Simon and Garfunkel once wrote a song about a faceless, nameless graffiti
sketcher who waits silently for a target. Finally, a train comes into view and
he quickly inscribes his message on the side-four letters, said Simon and Garfunkel.
Now one might ponder what those four letters spelled, four letter words in our culture are generally construed as dirty or obscene... although love is a four letter word. But somehow, we all knew that the four letters inscribed on the side of the train in that old song were not "love."
I, too, have a story about a nameless, faceless attacker in the night who left four letters as his calling card, emblazoned across the sidewalk in front of my business. His four letters spelled d-y-k-e in blue spray paint, with a pointed arrow leading from the end of the "e" to my front door.
Graffiti is a violation of our privacy, of our right to peaceful existence. Whether it be racial epithets, gang insignia, or name calling, graffiti is an attack against the whole community.
On the day after the attack, I was down on my hands and knees attempting to rub out the blue-painted scar on my sidewalk. It took days to remove the paint, and even then, the dim outline of the word remained, like a ghost to remind me of the hatred that had stamped it there, or the twisted humor that had found it funny to leave its mark. I hate sick jokes.
And as recently as yesterday, I again had the task of removing another thoughtless act of a warped mind from my property...this time not a word directed at my sexuality, but offensive just the same. In the Marigny, there often doesn't seem to be a reason for destructive behavior.
So the paint can came out and within 2 hours I had again obliterated what had probably taken 25 seconds to create. I left a note behind: "We have video of this act."
Graffiti is a cowardly act. It is designed to lash out at the innocent, the standers-by who are not even given a chance to respond. Oh sure, my reaction to the graffiti was something like "aw, shit" or maybe even another four letter word. But there is no face to say it to, no eyes staring back in defiance. There is only the over-spray of black and orange to rail against: the blue outline still clinging to the cement.
But the building now has a fresh coat of paint, so I guess there is an up side to the episode.
Names, insignia, identification tags-that's what graffiti is called- a tag. If you've been tagged, you're (h)it...the attacker has made his mark and IT is up to you to respond or ignore the hideous message. I always respond by obliterating their message. It is retaliation of the best kind-their work is ruined. The tables are turned and all trace of them is annihilated. They never even walked here, it would seem.
But I walk here and live here and work here everyday. I am a business woman, a taxpayer, yes and I am a dyke...a lesbian, a lover of women...and I am proud. Pain is temporary; pride is everlasting.
I wonder why it is that people only see one aspect of our personalities, of our lives. To too many people, we are ONLY dykes, and half of them have no clue as to what that means.
They don't understand the pride and sense of personal choice that goes along with that word. All they see is a brand, a symbol that might as well be scarlet, or a patch sewn on our clothing, or a number tattooed inside our forearms. There is so much ignorance in the world.
In fact, I heard a remark the morning after the Grammy Awards which had been emceed the night before by Ellen DeGeneres. Howard Stern was commenting on the awards ceremony and he brought up DeGeneres. "I don't know about you all," he said to his listeners, "but all I could think when I looked at Ellen DeGeneres was DYKE." There's that word again, like a Miss America ribbon worn over the shoulder, across the chest, and over the hip. Four letters.
Even over the airwaves, it was as if Stern had taken a can of spray paint and emblazoned DeGeneres with the word. Of course, Ellen has allowed her sexuality to become a guessing game for the media, so there are those who might say that she has put herself squarely in the middle of the public eye.
Well, that's her choice.
And it wasn't even what Stern said that bothered me...it was how he had reduced Ellen Degeneres to one aspect of herself. Her sexuality was the sum and substance of her identity as she hosted the prestigious Grammy's. Will Ellen come out on her TV show this year? I hope so, but not because I want her to be any kind of spokesperson for our community. I want her to come out so that people might realize that her sexuality is a natural part of her life; it is not her LIFE.
We all do many things with our lives-we teach, we nurse, we doctor, we practice law, we model, we style hair, we perform, we paint, we sing, we sell, we cook, we walk a beat, we clean houses, we preach, we care for others. Oh, and we sleep with members of our same sex...we respond erotically to them...we want to share our daily existence with them. I can't really define what being gay means to everyone, but I know it means more than four letters written angrily across a sidewalk or on a wall.
It is a courageous choice for many of us, and I'll be damned if some little coward will hurt me with his spray can or his crayons.
And here are some other 4 letter words to broaden his minuscule vocabulary: self...love...hope...good...holy...well...home...pray...safe.