Don’t Tell Me You’re Queer

Show me. Show me in the way you move through the world, in the way that you think and act and respond and live.

Queer is a multidimensional concept. Queer isn’t just who you fuck, but how. Queer isn’t just to whom you show affection, but when and why. Queer is sensory; it has form and texture, smell, taste, sound.

These things are different for everyone. For me, queer is the smell of old bars and leather, fifty year old smoke that has permeated the walls and cum stains caked on toilet stalls. It’s the taste of fear and freedom, the fine ridge between two sides of the same coin, the in-between space, the forgotten space. I see queerness in the deep lines of the faces of old stone butches whose stories are dying because they aren’t written in words, but in looks exchanged across crowded rooms. I see queer in the powerful presentation of femmes, in small gestures and conversations with eyebrows and half-smiles and the smoothing of someone’s tie and a whispered word meant for them alone.

Queer is asking permission of our lovers, and not asking forgiveness for the ways we don’t fit in. Queerness is thinking about the space we occupy and how we move through it because we have had so little space in our own lives and refuse to contribute to minimizing the space of others. Queerness is assuming our friends and lovers have been hurt, because we have been hurt, and know what it feels like when people assume we haven’t. Queerness is wanting to know the wounds before we reach them, instead of apologizing after for reopening them.

Queerness is knowing when to ask and when to scream. Queerness is in intention, in care given when we see bits of our souls reflected in the eyes of someone else. Queerness is radical and passionate; we move through the world with the same fury that we fuck.

Queer is a bloody word, fished out of rivers with handcuffed bodies and igniting behind bullets that found their way to soft skin. Queer is a word that stains your skin with history, with violence and meaning and reclamation with an understanding that not everyone can reclaim the language used to kill the people they loved. For some, queer is word better left behind; for others, it’s a word that is necessary to carry.

Queerness is not aesthetics. Being kinky doesn’t make you queer. But I know queerness that echoes back at me when I am faced with it: the people who are aware of their passing privilege and consider whether spaces are created for them, or created for those who have no other spaces to go, and do not resent those who are just trying to find a space to breathe. I see queerness in how they move through those spaces they do choose to enter. I see queerness in negotiations, what we ask and how we ask it, and when, and what assumptions we make and don’t make about how we can interact with the body of another person who carries a map of the world on their skin. I see queerness in those who know when to speak up and when to shut up, because sometimes queerness is quiet. Sometimes it’s listening and learning, rather than fighting and teaching.

Show me your queerness with care and with actions. In the ways you take up space, and the ways you support the spaces of others that are not intended for you. Show me your queerness in the questions that you ask, because of course you would ask directions before walking the roadmap of another person’s body, before you would increase someone else’s risk profile by kissing them on the street. Show me your queerness in the way you think and analyze how you move through the world, through the way you claim your desire as your own, and not an expectation on my body. Show me your queerness with that complicated look behind your eyes that is the struggle inherent in the language and history, in the understanding that this is not a word that can be claimed and held lightly.

Queerness is not any one of these things, does not exist in a vacuum, cannot be defined in a word or a phrase plucked out of context, but it the compilation of movement and thought, analysis and perspective, fucking and fighting, angry, quiet, afraid yet still unwilling to be anything other that exactly who we are.

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9 thoughts on “Don’t Tell Me You’re Queer

  1. Katherine Walters says:

    A link to the above piece found its way into my Facebook feed which I discovered early this morning. What you have painted with words flew through the left hemisphere of my brain and ricocheted in spirals through the right on their way to my heart. Thank you for bringing this into being and sharing it.

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  2. Robin Gorsline says:

    OMG, my dear one, simply gorgeous and true and powerful. The poetry of your language is met at full value by the clarity of your insight and the subtlety and strength of your spirit. BRAVO!!!BRAVA!!! and all the other gendered and non-gendered and queer exclamations of praise and Hallelujah!! Actually, what I am hearing in my head right now is Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah!!! So much spirit, so much holi/wholeness in your words, that is my response. Hallelujah!

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  3. Hope says:

    You have put clear and kind words to deep and fierce feelings, clarifying things I’ve often felt but seldom been able to verbalize. Thank you for writing it, thank you for sharing it, thank you for being it.

    Like

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