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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Jan. 1, 1989)
W atching our backs in 1989
The skinheads have a Nazi agenda which endangers
everyone who is not lily white , heterosexual and bald
M I C H A E L
R E E D
ne evening, a few weeks ago, Teddy,
Dusty and 1 were at a downtown hotel for
cocktails. Two businessmen sat at a table near
ours. As we talked, we kept hearing one of
these men peppering his slightly drunken
speeches with the word “ faggots.” At first it
was annoying, then offensive, then finally
intolerable. Teddy finally spoke up, saying,
“ W hat’s wrong with faggots?”
The man who loved wrapping his lips around
the word turned his sharp nose and beady eyes
toward Teddy and said, “ This is a private con
versation and none of your business.”
“ If it’s a private conversation then why don’t
you keep it that way,” Teddy retorted.
We attempted to return to our conversation
while the rodent continued to be a jerk. Now
that he knew we could hear him, he pressed on
with his homophobic diatribe to get a rise out
After awhile, I left the room for a moment.
When I came back. Dusty was saying to Teddy,
quite loudly, “ C ’mon, Teddy, don’t argue with
them. Those breeders aren’t worth it.”
Dusty went on to say it was odd how “ they”
always needed to put down others in order to
The rodent man took umbrage at being
referred to as “ they” and fired a question at
Dusty, “ What do you mean ‘they’?”
Dusty levelled an icy stare at the rodent man
and said, “ Excuse me, but this is a private
conversation and none of your business.”
The three of us then started speaking in
whispers, laughing at them. This upset them.
Apparently, bigots don’t like being laughed at.
The rodent man picked up a chair and
threatened to throw it at us. Dusty stared evenly
at the rodent man and said, “ Put that down, big
boy, you’re not man enough to use it.”
The rodent man spluttered for a while, put the
chair down and, a few moments later, left with
• • •
hile shopping at Stadium Fred Meyer one
evening, I saw a skinhead walking
through the store. He was simply dressed
military issue khaki pants and black shoes. He
wore a jean jacket, painted with unintelligible,
As he passed me, our eyes met. His were
wide, intense and when I looked into them it
was like looking into a cauldron bubbling with a
very dark hatred.
I have been on many forms of public trans
portation in many cities across this country and I
have seen my share of crazies. I’m not unaware
of their presence. Usually, I just make mental
notes for future character studies and go about
my day. It is rare when someone on the street
stays as clearly in my mind as this skinhead has.
For one thing, when our eyes met, I felt like
one very vulnerable queer. I found myself
instantly on his level. I, too, was afraid of
another human being simply because of how he
looked. Or, more simply put. how he wore his
hair. Now I have seen many frightening hair
styles in my journeys, but this man’s bald head
has terrifying implications. The skinheads have
a Nazi agenda which endangers everyone who
is not lily white, heterosexual and bald.
I was angry that the appearance of another
human being could frighten me so much. I
startled myself by wishing that all the other
shoppers would descend on this man, bludgeon
ing his billiard ball head with their bottles of
chardonnay, their tuna fish cans, their purses.
Then I remembered that it is those kind of
irrational fears that drive the skinheads to
destroy people who are different from them. It
is behavior better suited for animals than human
beings. And while I do not want to be like these
thugs, I do not want to be afraid, either. And I
am afraid of them. I’m afraid for my personal
safety and the safety of my friends when we’re
out on the street. I’m afraid of their similarity to
the thugs that became Hitler’s powerful army of
stormtroopers. But, friends insist that Nazis
could never have the power in America that
they had in Germany. It won’t happen here. I’m
in reminded again and again. Americans wouldn’t
stand for it, Americans wouldn’t let it happen.
Then I wonder if the valiant Americans
protecting minorities in this country from this
virulent fascism would be the same Americans
that told us in Oregon that it is lawful to fire
people from their jobs because they’re queer.
• • •
o be fearful of bigots is unavoidable. To
some extent, it is healthy to be afraid. The
enemy must be feared, watched and studied.
We must also laugh at them, since laughter
deflates bullies quicker than any physical con
frontation. We must also take them seriously
enough to know that they can kill us and will kill
us if they get the chance.
Now is the time to empower ourselves. If
you’ve been thinking about taking a self-
defense course, do it. If you go out at night,
avoid walking the streets alone. If you do go out
alone, watch and listen at all times. If you see
two or more people coming toward you on a
dimly lit street, don’t walk there. Take another
route. If you’re walking in a deserted section of
town, walk in the middle of the street
instead o f the sidewalk. It will give you more
maneuvering room and make it harder for
someone to jump you. If you find yourself in an
area where you feel afraid, trust your instincts
and get away from the area.
But don’t let your fear get the better of you.
Don’t let it keep you inside your home and
afraid to go out into the world. We must not
become invisible simply because the number of
thugs and homophobic violence is increasing in
our city. My guess is that it’s going to get worse
before it gets better and hiding from the
ugliness will not stop it from happening.
We will not be beaten down. We will
remember what happened to homosexuals in
Germany not so long ago. We shall stand upon
our history as an oppressed people and we shall
overcome the intolerance and hatred that
plagues our country.
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i January 1989
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