Why has it felt so difficult to talk about my queerness?
There are the obvious reasons, of course. The explicit, systemic message is loud and clear: it is not safe or acceptable to be queer. We are constantly marinating in homophobia and transphobia, and it congeals around our individual and collective bodies into a sticky, corrosive shame. And I feel this insidious shame wrap itself around me, even as I type. This shame and I - we know each other well. We've become familiar with each other, with this game of push and pull.
And, also: I simply haven't the words to encapsulate my queerness. I use the word "queer" precisely because it is invokes a nebulous, imprecise blob. This feels accurate to my experience. And I still think bell hooks defined queerness best "as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and that has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
I'm going to try to find my own words, anyway.
One of my mentors shared that they feel like their queerness re-parented them. I think I know what they mean. My queerness at once feels like an enormous, bright, scalding sun - a center around which I orient my life, and an ethereal, soothing moon that guides my internal compass and rhythms. I am challenged by my queerness, pushed to my edges, forced to reckon with the world. And I am nurtured by my queerness, held in a fabric of belonging, accompanied in my challenges.
For me, queerness extends beyond my gender and sexuality. I used to think that the confusing blob of my queerness would eventually take shape within me, that I would gain clarity and find the words that suited me, once I "got over" my shame and fear and "found myself". Instead, I've come to understand that my queerness is not necessarily an identity that requires more specificity, it's a continual practice of and orientation towards questioning and querying, embodying the trickster, longing for the liminal.
Queerness reminds me that nothing is fixed, everything is fluid and relational. Seemingly solid foundations will crumble, identities shift like desert sands, the arrival at an answer always begs more questions. Queerness helps me to hold the paradoxes: we are suffering, in search of a salve and seeking "wellness" is senseless in sick times. Queerness suggests that there is pain in pleasure and the pleasure in pain. Queerness prompts me to ask what else is here? when it all feels hopeless. Queerness steers me towards relationship with the sensual: taste the too-tart igloo of a raspberry, notice the seeds of humor in the harshest of soil, feel the pangs of discomfort that remind you that you have a body, listen for the birdsong on a city street. Do all this, not because it is comfortable or easy, but because it is life.
Queerness is the viral network through which we wreak havoc on the immune system of oppressive systems. Queerness is a threat to these systems. We know this, because fear of queerness is on display in our streets and our policies. This fear is a clear statement to all who read between the lines:
The revolution is here, and the revolution is fucking queer!