it's my

birthday!! that's all


i stand as witness

it recalls every moment i'd heard it in the past. that one time in atlanta when it spewed from her lips like hot venom. because she was ashamed black women jumped off the college track to help her. ashamed that habitat for humanity was the only thing keeping her off the streets. ashamed that she stood barefoot in a housecoat.

"nigger monkeys. all of them."

i heard. and i kept hammering. tears pushing the back of my eyes.

fast backward to when a little girl, about 7, repeated what she heard from her parents or grandparents or older siblings. maybe on tv. fast backward to that moment at the park when she wanted the swing i pushed my brother on.

"stupid nigger."

the only time i've ever punched someone in the mouth. my 6 yr. old fist.

and now fast forward. standing on castro street. under rainbow flags. after shopping and talking and sharing and


and it jolts you. and it matters you're in san francisco, an icon of liberal whiteness. a san francisco of gayness rather than queerness. and it matters i stood witness. and it matters it wasn't "at me." but at my friend who stood next to me. and it matters all i could say was "fuck you." and it matters i was braver at 6. and it matters two minutes later we ate burritos in silence. and it matters until then he'd never heard it said to him. that faggot was the epithet of choice that marked his body. and it matters we were in the bay for a conference on transnational american studies.

but then i guess it doesn't.