because nothing is cut and dry.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Read things that other people wrote, and then if you want to you can read what I wrote too.

Below is an entirely personal reflection and processing that I've been doing over the past couple days. Its not edited or crafted to be a political statement or analysis, its my raw journaling that I'm making public for the sake of breaking isolation, and also trying to literally reach my friends and community - so many of whom are white and/or class privileged and/or straight - by using my personal story as an inroad for learning and understanding the bigger picture, a spark for learning more not about me, but the root causes of this awful massacre that is ripple-effecting me and them. So! Especially straight people, white folks, people with class privilege - please read the stories and framework of people of color, queer immigrants, poor and working class queer folks, before or alongside reading anything I write. Those are the voices that should be central right now. 

A few suggestions:

June 15th, 2016
Remembering, my first pride, in May 2000. I was 13, barely out to myself and certainly no one else. I had gotten as far as writing in my journal "I think I'm a lesbian" and then diligently doodling around it so no one else could see what was written unless they knew it was there. Pride in my hometown of Northampton was a family affair, a PG event, a place I went with my friends and their sets of two mommies (and my mommy, too). Dykes on bikes was always my favorite part.

Remembering, the following year how I started to wrap my mind around racism and classism, as my high school courses quickly atrophied down to mostly other white kids on the AP tracks, and my Latino buddy from 8th grade science was indefinitely suspended. Boys Don't Cry came out and like so many other sheltered white kids, I learned about violence, misogyny, trans and homophobia through a screen. Movies also taught me about queer relationships and hot sex as I watched If These Walls Could Talk 2 more times than I can count. Wrapping my mind around my obsession with that movie diverging from my besties' obsessions with, well, boys. Still never telling anyone.

Remembering, how excited I was that my UU youth group leader was a visible dyke. She introduced me to the Indigo Girls by way of playing their live version of "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee," and to recent history of Native oppression and resistance via a teach-in about Pine Ridge. I wanted to be just like her, though I never told her that.

Remembering, how I spent so much of my teenage years feeling profoundly alone in my queerness. I didn't, and still don't, have the language to describe feeling simultaneously surrounded by love and acceptance, role models and people who looked like what I wanted to grow up to be (I mean, I grew up in Northampton), and absolutely stop-in-your-tracks terrified to come out as queer. Culture is deep. No amount of privilege or rainbow flags or gay best friends of my parents could actually shield me from the reality of oppression in the world. Even if I was so sheltered I couldn't fully understand where that fear was coming from. Even if that oppression would probably never directly hit me. 

Remembering a few years later, 18 years old and summer in NYC. Landing a job that got me in - underage and for free - to pretty much any and every queer and dyke bar and party in the city. Remember Snapshot? My favorite dance party, every Tuesday night. Back when going out past midnight (or let's be real, past 10pm) was a totally reasonable and sustainble-feeling thing for me to do on a Tuesday. Back when it was in that dark and sweaty basement at the Boysroom on Avenue A; before it was moved to Bar 13 and rubbed up against suit-wearing post-corporate-job straight professionals. Late night, sitting down on the dirty F train platform because my feet were so weary from dancing, waiting endlessly for the subway with other sleepy queers. 

Remembering the New York City pride march that year, 2005 - for all its complications and cooptation, dancing on a DJ-ed float for 7+ hours straight (no pun intended) with thousands of people cheering along the streets is still one of the most exhilerating days of my life. How different NYC pride was than Northampton prides of my youth.

Remembering that year and for years after, countless nights at Cattyshack. The upstairs was my favorite; I always preferred the DJ up there and the second-floor deck out back where I smoked the occasional cigarette (sorry mom). So many dramatic unfoldings as my friend group dated and broke up and made out and were "just friends" again. Like queers do; like queers do in spaces that are created and held and maintained and explored for such things to blossom.
Remembering not as long ago, when Hey Queen was a monthly staple in my life. When it started at Sugarland, with the tiny crowded dance floor and makeshift stage. 

Boysroom is now closed. Cattyshack is now closed. Sugarland is now closed. 

I don't "go out" very much anymore, but these recordings of that decade of my life - when I was unfolding my understanding of my own sexuality, living into it and living so OUT about it - have been playing like a home video in my mind for the past several days. They're just mine; my memories and my process in the sea of thousands and millions of other peoples' memories and processes -- they're not the important ones in this moment. But since they're mine, they're what I've got.

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