HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 10, 1999
VOICES AND ECHOES
Hate on the highway meets a rainbow foe
by RANDI BEARDEN
The practice of queer folks
putting rainbow and similarly identifying stickers on
their cars has often been a two-edged
sword, lt gives us a visibility to recognize
each other, but it also gives those that hate
us tin'same power.
Still, as a dyke who is out, it has been a life
choice for me to put these stickers on my
vehicle. I do it to remind people that I too
share this world with them and to let my
brothers and sisters know they are not alone.
The road is where I spend a lot of my time
.and usually I'm alone. That's how it was the
weekend before Thanksgiving, going from
the Carolinas to a meeting in Atlanta and
then working my way to Tampa Bay.
My gas gauge was showing low, so I
pulled into a gas station not too far from the
city. There was a new Thunderbird parked
at the pump ahead of me. 1 thought nothing
of the deserted car, as I set about filling mv
tank and cleaning my windows.
A man came out of the store, crossing the
tarmac to get into the T-bird. It registered
peripherally that he was bald, wearing
shorts and combat boots. Moments after
he'd gotten into the car; loud, nerve-wracking heavy metal music blasted from his
windows. It was so loud that it made me
wince, the bass pounding in my chest.
Tlie guy got out of the Thunderbird and
went back into the store; again I didn't pay
very much attention to him. He exited the
store and stood in front of my car, legs spread,
arms crossed. I looked up from the back window where I was cleaning off the road grime.
The full realisation of what this guy was
about hit me with a foire that stopped my
breath, the iron taste of fear filling my mouth.
All up and down his arms were tattooed the
symbols of the white supremacist movement.
About the same time, the lyrics from the
music in his car filtered into my brain:
"white power, mud people, faggots, spies,
kikes, wetbacks, kill them all..."
He looked very deliberately at my front
tag: a rainbow background, with "Chicana"
engraved in white and a Mexican flag
underneath that. Guess he thought he'd hit
the jackpot of intolerance, a two-for-one
sale as it were—a Mexican-American dyke.
He raised his eyes to meet mine, the
hatred dripping. He lifted his hand and
pointed a finger at me and then slowly
brought his thumb up so that it became the
trigger of his symbolic gun. Though he
never spoke a word, his words screamed at
me with a deafening force.
just when I thought my lungs would
burst from their fear-induced paralysis, a
car pulled into the spot on the other side of
the pump. At this intrusion of a possible
witness, the guy began to step back, his
"gun" in front of him, still aimed at me.
After about three steps he dropped his
hand, turned around and walked to his car.
He got into it and turned up the music
even louder, if that was possible. Then at
long last, time began to move again as he
pulled away from the pump and left. He
drove away from the highway, and I
breathed a huge sigh of relief. I had always
known that there were people like him in
the world; today I knew it personally.
It was during the trip back home that 1 was
reminded of how much I appreciated tlie
queer folks who brave the world and put tlie
rainbow and other queer stickers on their cars.
It has always been mv habit that if I see
another rainbow on the Interstate to wave.
The occupants of the other car usually
acknowledge me and then we tend to stay
close to each other going up the highway. It
lets me know I'm not out there alone and
makes me feel safer. I really needed that feeling as I headed back home.
Not long after I had gotten onto the
Interstate, a truck with Georgia tags passed me
with a HRC equal sign sticker on the back
window and a couple of dykes in the front
seat. In an instant my uneasiness disappeared;
1 was not alone.
A short time later, I met a red truck with
Kentucky plates, a rainbow sticker and pink
triangle on the back window and a dyke who
kept me company almost to Attanta.
Not only did I feel better, but I knew how
much it makes a difference when we put stickers on our cars and make ourselves known.
To the brother and sisters who rode up
the road that day with me, thanks for
your courage to make yourselves known.
It gives me great hope and that dav it
gave me great comfort.
Randi M. Bearden is a self-described
"Mexican-American dyke" who co-founded
of Project FFREE, a gay grassroots organization in Greenville, S.C; she can be reached at
864-322-5488 or SCChicana@aol.com.
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