Blast from the Past IV: Surprise bigotry
As I was chatting with friends last night we fell upon the topic of people you’ve just met who make very outlandish statements and assume you’re on their side. These are almost always political or racist/homophobic/other -ist and never leave you in a comfortable position. In Hightstown, NJ, this often takes the form of people casually turning the conversation to how they harbor a strong antipathy for the borough’s immigrant population.
This is my tale of gay-related discomfort.
It was either just before or just after I spent a year teaching abroad. I was without a car and had to depend on the train to go up to Fishkill to visit Mike and to return. This particular day I was actually meeting friends in the city while Mike was at work, so I called a taxi to transport me to the station.
The cab driver was a middle-aged woman who was fairly chatty and I sat up front with her as she picked up and dropped off other passengers along the way. (This is normal in the Hudson Valley, though I’ve never had it happen anywhere else.) Our conversation was pleasant enough and strictly superficial, and that was fine by me. But as we got close to the station she got on the topic of natural disasters and how they were god’s will. I distinctly remember her likening the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans to “Sodom and Gomorrah” and saying they “were asking for it” because of their licentious ways, specifically their acceptance of “gays.”
Up until this point in the conversation, there had been absolutely no indication this was coming, and I was dumbstruck. There was no graceful way to continue the chat, since, trapped in a moving vehicle, my only options were to:
- Agree with her on views I found abhorrent
- Start a disagreement right before she gave me a bill she determined, or
- Not say anything and let her interpret my silence on her own
In the end I went with #3 and was extremely grateful when we soon arrived at the station. I made as quick an exit as I could and never mentioned to her that she had picked me up from my boyfriend’s apartment or that I was off to visit bisexual friends, but I felt charged with adrenaline as if I had been directly threatened.
Looking back, I wonder if I missed an opportunity to challenge her views, but I don’t think she was very open to other points of view. And in cases such as this, it doesn’t seem wise to challenge a potentially unreasonable person piloting 2 tons of steel.