Recent verbal expressions bring the reality of anti-LGBTQ violence to our neighborhood.
We live in a small city about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Los Angeles. We’ve lived in our house for six years, but in the city for eight, ever since moving from Colorado.
We absolutely love where we live. We love our neighbors, our town, the small-town feel, and the ability to walk almost everywhere. All in the shadow of the gorgeous San Gabriel Mountains.
I work from home and my office faces the street. Today a couple of kids (from I think our local middle school on their way home from school) walked by and one said “I’m straight. F*** LGBTQ.”
We have a pride flag in front of our home. I was blown away, mainly because although we have experienced violence in the past, not in our neighborhood, and not really in Monrovia. I realize this type of thing happens. We have gotten stares, and sometimes more dog poop than usual on our lawn when we have the flag out, but never something like this.
This happened a day after another group of kids walked by and one took a couple photos of our flag. I didn’t think anything of that.
I’m hoping that even though there are some who don’t want LGBTQ neighbors next door or on the same block (ours are good with it), and some that dislike gay people for whatever reasons, that they can at least teach their kids a better way of treating people one doesn’t like. I especially think of LGBTQ youth who go to school with this kid.
Our flag stays. We especially feel this with the recent murder, about an hour away, of Laura Ann Carleton, an ally in Lake Arrowhead who was murdered at her shop after being attacked for flying her pride flag.
That night, someone tried to take our flag down.
Two days after the first incident the same kid walked by with friends and made vulgar, anti-gay statements.
It surprised me that both Mike and I, sitting in different parts of the house, both heard the kid and got up and went to the front door, both having the exact same reaction.
We were pissed.
Before I knew it, we were on the sidewalk giving chase to the kids, me shouting as loud as I could “f*cking bigots” and Mike shouting a variety of terms showing his anger.
The kids were surprised and ran.
We kept going.
Down one street, continually shouting “f*cking bigots”, turning on to an alley where I saw them, walking and looking like they had thought we had stopped, and seeing the shock on their faces as I kept going.
Neighbors stopped, asking what was going on.
Finally, two of the kids ran into a house, one kept going. I had what I wanted: knowing where they lived.
Their neighbor had driven by me and asked what was happening. I told her and she drove ahead and parked in front of their house. After they ran in, she and I spoke and I absolutely loved how kind she was, and that even though her four kids were in the car and they were on their way home from school, she stopped to offer help.
Don’t worry, my intent was never to physically harm the kids. I wanted them, and everyone who could hear me, to know that bigotry was not welcome in my neighborhood.
After seeing where the bigoted kid lived, I made my way home. One block away Mike was in his car driving and looking for me. I hopped in. We chatted the short way home and decided to call the police.
Ten minutes later three police officers were in our living room, with two of our three dogs continually barking at them. They eventually stopped.
The officers were familiar with the first incident, as we called it in just as an FYI. This time one of the officers asked questions and we answered. They suggested I not go to speak with the parents (something I had wanted to do), that they would go to the house from our house and talk with the kid.
Something we talked about with the officers that is very important to us was that we wanted to make sure that they had no interest in the legal status of the kids’ parents. I didn’t want this incident of bigotry to become anything more for the family.
They all assured me that they had no interest in that, nor does the city as policy for officers responding to incidents.
Within a half hour they were all back to our house. Good news, they said. The kid was very apologetic, almost cried as he told them that he realized it was stupid, and said he didn’t know why he did it. I didn’t talk during this, just listened. One adult point for me!
I wanted to talk. I wanted to say, “Well, of course he was apologetic, with three police officers in his home!”
The parents were not home and the officers said they tried to call them. They would return to the house the next day, after work hours, and meet with them. The officers told us the kid wanted to write a letter to us, and we thought that was nice.
I thought it was nice. I still didn’t believe that this foul-mouthed bigot suddenly saw the light.
When the officers left, I began my process of letting everyone I could think of know what was happening. I had already posted on Nextdoor. Mike has posted on the community Facebook page. I emailed the principal of the middle school and he quickly responded. I’m currently working on emails to the school board and city council.
We live in a small city. I felt at the start, and still feel, that it’s important to share this with our community.
The next day, I was out back and heard the dogs barking. It was around the time the kids had walked by in the previous days, so I looked to see if Mike was at the front door. He comes out back with a note, the word “sorry” written on the envelope, in the colors of the pride flag.
The kid had just dropped off an apology letter.
I really tried to just acknowledge the letter, and not judge what he wrote. I only have partly succeeded with that. He apologized, said he was stupid and gave us a reason why he did what he did. He added a five-dollar bill “for drinks” and drew another pride flag at the end.
Apparently the five dollars is a big deal for a middle schooler to gift, as is the apology letter.
Regardless of how I felt about the letter, it did help me with the anger, sadenss and fear I had felt all week. What also helped was deciding to get more involved in our local school, seeing if there is anything I can do to support LGBTQ+ students and clubs.
Mike is a teacher in another city east of here, and his experience with kids this age was super helpful.
The response of our immediate neighbors was just as what I had thought it would be: loving and supportive. Everyone who responded to one of our social media posts was supportive. I’m sure some read it who were not supportive, but smartly decided that this was not the moment to express their bigotry.
I took time to fasten our flag, so the hold is even stronger. It’s not going anywhere.