Here's a little insight into the atmosphere in parts of D.C. Being away for a month and a half, I have to say it's pleasant not to be assaulted intermittently by homophobic and racist slurs. Here's a classic recent D.C anecdote from Frank Ahrens in today's Washington Post:
Walking up Connecticut Avenue through Dupont Circle one night recently, I spotted a sidewalk saxophonist. Amid his free-form meanderings, I picked out some Brubeck. The busker was a black man, and looked about my age.
I was about to say something friendly to him about "Take Five" as I approached, but he beat me to the punch. He locked eyes with me, stopped playing and said, "After 42 years in this life, I learned one thing: White people suck!"
It's rare to be confronted with such unprovoked, in-your-face malice, at least for a white guy. I was stunned and kept walking. But I was so angered, so offended, that I shot back -- without really thinking -- "[Expletive] you!"
"You can't," he yelled after me, as I walked away, "you gay [expletive]!"
The punch-line, of course, is that Brubeck is white. In DC, as gentrification intensifies, my own inner-city neighborhood has become noticeably less friendly. I've lived on the same street corner as a major drug gang for fourteen years. They usually leave me alone, but in the last year or so, the mutterings of "faggot" as I walk my dogs each day have grown more common. Older African-American teens drag kids away from any interaction with me and the beagles. At a recent neighborhood meeating, one resident told the assembled throng (I heard this from someone who lives in my building) declared: "We don't want any more white people here." I was sitting on a bus a couple years' back and heard two black men talk about the problem with "faggots" in their neighborhood. "I can smell 'em," one said to the other, and cast a sideways look in my direction. Local black pastors have recently given sermons denouncing "faggots" in exactly that language, and remain in the mayor's good graces. I should add: I couldn't care less about the "faggot" remarks. Yes, they grate, and my other half finds them more distressing. As long as they don't touch me, they're welcome to their prejudice. It's their loss, not mine. It's just a shame that, once again, insecure male heterosexuals find the need to bolster their own fragile self-esteem by denigrating fags. One day, they'll grow up and be, well, men.