Ronnie and I don’t like shopping at Walmart because the company’s maltreatment of their employees, and the low quality of their product; and a secondary reason is the clientele. We only go to Walmart during emergencies or needing last minute items when we are financially strained. The times we have gone, I say we are committing Walmart to borrow from Henry Rollins because he goes to Walmart under similar circumstances while he’s on tour in America. Last night we had to go because we needed new sheets for our bed to change out the sweat inducing flannel sheets. The closest Walmart to us is off US 31 South on Indianapolis’ Southside. When I came up on Indy’s Eastside, I, like many others in my area, avoided the Southside due to the amount of Rednecks and Hillbillies. There is a real bigotry in the Eastside towards White people from the North and Southside—Northside white people are stuck up and fragile, Southside white people are dull witted with delusions of Confederacy. Unfortunately, there are traces of that bigotry in me, and it’s been a long up road struggle to leave behind that learned behavior. Unfortunately, such sights as giant American Flags and Confederate flags on the sides of trucks—or on flag poles—and Trump bumper stickers and lawn signs do not make my spiritual work any easier. According to people north of Washington Street, the Southside may as well be the backwoods of Kentucky.
When we pulled into the Walmart parking lot the area was filled with waddling people wearing oversized USA t-shirts. I decided to go in with Ronnie because I wanted to look for some more chinos in the women’s section. I enjoy how those pants look on me, and they are great for warm weather. As we walked into the store, Ronnie and I were greeted with angry stares. Ronnie wore her large necklaces made in Tibet, the top of her hair pulled back in such a way she looked like a shield-maiden from Scandinavian sagas, and a sheer shirt pulled over a black tank top. I wore my 0g tunnels in my ears with 10g hoops going through them, and next to them were dangling earrings that are wood carvings of the Bodhi tree. Around my neck are sandalwood mala beads, and on my left wrist Muslim prayer beads. I have on a gray shirt, black chinos, sandals, and a pull over shoulder bag to carry my books and a small bag inside containing my license and bank cards. My appearance notwithstanding, I do not act like a straight white male. I would hope so because I’m a bisexual male who is feminine in many aspects of his personality and wears some women’s clothing for comfort. When I came out last October, I’ve been quite comfortable in my own skin; but tonight, I feared for my safety.
Walking around the store, I saw quite a bit of anti-Islamic and anti-immigration t-shirts; and a few Christian t-shirts. One t-shirt in particular read “ISIS hunting permit,” and the guy who wore it was skinny, 5”7 with a bushy, Yonker beard and close cropped hair. Besides him there were angry people quietly following us throughout the store. After we checked out and walked towards the parking lot, Ronnie took my hand to hold to be a protective beard so I could appear to live up to one point of an arbitrary criteria of masculinity held by this slowly growing mob. The only other time I had been that afraid for my life is when I lived on 10th & Beville on the Near Eastside, and I accidentally ran over a Rottweiler puppy owned by the neighborhood drug dealer. The puppy didn’t die, and it was by chance I got him on the hip with my ’86 Chevy Cavalier. I didn’t know who the puppy belonged to, and I felt terrible. Besides Pit Bulls, I adore Rottweilers, or Rotties as we call them, and I was upset to think I might have killed one. As I went up to the house and offer to pay the vet bill, I found myself staring down the barrel of a 9mm Glock. I was shaking and sweating, mentally praying, “Ah, fuck me!” I was lucky, though because a friend of the drug dealer vouched for me. At Walmart, I was followed by a growing mob of angry white people, and no one to protect me.
Besides their homophobia, there are two points I find confusing: the Southside is mostly, white, but is overwhelmingly Evangelical with some Catholic Churches peppered throughout the area. Generally speaking, they are professing Christians—outspoken followers of Jesus suffering from Christian exceptionalism and a false narrative of persecution. They may not be gunned down or lose their lives and churches by suicide bombings, but they can’t freely oppress people in the name of their religion; and that’s why Jesus suffered and died. Jesus, they believe, is God in the flesh showing his love, mercy, and grace to people, dying on the cross for humanity, and rising from the dead to confirm their salvation. Today is Easter, the day these people celebrate Jesus’ resurrection with egg hunts, cantatas (depending on the Christian denomination), and long sermons shaming people into repentance. Last night, though, Jesus is dead and not paying attention so it’s alright to beat me and/or kill me for being something outside of their infantile hermeneutic. I’ve read the gospels several times, and nowhere did I read about Jesus redeeming those who were deemed social outcasts by beating them or killing them.
Last night’s experience is one of many examples I bring up when I say why I have a difficult time accepting Christianity as true, or believing Jesus to be God incarnate. This example is also why Ronnie and I are preparing to move back to the West coast. She and I shouldn’t live in fear for our lives over being different. If we’re not hurting anyone then who cares? I don’t have an answer for the behavior I witnessed last night, and I know I’m not the only one of my friends who are familiar with the hate shown towards them because of their sexual orientation. The best thing I can do at this point is avoid places like Walmart, and take the necessary steps to move to an area where I can breathe easier. Right now, I find it difficult to extend forgiveness to these people; but I know the first step in getting rid of hate in the world is making no room for hate in my heart.