To The Stranger Who Called Me A 'Fag' For Having Rainbow Hair And Tattoos

Dear Stranger:

You were with a friend of yours. I remember coming into the restaurant behind you two, and it was quite crowded -- understandably so, due to it being lunch time for most of our fellows and peers with an average 9-5 job.

We were all packed in somewhat tightly. I'm sure you're not entirely unfamiliar with it, as the line in front of us was just as sardine-esque as behind me. At first, you seemed to have no problem with my being behind you... right up until the moment you turned around, looked down, and noticed that I was sporting bright rainbow hair and, because of the dress I was wearing, my rather brilliant and large rainbow tattoo was proudly on display.

I am proud of those rainbows. The one on my leg details the struggles of my life -- from assault to dealing with depression and anxiety and the aftermath of my past -- losing loved ones, finding new passions, and my fear of the unknown. That tattoo describes the first 32 years of my life. And yes, it's covered in rainbows, because without rain, there are no rainbows.

The rainbows in my hair of course are simple dye. I am somewhat obsessed with rainbows, as they are one of my favorite things on the planet, and nothing makes me happier than to see one.

That tattoo describes the first 32 years of my life. And yes, it's covered in rainbows, because without rain, there are no rainbows.

Apparently, however, my rainbows scared you, rather than made you smile (like they do me). You took one look at me, from head to toe, and hissed to your friend, "Ugh, let's move forward. I need my space from that faggot."

You needed your space from "that faggot," meaning me -- the girl minding her own business, simply using her lunch hour to visit this restaurant for her favorite food. Her comfort food. The food that has for well over a decade been her favorite meal of choice whenever something drastic happened in her life.

I stepped back from both of you, almost knocking over the people behind me due to the crush in the line, but I stepped back to give you the space you so obviously required, to keep you away from the "rainbowed faggot" standing behind you.

But even that wasn't enough for you.

As we all made our way down the ordering line, you continued to make snarky remarks about "that fat fag" and "that freak" and "god, girls like me should just get out of our country, because we're what's making America weak" and how people like me were responsible for "the downslide of of our nation."

I may have pretended otherwise as I smiled weakly with the restaurant staff preparing my steak bowl, but I heard every word you said. And every time someone else around us, including one of the restaurant staff members at one point, would snicker or chuckle at one of the things you said, while behind my darkened sunglasses, my eyes continued to tear up, and I struggled so hard to keep control of my emotions.

Finally, you paid and found seats, and I paid and chose a seat as far across the dining area as I could possibly get. Unfortunately, you were also sitting right next to the drink machine, so when I went over to fill up my Coke, I was once more treated to your hateful, hurtful, homophobic remarks.

This time, however, I could no longer stay silent.

I went and sat my drink down at my table, and then walked back over to both of you. I stood about four feet away from you near the trash can at the drink station, and I looked you in the eye as you said, "Oh great, the fag's back" to your friend.

And I said, "Am I really that scary? Because I have rainbow hair and rainbow tattoos? Really?"

You said, "Yes, you are, now get away from me."

I then asked if that made it ok for you to say such hurtful things to me, but you backpedaled quickly when you saw an employee nearby wiping down tables, and said something like "I... that... GET OUT OF MY SPACE!"

I packed up my food and rushed out of the dining area, no longer able to hide my tears behind my sunglasses from such painful remarks.

After practically yelling at me to get away from you, I shook my head, rolled my eyes despite the hidden tears still threatening to overflow my eyes, and said only, "Grow up," as I turned and walked as calmly back to my table as I could.

By this time, I was trembling all over and quickly gathered up all of my things before making my way over to the cashier to ask for a bag and a lid. I told the cashier I couldn't sit there in a restaurant where such hateful, homophobic, bigoted comments were tolerated. The cashier quickly got me a bag and lid. I packed up my food and rushed out of the dining area, no longer able to hide my tears behind my sunglasses from such painful remarks.

Outside, I was hit with the precursor of a panic attack that resulted in me kneeling down, crying, on the sidewalk. A few passersby asked if I was all right, as well as an employee from an establishment next door, who asked if I would like to come in out of the heat while I regained my composure. (Thank you for that, lady with the red-shirt from next door. I'm more grateful for your moment of unexpected kindness than I can say).

Eventually, I made my way to my car after regaining my composure a little, just in time for the full panic attack, hyperventilation and painful hand-cramps to hit me in the car, where I sat for over half an hour in the restaurant parking lot and cried because of the treatment of both you and your friend and the hateful, disgusting remarks that you felt it was okay to say to me just because you assumed that my being a fan of rainbows means I am a "scary gay."

Once I had calmed down and regained the majority of my composure, I took my uneaten, bagged food back inside the restaurant and asked the cashier I'd previously spoken with if I could speak to a manager. While I was waiting, I looked for you. I want you to know that; I looked for you, not out of fear, or anger, or thoughts of retribution, but because I actually felt sorry for you, that your small-minded bigotry was so ingrained that you felt it okay to treat a random stranger like that, in public -- a random stranger who only wanted to enjoy her favorite comfort food for lunch after a trying couple of days.

I hope you know that your words matter, that your words have an effect on people, and that your hatred did not go unnoticed.

When the manager arrived, I held out the bag of entirely uneaten food, and with tears streaming down my face, I explained to him what had happened and told him that I did not want the food; I just wanted my money back. He quickly complied, after immediately disavowing any possibility that his crew had laughed along with the girls. He offered me a "Buy-one, get-one free" coupon, but I turned him down -- I couldn't believe his immediate dismissal from an obviously distraught customer and his denial of what happened right after I told him it took place.

I took my refund receipt and left the store once more, this time to go home -- no longer hungry and no longer as in love with the restaurant as I had been less than an hour before.

I know you are unlikely to ever read this, but I hope you know that your words matter, that your words have an effect on people, and that your hatred did not go unnoticed. I myself reported your behavior, among other things, to the restaurant, and next time I've got a ready-made comeback for the next one of you who decides I'm something less than human just because I happen to love rainbows or because you think I'm gay, and that makes it somehow okay for you to hate me.

I also learned later that day that a woman named Katie also made a complaint about what happened. I do not know who Katie is, but I can only say thank you to this anonymous woman who apparently also witnessed what was going on and took it upon herself to report it to the restaurant as well, of her own volition.

My deepest thanks to you, Katie, whomever you are, for being willing to say something too, and not just stay silent or "mind your own business" about what happened on Tuesday afternoon.