, might feel moved enough to initiate a line of defense.
Don’t dig yourself a deeper hole. If the assault isn’t physical, it’s in your best interest to hide your immediate emotions ― from the perpetrator of the hate crime. You won’t want to further aggravate this person, who clearly demonstrates little restraint in subjecting you to their mediocrity. How you handle the aftermath is what counts.
Don’t bottle up your feelings. Talk it out.
When it comes down to it, nobody’s skin is that thick. We all get paper cuts. If you are able to shrug off brazen accounts of homophobic or transphobic rhetoric, that’s dandy, but don’t expect the same from your friends or your partner. When you feel that emotional swelling that follows an attack, verbalize your feelings ― according to brain scans, this can contribute to less pain and a quicker recovery. Keeping on and carrying on might work during wartime, but you have plenty of resources around you that encourage human expression.
The takeaway: Don’t let somebody else tell you how to feel. Don’t force yourself to “move on” if your brain is obsessing. That’s a form of abuse all its own.
Excuse yourself if need be.
If you’re feeling down, remove yourself from the situation. Things in life happen and we can’t control our emotional response; moods shift. Don’t let anybody guilt you into continuing about your day like nothing happened to appease them and their reality. Go home and meditate. Mindfulness meditation will help beat back whatever depression you’re feeling in the coming hours, days or weeks.
You should talk through your feelings, but recognize when you’re ready to talk about what happened. Don’t let someone bully you into “forgetting it” because they don’t want the attack to hinder your time together.
Use that smartphone.
Technology can lead to plenty of passivity all its own. Just think leaving a romantic interest on read receipts. As with most things, there’s some good in there, too.
Recently, three Somali women were hounded by a white woman in a North Dakotan Walmart parking lot. The attacker alleged, matter-of-factly, “We’re gonna kill all of you.”
There was a silver lining. The Somali women recorded the incident and uploaded it online. In turn, the racist was fired from her job. If you find yourself witnessing or being the subject of any kind of hate crime that is prolonged enough that you have a chance to videotape it, do so. Making an example of ignorant predators on the Internet instills a sense of consequence in us all.
Report it. You know you want to.
Though pockets of our federal government are working against us by refusing to report stories of assault, individual city and state governments are doing everything they can to thicken the police database. Believe it or not: the more you report hate crimes, the more information you are feeding into a system that does, at times, have your back.
Changes can occur. Increased funding and police training can strike fear in the minds of deluded organizations and individuals who believe they have the right to put you down. As somebody who’s had my picture catfished by some creeper on Craig’s List, I can attest that taking the time to report the crime really is chicken soup for the soul ― even if nothing comes of it.
Follow Jack Rushall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JackRushall