by Angeliska on June 2, 2011
Our annual Queerbomb rally, procession and party is tomorrow, and I’m just taking a minute to reflect with amazement at this beautiful phenomenon that I’ve had the honor of being a part of for the second year running now. To be surrounded by such a vibrant and loving community of queers and allies working hard to create our vision – a vision of PRIDE that for has given me such a profound sense of belonging and acceptance. It’s something I think about a lot, especially since moving back to Austin from New Orleans in 2005. I feel like it’s changed a lot since Katrina, but I can say that when I lived there, New Orleans was definitely a gay mecca, but it was not a queer town. Especially for ladies, and lady-lovers: I mean, you know it’s bad when the only lesbian bar (Rubyfruit Jungle!) has to have a ladies’ night, right? Whew! The gay bars are fun and fabulous, but they’re very clearly demarcated as being for men, queens, and the occasional token fag-hag. I never felt welcome in the same way I felt back in Texas – and partially that might be an Austin thing: the sense of strength in numbers, of a jumble of oddballs who stick together because there’s nowhere else to be. For a lot of people who grew up in this Texan oasis, that mish-mash of freaks was just how it was: the gay kids, fledgeling queens and baby-dykes were all tossed in with the other weirdo punks,goths, skaters, heshers and hippie-wannabes. We didn’t differentiate so much, and all hung out at the same crappy clubs despite our tastes in music or dress – and didn’t pay much attention to the genders of who was making out with who. Maybe that spoiled me, in a lot of ways – I still am baffled by “scenes” and people who won’t break their invisible boundaries to check out something outside of their ken or comfort zone. I’m by nature an all-inclusive person – I want everybody to be together, because it’s a hell of a lot more interesting that way. I’ve never felt comfortable being forced to explain my sexuality (well, who is?), especially as someone who loves women, men (and especially everything in-between!). The word “bisexual” has become anathema these days. It seems to have become a synonym for “wishy-washy“, “can’t commit“, “afraid to come out all the way” or “I only do it with girls when my boyfriend’s out of town“. It’s the kind of word that really means something good, but when you hear someone describe themselves using it – you just can’t help but cringe. It’s like calling yourself a poet. Instant cringe. Isn’t that sad? I love poetry, but when someone describes themselves as a poet, I just picture a self-aggrandizing ass-hat who likes to stand up on stage blathering about The Man in a ruffly white blouse. I read poetry (privately!), but if I enter a coffee-shop or bar where there’s a poetry slam, I’m outta there like lightning. I mean, I actually AM a uh, bisexual poet, you know… But I would never admit it in polite company.
So, when I discovered the word queer, and actually looked it up, and realized that it described me – well, let’s just say that it was quite a revelation. The even bigger revelation came when I found myself part of the beautiful queer community here in Austin. To feel so welcomed and appreciated, and to never have my right to be included questioned – despite the fact that my partner happens to be a man – well, I can’t even explain how special that is. No one has ever approached me with a gaydar device to monitor the full extent of my gayness.No one has ever treated me like a second-tier queer because I like dudes as well as ladies – and that’s super-refreshing. I felt shame for a long time about not fitting in anywhere. Deep, deep shame for such long time at not being straight, or gay, or feminine enough, or tom-boyish enough.
Finally, finally – I don’t feel that anymore. I’m actually crying as I’m writing this, because I don’t think I’ve ever really tried to express, even to myself, how difficult this has been. For my entire life, I’ve felt like an outcast – a deviant. I never had a label to cling to for comfort, or at least one that I felt comfortable with. Queer has been the only word that’s ever resonated – and Queerbomb has made it ring loud and clear. The fact that all those letters have a place here: the L for lesbian, G for gay, B for (yes, cringe!) bisexual, T for transgender, Q for queer, I for intersex, and so importantly – A for allies! – well, it’s something incredibly special. I’m willing to bet you fit in there somewhere!
I know I do, at last – and for that, I am profoundly grateful.
I also really want to share this letter from my fellow Queerbomb comrade and new hero, Melissa Smith. She graciously permitted me to re-post it here so you all could read it. Her story moved me so much, and combined with the fact that I know that she has been working her ass off for months to make Queerbomb a reality (literally getting her hands dirty and making shit happen!) makes it even more special. Please read:
“Fellow Queerbombers and new friends,
I sat at my desk this morning reading the Chronicle article and found myself choked up, streaming very happy tears. I had to dig deep to identify the emotions I was feeling, as there was a deja vu feeling I couldn’t quite place.
I sat for a minute and recalled coming out in a very small town at 15. It’s an old memory that I don’t think about too often, but I gave it a moment today. I wanted to know where this feeling was emanating from. My teenage life was pretty awful as I am sure many, if not all of you, experienced as well. My life was threatened, my parents were harassed, my younger sibling was beaten up for my lifestyle, and I was publicly banned from coaching freshman basketball because of my homosexuality and so forth. I’m sure we all have our stories. But I remember finding a subculture at a young age.
I hopped on a train to Boston in 1996 and found my way to my first queercore/riotgrrl show and my world changed entirely. I had this tingly feeling, and this overwhelming sense that things would be ok; there were people out there just like me, who supported me. And they were so out! I remember that sensation so clearly; my eyes welled up a bit on the train ride home to Cape Cod and that little town that kept me shy and terrified. I felt like a shell of a person there; completely afraid to be myself, and embarrassed at the sound of my own voice. This newfound community was everything. It gave me hope and it saved my life. It took me in and made me feel whole. I was proud of being gay; but even more so, was proud to be myself. I made it out of that town as fast as I could and spent my time in Boston making zines with friends, going to queercore shows all over the east coast. I found out who I was outside of the place I was raised. I found out I could be who I wanted to be, not what they said I was.
It was a pivotal and precious moment in my life.
Today, sitting here in my office, I type this to say thank you. It’s been so long since I had that feeling of pride. As I grew up I took off the creepers and the black fingernail polish and my Heavens to Betsy records are collecting dust. Life, my job, my disdain for current Pride celebrations and the portrayal of gays in popular culture had taken over. That proud kid had gotten lost again. The term is bounced around so often I forgot what it meant.
Being involved with such a dynamic, talented, friendly and caring group of queers and allies has been completely amazing. I am so very proud of the blisters on my hands this morning, and what our crew accomplished and will accomplish in the next 48 hours. And I am so utterly and completely overwhelmed with emotion and love for everyone who spoke for us in that article. You spoke from the heart and said everything that needed to be said. You brought me back to a time where I felt a fire inside me; that we do not have to assimilate to gain acceptance. That a group of people can get together and make a change by supporting and caring for one another without turning a profit or alienating people by class, race, gender, or any of the shit that has divided us in the past. That we can offer something radical to a teen from a small town coming in to experience PRIDE. The term is for everyone. It no longer represents a corporation. It’s a feeling and it’s survival. We are helping foster an environment that can shape and save lives of those young(and old) queers who need community.
Thank you for this opportunity. I feel like I’m 15 again, standing in a crowd of amazing people, as the show is about to begin.”
More info over at www.queerbomb.org
Here’s my Queerbomb writings and photos from last year: