So it might not come to much of a surprise to folks but I’m out, like really out. Out as queer, out as femme, out as leather, and transgender, and all manner of other lovely identities along the spectrum of queerness. I’m also really privileged in that even as a femme it’s not all that often I have to explicitly Come Out--- maybe it’s all the tattoos (a few of which are visibly queer themed), or perhaps it’s just that even “safe” questions like “where do you work” or “what do you do” tend to elicit a significantly queerer answer than most folks would anticipate.
I’m an author and artist and tour to colleges, conferences, and community groups to read and teach all about you guessted it queer stuff, to queer people. Even the job that pays my mortgage outs me pretty immediately I’m “gay for pay” by which I don’t mean a straight porn actor who will shoot gay scenes for money, I mean I work in the movement of LGBT nonprofits. Confession time: I’ve never even had a straight job! My entire resume is made up of art, and community organizing for local or national queer nonprofits.
Anyway, pride is a season that gets me a little more sentimental that I might normally be about gay stuff. For me it’s not that I feel especially hailed by rainbow balloons, or floats at this time in my life but it’s that when I’m honest with myself and sitting quietly, I think about how much these things meant to the seventeen year old me who was just coming out, just wandering haphazardly and nervously into this great big world of queerness. So, two weekends ago I wandered through Brooklyn pride. Money burned a hole in my purse and there I was buying a tacky (but admittedly pretty) woven rainbow anklet. I put it on and there it’s stayed on my right ankle for the past couple of weeks.
Choosing to wear it didn’t really feel so much like a need to advertise or come out, so much as a lovely little moment of nostalgia where I remember being covered in rainbows the few months after coming out, my backpack that looked like a pride parade threw up on it. All the buttons and patches proclaiming my queerness was the armor that I carried around my very conservative high school I commuted two hours by city/county bus to get to after I was kicked out of home in order to graduate.
When I’m honest, even now seeing a rainbow makes me feel safer. So In the honor of the seventeen year old scared gay teenager I was several years ago I’ve been wearing this anklet, and I’ve noticed the ways in which it’s impacted my visibility which on some level makes me uncomfortable- I don’t want to have to wear a rainbow for folks to get that I’m queer. But I’ve been paying attention to the people who are seeing me that weren’t before I’ve noticed something interesting.
It’s youth- teens who will now look and recognize and smile, and also folks who seem somehow newer and less sure of their safety that this is a beacon to. Last night coming home from work I was ready to get off the train and a gay man – who my highly tuned gaydar had noticed the moment he walked onto the train carrying a shopping bag and plopping down across from me also stood to get off. Quietly so the rest of our train couldn’t hear he said, “I like your bracelet.” I smiled and said thank you. He then asked if I was going to the parade on Sunday, I shook my head and said not this year, and asked if he was. He got a big grin on his face saying that yes, he’d moved here from Texas and that his was his first pride. I smiled and congratulated him as the doors opened and we went our separate ways, both feeling perhaps a little more seen, a little less alone.
I’m not sure where this post is going anymore, it’s about being explicitly out, and also about thinking about ways our community is built and seen and recognized and even though sometimes I can find myself becoming a little jaded about all things gay- criticizing the corporate takeover of pride festivities, wishing people would remember it’s roots- how it was homeless queer kids that started everything off at Stonewall, I cannot ever allow myself to forget how meaningful pride can be, and the way in which that rainbow can be thread that stitches our community together.