CN: Homophobia, harassment, and mention of the Orlando shooting.
Yesterday Spouse asked our landlord to come over and look at our broken shower. He arrived in the early afternoon. I was home when he came over, but about to go to bed because I work overnight.
I don’t like our landlord. Our apartment is mostly fine, but our landlord is an overly involved busybody, who regularly tells incredibly sexually inappropriate and sometimes homophobic jokes. He makes me deeply uncomfortable. Spouse is a more forgiving person than I am, and therefore has greater tolerance for his bullshit, but they don’t love the nosiness or inappropriate jokes either.
Just after the shooting at Pulse in Orlando Spouse bought a rainbow pride flag and put it up inside our front window. It has been there since, visible from the street but not extremely obvious during the day. The flag made both of us, but especially them, feel substantially better. Queer visibility is important to us, and sending a message of support and pride is important to us. It has been comforting having those bright colors visible inside and outside of our home.
When the landlord came over today he asked Spouse about the flag. Actually, he asked about the “colors” in the front window. He was uncomfortable, but worked his way up to it. He was asking us to remove the flag, and said it was against our lease. Spouse agreed to take it down, but wasn’t happy about it. Then he proceeded to go on for 15 minutes, trying to convince Spouse that it was a good idea to take it down, a bad idea to have put it up in the first place.
He argued that it was a safety hazard – that someone was likely to throw a brick through our window. He argued that it was a political sign. He said that he would have to deal with it if someone objected to it.
Then he told Spouse that he’s not a homophobe, he has no problem with gay people, he has gay friends! He just thought the flag would upset someone!
He went on like this for 15 minutes. Not trying to convince them to take down the flag, that was already agreed to, but to convince them to agree with him that this was reasonable and good. Spouse firmly, repeatedly, but politely said we’ll take it down, but we won’t be happy about it. They said “agree to disagree” multiple times. Painfully, with nothing I could do, I listened from the next room as my sweet Spouse had to handle this on their own (I was not appropriately dressed and they were between me and my clothing since I sleep in the small office most days). I HATE hearing someone mistreat them.
When he FINALLY left they took down the flag and we complained on social media and I fumed and they cried. What more could we do than comfort each other over this harassment? We checked the lease and he is probably in the right at least about his right to keep us from putting anything up in the windows, though I have a hard time believing he would have done the same thing to someone flying a different flag in their window and I know some of our neighbors have had holiday decorations in their windows before. His 15 minutes of harassment, while hurtful and annoying, would be difficult and expensive to prove as discrimination in court. Furthermore, we have lived here for several years and thus really do need his recommendation to rent again in the future – an angry previous landlord can make getting future apartments very difficult.
There are three windows along the front wall of our front room, so I am considering putting up new curtains – 6 of them to be precise. Maybe I should make them all different colors? Perhaps red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple? Last I checked, curtains aren’t signs.
This is what queerphobia looks like, and it happens all of the time. It looks like concern trolling, telling a tenant that they should take down a symbol of their community “for your own good.” It looks like worrying about what other tenants or future tenants will think about having queer neighbors. It looks like thinking you can’t be a raging queerphobe because you “have gay friends” even though you tell homophobic jokes to the genderqueer and pansexual tenants that you mistake for straight. It is assuming your queer-as-fuck tenants are straight right up until they put a big bold flag in their window.
Facing queerphobia feels like suspecting that if he’d known we were queer we may not have gotten this apartment. It feels like holding my Spouse while they cry over taking down a symbol of belonging, visibility, and community. It feels like helplessness knowing there is so little we can do about it.
Tomorrow the landlord will come over and finally fix the shower. We asked him to come in the morning, while Spouse is already gone and before I come home. I’ll stay out a little late tomorrow morning to avoid going home with him still there. We’ll lay low for awhile and move next year. Hopefully the next landlord at least won’t tell dirty jokes.