Party Pooper  
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! November 16, 2000
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Under siege, my daughter and I sat inside our house, blinds drawn and doors locked, waiting for the service and protection of Toronto's Finest.
          We weren’t clear about the threat, but I think we both half-expected a rock or two through the window, followed by something much worse. We’d ended up here because I’d asked to have the loud obnoxious music next door turned down and because I’m identifiably queer.
          I’m a lousy neighbour to have if your idea of a good time on Friday night is to invite over twenty of your most noisy, cuss-mouthed friends and have them stand outside on your lawn drinking and shouting while a car with all its doors open pounds out music so loud my house feels like I’m living on the San Andreas fault on a bad day.
          Not that I intended to pick a fight. I asked politely, at first. I explained that my daughter and I would be going to bed soon. I agreed to five minutes more, after which I was courteous enough not only to ask one more time but to remind them that not only was this inconsiderate, it was now getting quite illegal.
          I had about as much effect as when you politely ask a two year old to stop banging their little firefighter’s engine on the television set.
          Fuelled by impatience and a healthy refusal to be so rudely ignored, I not only called the police but did so right outside, so those brawny dimwits could see just how serious a scrawny four-eyed female could be. I even went right over to the throbbing car to give the nice officer on the other end of the phone the license plate number.
          Dramatic, perhaps. Brazen, yes. But all in all an otherwise quite ordinary weekend feud between neighbours, until the moment when one particularly brainy partier yelled “Fucking lesbian!” And the responding moment in which I answered “You got that right.”
          If only there’d been a director somewhere yelling “Cut!” I could’ve had my heroic moment without its real-world repercussions.
          Back inside our house, our vulnerability settled in. There was, really, nothing but glass between us and a small homophobic mob whose Friday night fun had been squashed by a lesbian. I reassuringly said they weren’t likely to start vandalising while they know the police are on the way. But that kind of rational thinking is small comfort to a scared child.
          As I tried hard to believe my own reassurance, I had a sobering reality-check. How much can I be indignantly out when I have a child to protect? How much can I test the limits of virulent homophobia if it puts my kid in jeopardy? And what can I teach her about being out and proud if it means the living room window might burst onto the floor in front of her? If anything happened to my daughter, it wouldn’t have been worth my neighbourhood quiet riot.
          But I also have this theory that both her and my safety can be found not in the closet but in the outness of out. What good is the insult “lesbian” if it’s received with pride and affirmation? (I don’t even mind being called a “fucking” lesbian.) What use is it to them if I don’t appear to judge my sexuality with the same disgust as they do, if I’m unafraid of neighbourhood notoriety?
          In case anyone thinks I’m hopelessly naive, I admit that safety too often depends on the luck of the draw – my noisy neighbours turned out to be all talk and no action. So, in hindsight, I can say I’m glad I did what I did. And I’m glad my daughter got to see that being out and visible can be a strong tool against bigotry.
          But for a little while yet I’ll also nervously hope that that much homophobia isn’t living in every house on my street.

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There was, really, nothing but glass between us and a small homophobic mob whose Friday night fun had been squashed by a lesbian.