Driving a Fagbug

If someone spray painted “fag” and “u r gay” on your car would you drive it around? Through 48 states? Through the hell-fire breathing, Leviticus quoting Bible Belt?

Erin Davies didn’t think she would either.

But by happenstance she rose to meet the challenge of the gay hero’s journey.

It all began one day on her way to work. Approaching her Beetle, she saw it was covered in homophobic epithets. “I figured the rainbow sticker on the back window had inspired the attack,” she said. Erin had hoped to inspire something else. Eventually, she did. In a big way.

“Could you please fix it right away,” she begged the insurance company. But since it was drivable they’d do no work for several days. “You expect me to go around with the word ‘fag’ in my face?!” she asked. Embarrassed, and with no choice, she drove to work.

Later that day she picked up a rental. But media coverage brought such an outpouring of support that friends proposed she keep driving her “fag bug” to start conversations.

So she did. It all started with a 58 day trip through 41 states. This August, driving through the Dakotas, she visited states 47 and 48. On her way, she collected notes on her windshield, videotaped people’s reactions, and made the six o’clock news.

On video, one person commented on the vandalism saying, “Spray painting a car doesn’t make what you stand for look any better.” Indeed, this paint job seems to have backfired on the messenger.

Surprisingly, the nastiest note Erin got on her windshield only claimed, “It’s a shame u made this up.” Mostly, the notes inspired her: “You’re my hero.” On her journey, hostile people became her friends, or at least friendly. Some, hoping to help, tried washing the graffiti off her parked car, leaving Erin to repaint the words she had first felt shamed to see.

Erin could have hidden behind a rental and restored her car – sans rainbows to halt further attacks. But she went the other way, eventually washing the entire Beetle in rainbow colors, with “fagbug” printed loudly on the side.

Erin could have retreated in shame. Instead, she concluded that hate crimes shouldn’t end in silence, but in dialogue.

Ironically, someone struck out at our lesbian friend, seeking to harm her. But it didn’t work out that way. At all.

Learn more about Erin and her adventure, buy a videotape documenting her travels, or have her to come speak to your school or university by clicking here.

October is LGBT Month

Related posts on BroadBlogs
Men: More Homophobic Than Women?
Homophobes Aroused by Gay Porn
Gays and Women with Boyfriends Shouldn’t Teach?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on October 28, 2011, in feminism, LGBTQ and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. This is a FANTASTIC story. I so heart this blog.

  2. This article is fantastic like Sophia said, that quest through 48 states with that written on the car was from Erin’s strong will. I mean the car alone sucks, “beetles are ‘gay'” was the answer given to me when i asked how people felt; let alone that and the tacky spray job made whoever drives the car a humiliation. Erin was courageous enough to in terms wear a button with ‘queer’ on it for 58 consecutive days.

    Now what if Erin was instead Aaron?
    I think this wouldn’t have gotten to peoples better emotions if the character driving the ‘fag’ bag was a guy. It might influence people to be out there more but if a female is the person fighting for something she is more likely to get supported due to natural nurture. please comment on how you would feel if the character was the opposite sex

    • I’m writing in response to what Jerry D brought up about the difference in how people would have reacted if Erin had been Aaron instead. I agree that Aaron wouldn’t have received as positive a response as Erin did. It’s unfortunate and frustrating that any non-straight person should receive a negative response to their sexuality/gender. In my experience, I’ve noticed that gay men are considerably less safe in society than lesbian women. I’ve heard ugly and extremely disrespectful comments being made by straight men about gay men and their disgust with them up to the point that they feel that violence is a reasonable response to it, which is clearly a widespread belief as bullying has become such a big problem recently. Why a straight man would feel threatened by the existence of gay men or even feel like it is any of their business is beyond me and I wish it wasn’t so. On the other hand, even though I agree that Erin was able to gain more support because she is a woman, some of the reasons behind that frustrate me as well. It brings me to the idea of straight men being more supportive or tolerant of lesbians because of the sexual appeal that some men may find in it, so therefore lesbians are less threatening and more acceptable?! But it also isn’t just any lesbian that can fall into this category; she has to be feminine and look “straight”. I attended an all-women’s college for 4 years and even there I see the difference in how females are perceived and treated based on how feminine or masculine they look. There is definitely a big difference in how society responds to gay men vs. lesbians, but it also comes down to how gay/lesbian you look…and I guess act, whatever that means!

  3. I love this article! I have many gays and lesbians in my life that I love. And I’ve seen them judged and harassed like the girl in the story. My sister being one of them. It hurts me to see people treat them this way. How dare they! And I’m so proud of this girl for doing this and the fact that people gave them notes on the windshield is great =)
    In response to you, jerry, I think if Erin had been Aaron, the notes would have been the same on the windshield, because the person isn’t in the car they don’t know if they’re male or female.But the response of people when they could see the driver I think would have been much more negative if they had known it was a guy.

  4. I can’t believe that someone would do such a thing! It’s just cruel how the world can be to people. Erin’s story is truly inspiring. She did a tremendous job to prove herself to the people who did this to her car. I like that she went through 48 states to show what kind of vandalism and hatred happened to her. And instead of repainting the car, she embraced it and shared to the nation that she is proud to be herself. Just because someone doesn’t agree with someone else’s sexuality, doesn’t give him or her the right to treat him or her differently. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans genders are all part of this world. They deserve to be treated equally. I’m proud of Erin and her accomplishment.

  5. I feel bad that this happened to her, but at the same time it helped her embrace herself and eventually helped other people see the reality of the situation. You’ll find ignorance anywhere you go in life but the fact is how will you react when things go out of hand. Of course Erin could have just removed the sign and gone on with her life, but she took it as a moment of opportunity to show that these types of comments won’t effect her and that she is willing to fight for what is right. Kudos to Erin for fighting ignorance and keeping her head held high.

  6. An amazing article and a strong message. I think Its tells all of us “to stand up for what we believe in”. We all know this sentence as our parents or mentors have used it several times. But having an example in front of you like that really makes you want to stand by your beliefs. it will be a big step forward for her but also a slap in the face of any kind of hater. I am neither a supporter of homosexuality nor against it and i believe its none of my business to go and tell people what they should be doing. This country is about freedom of choice and no religion teaches hatred, so who am i to hate on someones identity. My beliefs aside, I really admire what Erin has done and taught me. I think on a bigger scale, this awesome journey was a psychological slap on every haters face as they will think twice before doing something like this. Additionally, coming out like that also showed other Americans what has been going on in this world against minorities of all kinds (WHICH NEEDS TO STOP!). Excellent job Erin! Respect! :D

  7. This gives a whole new meaning to girl power! Standing up for something you believe in and something you are takes a lot of guts; and heart. She is proud of who she is and loves herself the way she is and therefore shares her pride by showing nothing can stop her or tear her down. Courage is hard to find when we live in such a judgmental society. Whether you stand up for something like your religion or your race, you are bound to face people ready to kick you down and argue. But having the will and conviction to do what Erin did is heroic. Next time we are ashamed because someone disagrees with what we feel or what we are, let’s all remember Erin and the FagBug. <3

  8. She was brave enough to drive her car through 48 states to show that she is not humiliated. I feel like maybe she did that was because to show people she is not afraid of who she is and nothing will stop her even if it is painted on her car. This story does inspire me cause I do have some gay and lesbian friends and we all get harassed and at first we were hurt, but now we don’t take no offense to it. We know that what they say is their opinion and we have ours. She is showing us to stand up for yourself.

  9. I don’t understand how people could put so much energy into hating someone for their sexual orientation. How does being gay or lesbian affects another so much that it induces such incredible hatred for the LGBT community? It does not make sense to me how one could feel that way. I commend the girl for driving her car through so many states to show the world that she is not ashamed of who she is and she’s standing up for herself. This could influence a lot of teens to stand up for themselves and not be afraid to be who they are, because everyone is equal and deserves to be treated with kindness and love.

  10. Driving a Fagbug

    Erin Davis rose above the madness of someone spray painting fag on her Beetle. To the homosexual community the word is degrading and when Erin first saw her car she was embarrassed, and wanted the word removed. She turned the negative experience into a positive outcome. I respect her decision to do so, frankly I wouldn’t of had the courage to ride around 48 states with “fag” on my window. Erin was able to inspire many people to be proud of what they believe in “she rose to meet the challenge of the gay hero’s journey.” America is very narrow minded about the subject of homosexuals/lesbians. People believe that monogamy should be between heterosexual; which makes “coming out the closet” hard for many people to do because it’s frowned upon in several aspects within society. America has overcome so much negativity over the last 50-60 years accepting people as who they are should’t be difficult to do; yet it’s been a strenuous task for states to acknowledge /accept same sex marriages. The hate crime committed was indeed wrong, but Erin’s bravery shows that those crimes “shouldn’t end in silence, but in dialogue.” She handled the situation in a mature manner and now is well respected in the gay community.

  11. This is such a cute car, and a great way to be an activist. I love how her journey wasn’t planned, and at first almost didn’t happen, but she was driven by her message. I bet whoever vandalized her car regretted his or her actions. Their hatred turned into a powerful message.

    I have never thought about what I would do if my car was vandalized like this, but I have worried about it happening. I have a “Keep Santa Cruz Queer” bumper sticker, and have been warned by a few friends about the statement I was making. I have had several people make negative comments about it too. I would leave a message like “Fag” on my car. It would be a good platform to open discussion on the issue. There is no need to hide or shield this subject, it needs to be addressed. Equality should prevail.

  12. I really enjoyed this story. It makes me happy that Erin was brave enough to do this and wasn’t afraid to be proud of who she is. I have many gay friends so I know how hard it can be to stand up for who you are when people can be so negative about it. It is truley sad how ignorant people can be. If someone wrote that on my car I would have left it because even though I’m not gay I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with being gay. There isn’t a single reason why everyone shouldn’t deserve equality.

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