FEATURED ARTIST – Casey Harris
STORY by Doug Hubbard
Why do we admire a hero?
It’s late August, and I step onto my local subway in Brooklyn and take a seat. I’m doodling around with my phone, cross my legs one knee over the other, and lean back in my seat.
As the train starts moving, I notice the man sitting across from me is agitated and angry. He looks at me in the eye and says “Dude, don’t cross your legs like that, you look like a bitch.”
I roll my eyes. What can I do but ignore him and hope he drops the issue?
He continues, “Dude seriously, sit like a fuckin’ man. You look like a bitch.”
I look up from my phone and study his face. He’s obviously drunk or craving some kind of hard drug, despite the fact that it’s 1:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday. What do I do? I could uncross my legs, but why give up my personal freedoms for an ignoramus? Maybe if I just ignore him for a bit longer he’ll give it up.
“A’ight. You gonna ignore me? I see how it be. Faggot, we get off this train, I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face.”
I look up at him again and give him my best “Seriously? Is this a joke?” face. My mind is racing with possible courses of action. I don’t know what to say. I could snap out something witty, but I don’t want to escalate the situation, and I was generally in shock.
He continues to mumble under his breath, and repeats his threat to punch me in the face. I have to do something. Tell him to calm down. Tell him it’s “not that serious”.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I notice someone approaching me. I look up, and grin with satisfaction. My best friend and neighbor Amber, and her fiancé Erica, had just barely made the train. They had jumped into the car a few doors down from my seat at the last moment. I hadn’t noticed them enter, and they hadn’t noticed I was sitting there, until this man began to make a scene. They had come to my rescue.
They immediately sat down in the two open seats next to me, and we huddled together, the three of us, shoulder to shoulder in solidarity against this voice of ignorance.
We tried to make small talk between us. The man was confused. Who were these new challengers? How did they know me?
The train is pulling into the next station when the man rises and starts pacing anxiously in front of us. As the train comes to a halt he makes his last stand. He throws a punch at Erica, but pulls it back at the last moment. He swears at us, rushes towards us once more, then runs to the other end of the car, and leaves the train.
The conductor exits his door in time to watch him retreat, and tries to piece together what happened. Another man sitting nearby who watched the whole scene explains: “Hey man, he’s messin’ with the girls.”
Well gee, thanks buddy.
I have no way of knowing if he would have followed through with his threats. I suspect he may have tried had my friends not come to my aid. If he had hit me (or them), I would like to believe that my 6 years of martial arts training would have made it a very brief encounter against someone so obviously uncoordinated. It’s a common mistake to associate being gay with being weak or defenseless. I suppose that’s one reason we are so often targets of hatred.
But my friends did come and sit with me. They put themselves in very real danger, to protect me, and take a stand for our freedom to live as openly LGBT persons. Banding together, our solidarity in the face of ignorance filled me with – yes – pride. It might be easy to dismiss, and say that we all would have done the same. Up until that moment I wasn’t honestly sure what I would have done. Now I’m sure.
Why do we admire a hero? Because they sacrifice their own safety to protect the defenseless. Because they see the common humanity that unites us all, and stand against those who would try to divide us. We should all try to be a little bit more heroic in our day-to-day lives.
Amber, Erica – thanks for being Superheroes.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Casey Harris was born in Redlands, California in 1985. He is currently studying illustration at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and living in West Hollywood. His work is drawn from his love of pop culture, comics, science fiction and fantasy. He loves dinosaurs, coffee and neck ties.