I would have never guessed the first time John and I got harassed for holding hands in public would occur in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
We were a new couple in 1987, still beaming in the blush of early love, excited to taste the freedom of being ourselves in what’s known as the San Francisco of Cape Cod.
Some of the details of the actual event are a blur, but I distinctly remember applying a vice grip on John’s hand as my body froze in place when a carload of young men drove by yelling “Faggot!”
The word alone carried enough venom, but just in case there was any doubt we didn’t know we were hated, they kicked it up a notch by spitting at us.
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My “fight or flight” response immediately engaged; thoughts raced through my head: How would the two of us defend ourselves against a group of them? Which direction was best in case we needed to run?
The car sped away, leaving us physically safe but not unharmed.
We couldn’t see what we did to deserve this treatment. We tried to process what happened and what it meant that hate like that could occur in Provincetown.
If it happened in the most gay-friendly community on the East Coast, what did that say about our hometown and any other place in America?
That event left wounds still tender under the surface 30 years later. I still have a moment of pause when John reaches out to hold my hand on a walk in our downtown neighborhood.
I know intellectually we’re not doing anything different than any other long-term loving couple, but I still feel tentative about it.
The “what if’s” start to play in my head like a song I can’t stop singing. I remind myself that our love doesn’t hurt anyone else.
We recently got yelled at again, this time in Tacoma. The situation was the same, the two of us walking hand in hand, talking about whatever was going on that day, and then a white car slowed down next to us.
My mind and body took the familiar reaction. A guy stuck his head out of the car’s window. He yelled something I couldn’t quite make out.
It took me a little while to figure out that he wasn’t calling us “Faggot!” Instead, he was yelling, “Support all love!”
I was still tense and squeezing John’s hand when I turned to him and asked, “Did he just say something positive?”
All my prior learning suggested I couldn’t have possibly heard it right, but John heard it, too.
It made me think about how much things have changed over the course of three decades.
When we tied the knot in Massachusetts eight years ago, only six states allowed legal same-sex marriages. It illustrates the speed of social change that led to the Supreme Court decision in 2015 to provide marriage equality in all states.
Pride celebrations like the ones in Tacoma and other cities around the world played and continue to play an important role in promoting awareness and visibility in communities.
But Pride is more than a date on a calendar, a rainbow flag and a parade.
For us, it’s about living our lives with gratitude, integrity and dignity just like other people. It’s about being committed to live our lives authentically and bring all of who we are to our families, our friendships and our jobs.
It’s a quiet pride, where gay people like us go to work, contribute to their communities and try to make the world a better place.
And sometimes even hold hands in public.
Ted Broussard is retired after working as a counselor and administrator in community and technical colleges. A downtown Tacoma resident, he is one of six reader columnists writing for this page. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org