'Frightening’: Vacationing same-sex family targeted on train – dads called anti-gay slurs in front of their young children
Imagine being a six-year-old boy on a train with your family, going to use the restroom, and a stranger out of nowhere corners you and tells you that your parents stole you and they are pedophiles.
That’s what happened this week to Robbie Pierce’s little boy, the dad says, as his family headed for a spring break vacation on Amtrak from Los Angeles to the Bay Area.
Pierce told NCRM in a telephone interview Wednesday that he and his husband “spend so much of our time protecting our children from abuse.” And yet on vacation, a stranger in a single moment apparently viciously verbally violated their 6-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl’s feelings of safety and security.
In a viral Twitter thread Piece said, “9 hours into a pleasant ride, a man was suddenly standing next to me, shouting across me at my 6yo son, ‘Remember what I told you. They stole you. They’re pedophiles.'”
He says he and his husband have “experienced discrimination and scary moments” before, but never anything like this.
Asked what it felt like – standing on a train with a stranger yelling vulgar epithets at him and his husband, with their two children subjected to the verbal attack – Pierce says it was “very frightening.”
“Get away from my family,” Pierce says he told the stranger, who snapped back:
"Family!? That's not a family! You're rapists. You steal black & Asian kids." My son and my 5yo daughter were both now openly crying, petrified. He yelled right at them, unmoved: "These guys aren't natural. Homosexuals are an abomination. They steal and rape kids." [3/10]— Robbie \ud83c\udf2e\ud83e\udd9d (@Robbie \ud83c\udf2e\ud83e\udd9d) 1649831031
Asked if he felt the situation could have become violent, Pierce told NCRM he considers what was happening to be violence.
“Could it have become physically violent? Yes,” he told NCRM.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get shot,” Pierce added, noting that Amtrak does not have metal detectors. He says he tried to focus on de-escalation.
On Twitter, Pierce says this “was suddenly no longer an absurd, abstract attack in an online comments section or a distant legislative session. These horrors were being screamed @ my sweet bewildered son, who’s worked so hard to process his grief & control his feelings, who only wants love & safety.”
That night, Pierce tells NCRM, his family “did not sleep well.” The children “woke up crying.” At 4:30 in the morning, the two dads’ 6-year-old boy started to throw up.
He says the children are still “processing.”
And all this is after the “kids cried for almost an hour” on the train, after a conductor came and escorted the stranger to another car. “We got cookies & processed their emotions while the train waited at a stop for the police. They wanted to be away from windows so they wouldn’t see him again. They wanted to practice screaming loud enough for help to come. I want to scream too.”
Pierce is clearly a man of compassion. He doesn’t know if the stranger who verbally assaulted his family will face charges, although he believes the police took him away, and the conductor asked him to write a statement for the authorities. Asked what he’d like to see happen he says he doesn’t think jail time will change their verbal abuser’s mind.
On Twitter, Pierce urged support for LGBTQ families.
“Please help us protect our families, friends. We feel so outnumbered & tired.”
90 minutes later he added to that thought:
To be clear, as much as we need people standing up for us in such moments of confrontation, we need allies to shut down this rhetoric everywhere it rears its ugly head anywhere, especially when we're not there. Don't vote for them or support their art or avoid confrontation.— Robbie \ud83c\udf2e\ud83e\udd9d (@Robbie \ud83c\udf2e\ud83e\udd9d) 1649836459
But Pierce also told NCRM that there was not a lot of support from his fellow Amtrak travelers. Two women hung around to make sure they were OK. Another person said he was “waiting to make sure the revolution happens,” apparently a vote of support.
But one young “gay guy” seated near them said and did nothing. Pierce says that made him feel “ashamed.”
Why did this happen? Pierce on Twitter made his thoughts clear:
We all know where that comes from. So thanks to Fox & Murdoch, JK Rowling & Marjorie Taylor Green, to the senators & priests & everyone else who harms kids & thinks it's politically expedient to project onto gentle families like mine to stir up their lucrative culture war. [8/10]— Robbie \ud83c\udf2e\ud83e\udd9d (@Robbie \ud83c\udf2e\ud83e\udd9d) 1649831040
He tells NCRM, sure, it’s easy to blame Marjorie Taylor Greene for helping to make this happen.
Congresswoman Greene (R-GA) is one of the more vocal elected officials who have become proponents of using the “groomer” slur, rhetoric Pierce says he’d like the stranger to know is “patently untrue and harmful.” He mentions Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose press secretary Christina Pushaw seems to be the one who exploded the “groomer” slur back into the right’s vocabulary. And he mentions Texas Governor Greg Abbott. And, of course, Donald Trump.
But Pierce says it’s not just them, and laying all the blame at their feet isn’t the solution.
“It’s the whole apparatus,” he says. “A lot of people have recognized there’s political capital in our oppression.”
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