Monday, June 13, 2016

A love letter to LGBTQ men and boys

I was raised by gay men. Nobody was out who didn't have to be when I was a teenager in Montana. So, I'd like to address my men and boys. I was just a baby proto-mo when you threw my coming out party and helped choreograph a dance routine to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive. I presumed that's just how it was done. That it was standard. That coming out was like a cotillion but with cocktails, sequins, and glitter. That we danced and sang and played and wore amazing outfits and then got harassed everywhere we went, as a result. People in restaurants would ask why you were wearing platform shoes, and suggest you buy some wrangler jeans. Once a man in a parking lot in broad daylight said, "excuse me," and waited for you to turn to face him, then slugged you in the gut. You were caught off guard, collapsing into yourself, blinking back tears, then straightening slowly with unutterable dignity. Beautiful, gilded, and fierce.

The world hates you in a way it never really hated me. The way I was hated was less noticeable, less visceral. After all, I was presumed to not even know my own mind or be capable of making choices, really. I was slightly gross and weird, but salvageable. But you, they felt you'd had a choice and made it and they hated you for it. You had the option of trying to pretend to be like them and likely hated anyway because they always knew, and just being who you were. You said fuck it and owned it. You threw confetti, played house music, you wore tight, shiny pants and glittery eyeshadow. You said fuck it, they're going to hate us anyway, we might as well enjoy it while we can. We laughed at their unflattering uniform cowboy jeans and boots and insistently nondescript shirts. Fuck them, if they can't even dress for shit. Fuck them and their droning country music. They're hateful assholes with terrible taste in pants. Fuck them, anyway. They hated you for not being interchangeable and forgettable like them. You said ok then, let's paint our nails in neon colors and show those motherfuckers how it's really fucking done.

We had solidarity around our queer selves, though mine wasn't visible like yours, nor was I singled out for the same kind of violence. We also had a solidarity around femme-ness. We know what it's like to be condescended to by everyone, even or perhaps especially by those who desire us most. To be talked down to, even as we're being looked over. Having someone buy us a drink, pay a compliment with a bit of insult just on the edge of it. Twisted little digs from even the ones who had already been inside of us. They would cut us with a sharp word, pretending they hadn't been there, too. That we'd been the only ones to show up and be vulnerable and open up our very selves. Still saying fuck it, even to that. Even the insults that hurt so much more coming from our own. Still showing up anyway, en femme. Because fuck that, nobody's disdain was going to make us betray our own selves and we'd choose better next time. We'd make sure the next one deserved and honored the way we showed up.

You've always been the men and boys who are safest for me to love. The ones most likely to treat me like a human being. The ones least likely to break into my body as though I'm a pinata containing sweet treats. I could let down my guard a little around you, and I like to believe you felt the same about me. That we existed together apart from that seeking and searching and trying to fuck, or get fucked. It was nice sometimes to just be around someone for whom that's not even part of the story.

You were closer than the men who were supposed to be my family. Once I was walking down the street with my little brother, who I had some part in raising. A random guy made a vile remark and he said, "hey! That's my sister!" and the guy apologized- not to me, but to him. I had to explain to him why that bothered me, and he still didn't get it. He'd known me his whole life but still couldn't grasp that I should be treated decently because I'm human, not because I happen to be accompanied by a man who is a blood relative. You are my chosen family. Not that I can drop all my defenses entirely with each of you. But, those of you who met me head on, met me as a fellow human being. You loved me and you encouraged me and you armed me. What did I know? I was just a kid. But so were you, and already you knew so much more about what we'd have to sacrifice just to be our most authentic selves. I love you so much, and I'm grieving for those we've lost today. I'm so sad that these young men, these mostly Latino LGBTQ members of our family are suddenly gone. I grieve for those lost, for those left wounded and those who are bereft. It's pride month, and it ought to be the one time when we put our grief aside.

The world likes to think of us as so joyous, and what they don't understand is that it's far more complex than that. We laugh because we've finished crying, for a time. We're proud because they've tried so hard to destroy us all for who we are, or for who we love, or just for being different from them. Yet despite all their efforts, we've survived. That's why we throw parties and have parades and deck ourselves out in our finest. Because we're celebrating our unlikely survival. Because we probably wouldn't have managed to fool you anyway so we might as well have some fun while painting targets on our backs. Because it doesn't matter that I wear a ring or that my wife is standing beside me, heteros don't respect that relationship, straight men will ignore her to keep hitting on me. I can't be expected to know what I want. I'm a femme woman, surely I'm just waiting around to be told what's best for me.

So, to my men, my boys- the only ones it's ever been safe for me to love. The only ones I can really trust that at least some of you know I'm fully human and not just a woman shaped dispenser of food or boobs or sex or nurturing. I owe you so much. You taught me how to stand tall and live my best self. You helped show me who I was and would become. You taught me to be brave and proud. I wish I could hold you all, right now. I'm bereft. I'm just so goddam sad. I love you all so very much. You're my darlings, my beautiful ones, my family. I wish I could wrap you up and hold you tightly. I just want to send all my love to you right now. I wish you healing, and peace.

I'm going to go finish planning my fucking pride outfit. If it kills me, I'm still celebrating. If I'm wearing a target on my back, it will trimmed in sequins, goddamit. Through mourning, through rage. Let's bury our dead, and then let's celebrate that we're still here and fight like hell for those that remain.