What the fag bug has meant to me, or, why this is my line in the sand

Are you ready for the NOH8 in Las Vegas hate crimes event TOMORROW? I can’t believe it’s almost here! You can still RSVP here.

And all this planning has me thinking about the first time I organized an event for Erin Davies and her “fag bug.” I spent most of the summer of 2007 organizing two events for the fag bug — a caravan down the Strip and an event at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. (If you remember those posts, you are an SCS Super Fan! xoxo) I even roped family and friends into helping me distribute fliers at First Friday in July. If you live in Las Vegas, you know that is proof that my family and friends love me!

When I organized the first fag bug event I was in a much different place in my life. I had just left my stable, full-time job as a staff writer at Las Vegas CityLife to strike out on my own. I had started The Sin City Siren just a few months earlier — May 6, 2007 to be exact. (Say, it looks like there’s an anniversary coming up…) In a lot of ways, I feel like the history of Erin Davies’ fag bug dovetails with that of SCS. Her car was vandalized with anti-gay hate speech on the National Day of Silence in April 2007, right around the same time I was mulling jumping into the online journalism/blogging landscape. And through organizing that first Las Vegas event in 2007, Erin and I have forged a friendship sealed by activism and our inexplicable shared idealism that the world is not as evil as all the bad news leads us to believe.

Erin Davies inside her "fag bug" car at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. Photo by Bill Hughes

Erin Davies inside her “fag bug” car at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. Photo by Bill Hughes

In truth, I would say that organizing Erin’s fag bug event in 2007 was a turning point in my life and career. I had just spent nearly 10 years in traditional print journalism and was feeling beat down by the weight of cynicism that pervades newsrooms. I was known as a Pollyanna because I had an unusual ability to see the good in people, despite my daily job reporting quite the opposite. Unusual for the vocation. Maybe unusual for all I know to be true in this world even today — as I sadly continue to write and report on rape culture and attacks (figurative and literal) on women’s rights these past six years on SCS.

How is it possible that I still see the good in people or our world? In a word: fagbug.

When I set about to organize the 2007 fag bug events I hadn’t done any organizing in 10 years (or since I was in college, for those keeping track at home). But I know a lot of people in this town and I just decided that if I could get unwilling sources to open up on the record, how hard could it be to call in a few favors to do some good? It turns out, it was both more work and surprisingly easy all at the same time. It took a while to get momentum rolling but when I lucked into a women’s HRC meeting exploring the idea of creating an off-shoot group (it became Women’s Empowerment Network), it was like the hand of destiny was tapping us all. They needed an event to get people to organize around and get engaged in a new group, I needed people who could help. There are many things about Las Vegas I don’t like, but one thing that is great about this town is the deep generosity that lies just below the surface. By the time we had our last volunteer meeting it was not just standing room only, we ended up shutting down a rather large Starbucks because we went over building occupancy!

And that was just the preview to what ended up being a really inspiring, dynamic, fun event at the Beauty Bar. We packed that place with so many LGBTQ Las Vegans, we practically turned the venue pink for the night! So many people stepped up and donated time and money and resources — from comped rooms on the Strip, to a take at the door, to local musicians playing for free, to a local Volkswagen dealer giving Erin’s car a free tune-up (which actually indirectly led to VW sponsoring her trip later on) — it was all so amazing to me. After covering this town for years as a journalist, I thought I knew what Las Vegas was. But that night, I finally got to see the real heart and soul of Las Vegas. And that couldn’t have come at a better time; a time when I was beginning to lose faith in the humanity of people and my Pollyanna spirit was draining out of me. That night gave me the courage to go on as a journalist, a blogger, and as it turns out, an activist.

Erin Davies and I pose in front of her fag bug at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. Photo by Bill Hughes

So when Erin sent me a message a few months ago asking about coming to Las Vegas… How could I say no?

Even as I started organizing the event for tomorrow — Friday, 7pm, 101 S. Rancho Drive — I began to wonder if this is coming into my life again for a reason. After nearly six years doing The Sin City Siren, I’m feeling the frayed edges of burn-out creeping in. How many more times do I have to write about no justice for rape survivors? How many more stories about women being threatened out of their rights do I need to write? How much more misogyny, homophobia, and racism can I take?! But as I talked with Erin and started reaching out to organizations and organizers, I started to feel that old spark again.

Could that be hope returning?

This time around my motivations are different, more personal. Now I’m somebody’s mother. And that somebody is linked to Las Vegas for life, because she was born here. This is my daughter’s home town. And for all the bitching I do about all the failings of Las Vegas, specifically, and Nevada in general — and let’s face it that is a loooong list — it just begs the question: What are you going to do about it?

As I have been planning the NOH8 in Las Vegas hate crimes event, featuring Erin Davies, I have been thinking about all the ways our society is designed to discriminate, limit, and box-in my child. She’s only two and society is already teaching her that some things are “for boys” and some are “for girls.” She’s already getting indoctrinated in the gender-binary of a life defined by being a gender that is “opposite” the one and only other gender. And because our society labels the female gender as weak, all this gender-coding is already putting road-blocks in the way of her future success. She will someday have to argue the  point that she is qualified and worth equal pay. And that’s only after she navigates an educational system so burdened with patriarchal systems of oppression (not to mention racism and classicism) that she will have to prove her worth to be treated equally to math, science, technology, and if she is skilled for it like her father, engineering classes. And we haven’t even talked about sports…

My daughter is already growing up in a world that wants to limit who she is. It wants to define who she is. And it wants to take away opportunities, based on nothing more than archaic systems of oppression labeled “tradition.” What if she is not heterosexual? What if she is transgender? What if she one day falls in love with a person of color and that coupling faces discrimination and racism? As a mother, I can’t protect her from everything. I can’t walk ahead of her through her life and punch all those assholes in the face. (That’s hyperbole, not an actual threat, mind you.) I am doing my best to dismantle what I can and to give her the tools I hope will help her to do the same — more even.

But that’s not all I can do. I know how to organize. I still have a lot of friends. (Love you!) And for whatever reason or act of God, my name still has some credibility attached to it, a political chip I’m willing to cash in if it means I can inch my daughter’s home town just that much closer to a fair and equitable place to grow up. More than that, it’s worth all this work — and yes, time away from my munchkin lately — because so many other people’s sons and daughters are getting victimized by hate and discrimination every single day. What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t stand in solidarity with them? Because if there’s anything being a parent has taught me is that we really do need a village because this shit is hard work.

Hatred and acts of hate don’t just anger me, they hurt us all. Every time someone paints hate speech on a block wall to scare and silence their neighbor; every time a rape victim is taunted by cyber-bullies until she takes her own life just to escape the torture; every time a mom has to drive her kids to school in their minivan covered in “dyke” and “fag;” every time a legislator is threatened with bodily harm because she talks about having an abortion … every single time things like this happen, we are all harmed. We can’t separate out these hates as different or unique. These are all rooted in the same bigotry, intolerance, and fear that feed into such a deep reservoir of hate. And that hate will undo us all. It will take us all down. It will destroy our spirit and the ones we love, if we let it.

The hate crimes event tomorrow is my line in the sand. No more hate! Whether it’s acted out like racism, homophobia, misogyny, or any other form of bigotry — it’s all hate! And just like so many have rallied around Boston as a show of support and a symbol of how much bigger love is than hate, we must all unite and rally to stand against hate everywhere — like right here in Las Vegas.

Alright Las Vegas, I’ll see you there.

NOH8 in Las Vegas_fagbug

7 thoughts on “What the fag bug has meant to me, or, why this is my line in the sand

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