Last week I was invited by the Pride Network of the River Campus to give an informal “Drag 101” talk about the process of putting oneself into drag. After the meeting ended, I had to rush back over to Eastman for our own Pride Network meeting. Not having enough time to remove the makeup or even change my clothes, I decided to remain dressed up. As I was walking into the school, a gay student looked me in the eye and said, “And you wonder why you get beaten.” He was referring to the fact that I was the undergraduate student whose sexual orientation had been “denigrated” and who had been punched in the face. Much like I did immediately following the attack, I again began to question why it happened. It was a fairly normal morning for me. I got dressed around 10 a.m. in my bland everyday clothes – a black and gray sweater, black jeans and black shoes – and began walking the less than half mile from my apartment to the Eastman dorms to catch the bus to River Campus. As I was walking up the street, I saw a group of about 10 or so black high school aged guys and girls. I wondered why they were not in school but thought nothing of it. I continued walking and then one of them said, “Oh my God and look at this fag we have here.” Again, I thought nothing of it because that happens fairly frequently in my day-to-day life and has since I was at least eight years old. Even homeless men asking me for money on the streets have called me a fag before. I continued to walk, simply ignoring the comments as I always do, all the while hearing what a “fag” and “fruit” I was. In front of Reformation Lutheran Church, I was about to cross the street, when one of the guys came up and punched me in the face as hard as he could. I was completely shocked. I turned around and there he stood yelling, “What now, fag,” as his group of friends looked on laughing. Clearly there was no way for me to fight 10 people in the streets, so, without speaking a word, I simply continued to walk. The rest is sort of a blur – UR Security called the police, my roommate came to be with me, I called my mom, crying, I saw the nurse and several deans came and talked to me. The only thing I clearly remember from those next several moments is saying to my mom, “I wasn’t even talking or wearing anything flamboyant. There was no reason they should have done that.” The fact of the matter is, however, had I been wearing something flamboyant, speaking with a lisp or even dressed in drag, being attacked is not something I should expect. To that student, I answer – the reason I get beaten is because of ignorance much like your own.The fact that these thugs felt comfortable attacking me in broad daylight in front of a church reflects the sentiment you expressed – fags deserve this. That all of these students were black proves this point even more strongly. In a culture where black people have historically been the victims of beatings, lynchings and other violence, one would think that as a group of people, blacks would have been the first to learn not to do this to other people, particularly other black people. The sentiment there is just as clear – not only does being gay make me less black, it makes me less than a whole person. The fact that I was clearly on my way to school – my books were in my hands – and they were skipping school means they weren’t thinking, “Oh, he is doing something with his life, maybe we should go to school as well. Maybe we shouldn’t hit him in the face, since he is probably a musician because he is walking towards Eastman.” None of those things mattered because they had finally found someone lower on the totem pole of America than they are. Apparently, gay people are the lowest, because even the homeless find it acceptable to “denigrate my sexual orientation.” In the United States of America, one should not have to live in fear of violence because of who he or she is. I should not have to make a concerted effort to be “more straight-acting” simply to avoid being attacked. To say that is just as ridiculous as my great-great-grandparents only having friends who passed “the paper bag” test so they could more easily pass for white. Attempting to assimilate into what society has deemed ideal does not make one smart, but instead a complete coward. I could have taken the time to get out of drag for fear something else might happen to me, but I chose not to allow someone else’s ignorance control my life. I will not blame myself for what happened and I will not change who I am. I did not deserve this and neither does anyone else. I am a whole person and so is every other person out who is “different.” I’ve often written in the Campus Times about just how important tolerance and awareness are for all of us. I now wish I had spent more time stressing acceptance. People should accept the fact that there are gay people in the world. People should accept the fact that there are drag queens in the world. People should accept the fact that a man can be what society has deemed “feminine” and still be heterosexual. There is nothing any of us can do to change that and if there is, the answer is not found in physical assault.Haynes can be reached

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