Last time I went to the shop on our street, I saw the homophobic shop owner behind the counter waiting for the next customer. He spotted me, frowned and looked away. He had seen me one day, months before, with my wife, she’d had her hand on my shoulder. Before that moment, he’d thought my wife was straight because she has two kids and an ex-husband. So his view of her was changed. I suppose it made him angry, and, from that day on, he has scowled at us and refused to say thank-you or smile (like we see him do with all of his other customers). We had to get home delivery once because of Coronavirus lockdown and the shop owner delivered our food, begrudgingly, but he made sure we knew he was not happy to be delivering food to the lesbians.
We go to car boots on Sunday mornings. You would think those homophobes would all be in church. We hold hands, shop and try to find bargains, just like the straights do. My wife and I get stared at the entire time by men with jaws open, wives glaring, side- looks and whispering. When straight couples walk along, holding hands, looking for shiny wellies and used tools, no one seems to stare at them. Sometimes I try to act like I don’t see them staring. Other times I try to pretend we are celebrities and my wife is a famous writer who sells her screenplays and attends the BAFTA awards and such. I have to hold back the urge to say “Didn’t your parents teach you not to stare?” My middle finger stays tucked inside my pocket, but I would desperately like to use it. I won’t buy clothes from people who give us that look because as I slip them on in the morning, I will be reminded that they came from homophobes. Nope.
A few months ago, we went to tour ancient ruins in Bury St. Edmunds. We happily walked along, holding hands, enjoying the spring sunshine. We saw a family walking toward us, with a teenage girl who was about 13, with purple hair and a red jumper. In the time it takes to walk up and pass someone, I noticed her giving us a curious glance, then a huge smile, the kind of smile that melts away all the anger and hurt from the past. After her family passed us, she ran ahead to catch up with them and turned and gave us one more look that made her glow with happiness (at least that is how the memory happens for me). We smiled back at her, knowing that she was one of us. The rest of the day, we talked about that small moment and how lovely it felt knowing that one young, queer girl felt represented.
So, we keep holding hands in shops, at car boots and around town while we say to ourselves, “fuck the homophobes!”
Lori Graham is a lesbian American writer living in Woodbridge, England and Durham NC. (She is torn between the two.) She writes poetry, nonfiction, fiction and has had her work featured on BBC Radio and Micro Podcast. Lori enjoys writing about ghosts, magical realism, and LGBTQ themes. Lori has been published in Other Worldly Women Press, The Adriatic, Analogies and Allegories, The Open Culture Collective, Fahmidan Journal, Horrified Magazine, The Bitchin’ Kitsch and a few others.