“YANKEE FUCKING FAGGOT!”
The year was 1981, and we’d just moved to Texas.
The local God-fearing Christian white boys had found someone to hate more than the black kids, and I was the lucky faggot.
I didn’t even know what the word meant, but I do now.
You see, “faggot” means “kindling”..something to burn. It’s possibly the most inherently violent, dehumanizing term you can use when referring to another human being.
You’re not a person, faggot. We will burn you.
Fast forward to 2019..I’ve moved to Martha’s Vineyard to open a tattoo studio. I’ve brought my partner and her daughter across the country from Arizona, promising that our lives would improve, that the island is a beautiful place full of opportunity, that we could make art for people who value it, and finally make a decent living doing so.
“FAGGOT! FUCKING FAGGOT!”
Teddy Karalekas is standing in my shop, red faced and screaming at me.
“MOVE YOUR TRASH CANS, YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!”
Teddy is the partner of Leslie Graham, owner of Lobsterville restaurant.
“Whatcha gonna do, faggot?”
I get my phone camera, and follow Teddy out of the shop.
I ask him to repeat what he just said, on camera.
I was sure no one would be stupid enough to do that, but sure enough Teddy said it again.
I thanked him and promptly posted the video to YouTube.
Totally healthy work environment.
Now, in the good old days of tattooing..a doughy old man like Teddy walks into a tattoo shop screaming “FAGGOT”, we’d have..um...
Let’s just say it’s not the good old days.
The proper response would have been to immediately deck him in his teeth, but I really, really didn’t want to lose my business or go to jail for elder abuse, so I did the next best thing. Shame.
The video got almost 2000 views over night, as islanders familiar with Teddy shared it on Facebook.
Leslie immediately had her lawyer threaten to sue us.
(A baseless, idle threat..it’s perfectly legal to post video of someone committing a hate crime.)
She also said “since when is ‘faggot’ considered a bad word?”
I filed a police report, so if Teddy decided to continue harassing me the cops had it on file.
That’s when I realized why Teddy felt so safe.
In the room where I was interviewed there were TRUMP and TRUMP 2020 bumper stickers everywhere.
So I’m reporting this hate crime to a bunch of white guys who think ‘grab em by the pussy” is Presidential behavior.
They ask me if I’ll take down the video. If I’ll accept an apology.
I say no, Teddy has already shown me who he is. Any apology would be a lie.
A few days go by, and Teddy slinks up to my door. He wants to shake my hand. He’s sorry. He just wants us all to get along.
Sigh. Ok. I shake his hand.
I take down the video.
As the summer progresses Teddy occasionally pops his head in sheepishly. “Hi Bruce..”
I assume the shame has worked, and that he’s learned an important lesson.
A couple weeks ago he did it again. Screaming “FAGGOT” at his neighbor.
He learned nothing, of course. He is still a danger, still an active threat.
But because I let it go he and Leslie were able to enjoy another profitable summer at Lobsterville, while my business suffered. My LGBTQ clients (correctly) felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable, in my own shop.
Teddy and the OBPD used my good will to whitewash Teddy’s horrific behavior, and allowed him to continue abusing the community with impunity.
His apologies were fake, his repeated visits to my shop were not an attempt to make right. He was trolling, rubbing it in. It was just more harassment.
So I put the video back up. It’s not much, but at least it serves as a warning.
I went back to the OBPD to let them know the issue had not been resolved, and was told that Teddy has “freedom of speech”.
When I tried to read him the Federal Hate Crimes statute I was brushed off.
I asked about the trump stickers all over the police station, and the officer told me he’d take them down. When I asked if I could get photo proof of that, I was denied.
He knew it was wrong and he’s ashamed so he’s covering it up, just like he did for Teddy.
Hide, deny, deflect, delay.
People should know when they come to Oak Bluffs it’s not the sleepy, progressive place it appears to be.
It’s a thinly-disguised hotbed of hate and trumpism, with locals protecting locals from washashore faggots like me.
In the town where MLK Jr once wrote and spoke, where President Obama and his family spend summers- if you’re the victim of a hate crime, or sexual assault, or racist attack your only recourse is to go tell it to a Trump-supporting cop..
And good luck with that.