By Ariel Schrag
Originally published on Advocate.com May 13 2014 4:00 AM ET
Left: book cover of Adam by Ariel Schrag
It is the summer of 2006. Gay marriage and transgender rights are in the air when Adam Freedman — an awkward, inexperienced teenager from Piedmont, Calif. — goes to stay with his older sister Casey in New York City. Casey has thrust herself into a wild lesbian subculture, and soon Adam is tagging along. It takes some time for him to realize that many in this new crowd assume he is a trans guy.
When they got out of the subway at Bryant Park, the streets were swarmed. People jumped around, waving their signs, chants of “What do we want? EQUALITY! When do we want it? NOW!” in a kind of musical round with “No to Hate! No to Hate! We Will Not Dis-crim-i-nate!”
June was fired up. She started pumping her equality sign up and down in the air. “Equal Rights! Equal Rights!” she screamed.
“Equal Rights!” said Agnes. Then stopped to pick her nose and eat it. Casey scanned the crowd, anxious.
“I know Boy Casey’s here with Schuyler, so if you see them, you have to tell me
immediately. Also Hazel.”
“I don’t even know what Hazel looks like,” said Adam.
“Super hot, curly hair, probably all black clothes. And she uses a cane.”
“She uses a cane?” said Adam.
“Yes!” said Casey, annoyed. “So if we see her, don’t go using the word lame, OK?”
“The word lame is offensive to differently abled people.”
“To what people?”
“Differently abled. People with disabilities.”
“That’s retarded,” said Adam.
Casey groaned. “Adam! Just try not to embarrass me, OK?” She picked an abandoned equality sign off the ground and shoved it at him. “Come on, let’s go.”
They weaved their way into the thronging march and soon reached a police-manned intersection, where Adam noticed a clump of old, ugly people leering and passing out pamphlets with a picture of Jesus. One of them held a sign that read: AIDS Isn’t A Disease, It’s A Cure.
“Go home, creeps!” Casey yelled.
To his right, Adam saw a gang of teenage boys sitting on newspaper vending boxes, eating pizza, laughing and pointing at the people marching. He felt nervous. They were his age. He couldn’t tell if they were for or against them.
“Show your tits for Gay Marriage!” one of them shouted at Casey.
“Shut up!” Adam yelled, except it wasn’t really a yell, more like a cracked-voice stutter that no one but Adam seemed to hear.
“Hey, there’s Boy Casey,” said June. There was a weird tone to her voice. “What’s he doing?”
“Where?” said Casey. Her head spun, frantic.
June pointed to a small table set off to the side of the march. There was a banner that read: Queers Against Gay Marriage. They walked over.
“Uh, hey,” said Casey.
“You’re marching?” said Boy Casey.
“Uh, yeah,” said Casey. “I thought
you were, too...”
“I said I was going to the march,”
said Boy Casey. “I thought you knew what was up.”
A girl with spiky hair, holding a pamphlet, came up to Adam. “Hey, you want a copy of our statement? We’re Queers Against Gay Marriage.”
“I don’t get it,” said June. “Why are you against gay marriage?”
Adam saw Casey glance nervously at June. He could tell Casey was quickly realizing there was something not cool about being for gay marriage. She didn’t know what it was yet but did not want to be aligned with June.
“We are against the prioritization of gay marriage in the queer political movement,” said the spiky-haired girl.
Adam looked down at his pamphlet. It began: “We are against the prioritization of gay marriage in the queer political movement.”
“I like being different because I’m queer,” continued Spiky Hair.
“I like being different now,” said June. “I didn’t like it when I was fifteen, got beat up, and had to have my jaw wired shut for three months.”
“Check it out,” said Spiky Hair. “Embarrassing.” She pointed to a tall, skinny, blond-haired boy wearing short pink shorts and nothing else. He was cheering and waving a sign that said: Welcome to Selma.
“It’s, like, the fucking greatest day of his life,” said Spiky Hair.
“Gay rights are civil rights,” said “Oh, shit!” said June. “He’s making an analogy.”
“It’s a fucked-up analogy,” said Spiky Hair.
Adam noticed that all the Queers Against Gay Marriage people were white.
“Gay is NOT the new black,” yelled Boy Casey at a woman carrying a sign proclaiming the inverse. Casey, looking troubled, stepped behind the table.
“You guys coming to the party at Carlisle’s tonight?” asked Schuyler.
“Oh, shit!” said Boy Casey, pointing.
A police car was stopped in the middle of the rally. People were crowded around chanting and some were climbing and jumping on the hood.
Casey, June, Boy Casey, and Adam jogged over to where two gay-looking boys were getting arrested. People had formed a circle around them and were shouting, “Let — Them — Go! Let — Them — Go!”
“Man, I cannot fucking risk getting arrested,” said Boy Casey. “They’d fucking throw me in the bitch cell. You know they would.” Adam didn’t get it. Wouldn’t Boy Casey rather be with the women? If he was with the men, he could get raped. Adam took a few steps back.
“Fuck that,” said Casey. She looked at Boy Casey, serious. “I’ll stay right with you. I won’t let them.”
“But in case they do,” said Boy Casey, “take these.” He put a pack of cigarettes in Casey’s hand. “I want you to put one in my mouth and light it while they’re cuffing me. Then take a photo of me just fucking standing there smoking while they lock me up.”
“Hey, are you Casey?” said a butch lesbian.
“Hazel!” said Casey.
This was the disabled girl? Hazel was wearing cargo shorts, combat boots, and had a long black tube slung over her back. She whipped the tube around and extracted a thin black cane, which she twirled between her fingers.
“Play party at Dungeon tonight. You coming? I promise to beat the shit out of you.”
Apparently Casey had been confused about the use of Hazel’s “cane.” Adam glanced at Casey, but she was ogling Hazel. He knew that look. Casey was in love.
“We’ve got the party at Carlisle’s,” said Boy Casey, stepping in. He slung his arm over Casey’s shoulder.
“Hey, we’re Queers Against Gay Marriage.” Spiky Hair again. She tried to hand Hazel the pamphlet, but Hazel didn’t take it. Spiky Hair awkwardly retracted her hand, saying, “We don’t believe gay marriage is the solution.”
“What do you mean ‘gay marriage is not the solution’?” said Hazel. “It’s the solution to gay people not being able to get married.”
“Hey, honey.” A black girl came up and kissed Hazel on the mouth. “I lost you.” The girl was carrying a sign that read: Slavery Was Tradition Too. Adam wondered if Spiky Hair would inform the black girl that “gay is not the new black.” She did not.
“Maybe I’ll stop by that party,” Hazel said to Casey. “If you come to Dungeon afterward.” She stared straight at Casey with this really intense look.
“Um, maybe,” said Casey, flustered.
“You’re coming back to my place afterward, right?” said Boy Casey.
“I’m not sure what I’m doing,” said Casey.
“Come on,” said June. “We’re stuck in the dregs of the march; let’s get back up to the front.”
“I gotta get back to the table,” said Boy Casey. “I’ll see you at the party.” He turned his head to Adam. “You coming to Carlisle’s, dude?”
“Sure, yeah,” said Adam.
Of course now Boy Casey acts like he exists.