I recently moved out of Portland, though I still work and play in the city.
Sitting on the deck of my new home, listening to the peepers peep as Eli, my puppy, wanders and sniffs the earth we are blessed to call home, I contemplate safety.
I wonder if these open fields and shaded woods are more secure than the crowded sidewalks and car-filled streets of town.
Safety is relative. In the city, I encountered more people who felt entitled to my body and the pleasures they perceived it would give them. Here, I sit no less Black or Femme, yet feel a sort of watchful peace.
Rocking on my bench, I recall the amount of times people — predominantly white, cis men — behaved as though I were an object for them to misuse; and reacted with anger and hostility to me asserting a boundary or flat out rejecting them. While the mixture of racial misogyny has remained prevalent for the duration of my Portland experience, I am beginning to look at the correlation between the shifting demographic — particularly in the East End, with its condos and Airbnb shell apartments — and the tone and level of fear these situations bring.
Gone are the days of being catcalled out of cars or ass-grabbed in clubs. Instead the harassment is more sinister.
A few years ago, a dark expensive car followed me home, causing me to switch my route and wander neighboring streets until it, he, lost interest. He said he had seen me around town.
A while later, a bar patron at Flask broke the window during an altercation in which he felt he could have my attention and favor. He said his ex-wife is black.
Earlier this summer as a sweet-friend and I were walking, a nice black truck slowed down next to us, a youth hanging out the side. He informed us that he had planned to egg us, but then changed his mind. We were left to wonder if my sweet-friend's whiteness and masculine presentation saved us from having to wash egg off our bodies.
Most recently, a man drove by me with a slow whistle, turned around and boxed me into my vehicle. I turned and looked at him, I shouted and stared him down. This did not deter him. I got into the car, he had turned around, and pulled up beside me, boxing me into my parallel-parked vehicle. This man was smiling. This man felt entitled to my body and space. He backed off, only after I got loud and big and pushed back repeatedly. I had to swallow my rage and prioritize my safety to leave. He backed his vehicle up slightly, pretending that he had meant to park all along.
Being Black in white spaces is dangerous. Being Black and Femme in a city whose whiteness and entitlement are growing reminds me I need to be vigilant and share my experiences, because silence isn't working. Because the condos and nice cars are still coming. Because we live in a country which still questions whether Black Lives Matter and femmes are forced to shout to be heard.