When Danez Smith said, “let my body be a godless church/ holy for no reason other than itself” it felt like every queer love my flesh ever touched,
And when King Princess said, “tell me when my Gods look like you?”
And when Larry Kramer wrote, “We’re all different in many ways and alike in many ways and special in some sort of way.” inside The Normal Heart, I still hear it. I hear it when locking eyes with fellow queers at Pride.
And when Andrea Gibson said, “Our hearts beat so loud the neighbours think we’re fucking when I’m just trying to find the nerve to touch your face.” I felt every pang, every desire to touch a girl’s face and bring her in close and the paralysis of fearing she didn’t feel the same way. Or worse, she did and she’d deny it but cradle that desire in crumbs of correspondence forever, sometimes drunkenly slipping how she’d confess that I wasn’t crazy or wrong. She just wasn’t brave.
I couldn’t do that. I could be what Glennon Doyle wrote, “A broken family is a family in which any member must break herself into pieces to fit in.” a broken family unto myself, one where I was folded and broken into all the women everyone else wanted me to be.
And when Gillian Anderson’s character in Sex Education assured a student coming to terms with her asexuality, “Sex does not make us whole so not having it cannot make us broken.” I felt it for my friend and soulmate who is made so perfectly and intentionally.
And when Allison Bechdel talks about the ring of keys in Fun Home, how she felt known, warmth and chill chased my body all at once. How familiar it felt to seeing queer women growing up– that I felt both known by them and so fucking terrified I’d be found out.
I thought queer was a performance. I saw it as an accessory. I’d never dated men. I went on dates with men. I had crushes on men from afar, and I slept with men. But there were few men I asked how their days were regularly. Affection was such a fleeting aspect of opposite sex relationships in my life that I could not fathom a glint where a man both felt attraction to me and could be kind. And then I had a boyfriend, and I think we used each other as a thin blanket over our respective queerness. I still straddle this unknown terrain murky between gay and straight, and I am so fucking anxious all the time, reader, like I am getting it wrong. Because my future lovers and partners and the person I’ll build a life with– none of that is glued by their genitals or gender or pronouns. I’ve tried all the ways of cramming my heart into shapes it never wanted, and how, I choose the scary unknown over safe labels. What I learned when dating a man was to never again allow my queerness to dissolve for the approval of others. What I learned is how holy and scared queerness is, that love is inherently subversive, and queer boosts that challenge: can I love and desire beyond my ego? Can I be brave enough to make a life that feels good instead of one that matches all the ideas in my brain? So I compile these words from other queers who lit my way and still light my way and remind me that I’m not loving wrong and a big heart with all the words spilling out is an incredible gift. David Rose said, “I like the wine not the label” That’s me too.
Roxane Gay said, What I feared was that I would no longer be part of a community, that I might be seen with my boyfriend and not be recognized as something not the same. ” Because when I hear Dr. Gay or Desiree Akhavan talk about sexuality, it sounds like me. It sounds like the brave space in-between– which is always where I’ve belonged and I am just so scared that this family, too, will disown me like my father would.
And when I read Audre Lorde, I get braver, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
I remember Laverne Cox’s wisdom, “Each and every one of us has the capacity to be an oppressor. I want to encourage each and everyone of us to interrogate how we might be an oppressor and how we might be able to become liberators for ourselves and for each other.” I interrogate my privilege constantly, and yet, the grief of heterosexual privilege slipping away, perhaps my father’s voice being a memory in the wake of his disownment– the gravity of the outside, motivates internalized oppression in ways I drench in shame, in ways I don’t want to write about and so I do.
Because Janet Mock wrote, “Those parts of yourself that you desperately want to hide and destroy will gain power over you. The best thing to do is face and own them, because they are forever a part of you.”
We can’t couch our queerness in other’s expectations of us. It crawls out from every hiding place, and in the tight– against the ones who love us exactly as we are– it is magic. Watch Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist hold each other. Watch Megan cheer for Graham in But I’m a Cheerleader. Watch Rachel scream, “YOU’RE A WANKER NUMBER NINE” for Luce across traffic, and tell me your heart doesn’t grow so big in your chest that your ribs make more space.
When Leah Raedner wrote, “Girls love each other like animals. There is something ferocious and unself-conscious about it. We don’t guard ourselves like we do with boys. No one trains us to shield our hearts from each other. With girls, it’s total vulnerability from the beginning. Our skin is bare and soft. We love with claws and teeth and the blood is just proof of how much. It’s feral. And it’s relentless.”
When Baldwin wrote, “Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?”
And When Eileen Myles said, “I still feel like the world is a piece of bread, I’m holding out half to you”,
And when my then-girlfriend walked through the snowy door and into the crowded bar to kiss me before all these strangers, I can’t remember a word of Leviticus. The way my chest turned into a lantern, and I could feel hers doing the same as we neared each other. And fuck if we were not the very incarnation of God’s love. And I know the church I prayed in for eighteen years calls it sin, but I don’t care what gender that feeling comes in. I cherish that memory and crave for it to find me again.
The God I pray to made us all in his image, and he doesn’t care if I love a man or woman or someone who identifies as both or neither. My God doesn’t banish those who could not remain on their earth and so they left it. My God doesn’t care about pre-martial sex or shellfish or mixed textiles. I pray to a God of tenderness. I worship what loves. Faith was never a hammer, a law, a cell to me, and I won’t make it that even if the pope tells me how I love is wrong. Because even the pope is just a person.
In the end, queerness is not tragedy. There’s so much brutality inflicted on queers in the modern world– it’s mangled in my own family tree. But that isn’t the truth of queerness. It isn’t inherently traumatic or dramatic. It’s relaxed muscles and your favorite ice cream in the fridge because my person knows I’ve had a bad day. It’s raking leaves together and splitting grocery lists. It’s putting up with snoring and leaving the mustard out because the petty prices are worth their incredible and invaluable love. It’s all like everyone else: love is a softly lit home with an open screen door and the lights still on– always there to welcome you back.