How do you wipe something out of your vernacular that was never introduced? More importantly, how do you sweat it out from your bones?
“Gay” wasn’t a word I heard growing up. My mom said God must not support homosexuals because of AIDS. Others, like my boyfriend’s parents, told me it was our job to tell them, the “gays,” that homosexuality was a one-‐way ticket to hell.
I looked up “homosexuality” in the encyclopedia.
“Same-‐sex attraction may present itself briefly in prepubescent and pubescent teenagers. Such attraction is not to be treated as a permanent state and may be part of normal human sexual development.”
Well, I didn’t have that.
I had something that made me want to curl close as a seashell into some of the girls I knew. Something that made me not-‐overly-‐anxious to jostle in hand-‐grabbing rituals with the boys at youth group, and that left me sweaty and consumed by the feeling of my friend’s breast against my knee.
My parents’ gift of a purity ring came on my thirteenth birthday. I hadn’t yet become broken in their eyes.
I wasn’t gay in a way that kept me from falling in love with a gender-‐appropriate boy on the track team. I didn’t have to fuck him after prom to appreciate his friendship and affection.
I wasn’t straight in a way that kept me from kissing girls in closets and hallways when I had imbibed more than one slimy college beverage, or in a way that prevented me from slipping like a chameleon into the “gayborhood” on weekends.
Sometimes I feel like I spent years lying on my bed, wondering how I was different or what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t fit into the life prescribed to me by my church and my culture. It was a life that had been laid out for me long before I was born, and I was oozing between the cracks.
I’m rainbow enough to appreciate the color of your eyes. It’s hard to decide who to make happy when your happiness is moored to the tugboats of your society, isn’t it?
I gave up and moved across the country to be queer, and there discovered that people are often the same in all the wrong ways. However, I’m not the same: I’m a
little brighter, a little stronger, a lot more willing to curl up into the seashell of a woman just to hear the sea.
When I advocate for myself to my family, I have to use words they are familiar with, words they can receive enough into their vernacular to hurl back at me: “gay”, “homosexual.” Similarly, it would be hard for me to speak to anyone from high school about the intersectionality of oppression or the difference between sex and gender.
In my own life, however, I embrace “queer” and let the rest fall to the side. I’ve determined to stop drawing lines for myself and coloring myself within them, because it’s radical to tell others to stop coloring you.
I grew up without a vocabulary of reference for occupying the queer spectrum, so do I write myself a dictionary of terms or relax into the ebb of non-‐definition? I’ve decided to stand tall even when I’m told my love is tearing society apart, even when my father compares me to a pedophile, and then to stand softly wherever I fall.
Everybody doesn’t need a word to be written -‐ I only need the sea.