A few days ago, after a long days work, I got on the train, grabbed a seat, plugged in my headphones and tried not to think about the long ride home.  I am not generally afraid of being on the train at any point in the day.  Growing up taking the train in Chicago prepared me to deal with the crazies in New York.  In fact, I think the sheer density of NYC makes me feel a lot safer than being on an empty train.  In Chicago, I caught a man masturbating while he watched me read the paper.  We were two of four people on the train.  The other two people were incapable of offering any assistance.  I was 15, in unfamiliar territory, and face to face with a man and his hard-on.  I ran from teh train and rode all the way back home.  It was Sunday morning.

Once you grow up riding the train, you learn the basic rules:

  • Don’t look strangers in the eyes.
  • Don’t fall asleep.
  • Don’t board empty cars.
  • If the train is passing through Chinatown, you are more likely to get a seat if you stand over a Chinese person.

Do I make myself clear?  Good.  So transitioning to NYC transportation wasn’t a difficult adjustment to make.  I learned the lines quickly, which ones were dirty, which ones were slow and unreliable, and which ones were cold.  I learned where racial groups got off and I even figured out how to take a nap without putting myself in harms way.

Fast forward to a few days ago.  At some point in the trip, I looked up and the woman across from me looked like she’d seen a ghost.  Her eyes said, “don’t move” and when I looked to diagonal from me, there is a man with his fingers cocked like a gun, shooting fake bullets and singing a modified version of Buju Banton’s “Boom Bye Bye” song just for me, the lone visible lesbian on the train.  “If you see the lesbian, shoot that bitch dead.”  Four more stops to go.  Three more stops to go.

I have experienced homophobia.  Someone has spat in my direction, someone has gotten on the train to preach to a mass of folks about how it was a sin to be gay, someone has referred to me as “he” and been rude.  This, however, was the first time I worked extra hard to modify my behavior because I feared for my life.  When my first inclination was to cover my head with my hood, I decided against it because I thought I would look butch.  When I wanted to walk to the other end of the train, I decided to stay seated because I had to pass the guy to get to the other side.  And when I would normally roll my eyes and suck my teeth, I stared at my iPhone and struggled not to make eye contact.  I taped the experience, at least the last two minutes.  Below is thirty seconds.  The lyrics go, “If you see the lesbian, shoot that bitch dead.”  There were other lyrics such as “the lesbians molest the children” and “shoot her in the head” but they aren’t featured on this clip.

Boom Bye Bye (Remix)