“It’s still a world with plums in it, my loves, and chamomile, lipstick, and cellos. It’s still a world with us in it. Find a hand and hold on.” — Elena Rose
Two middle-aged, nonbinary, bi/pan white people clasp each other, heads tucked close, joy shining on their faces.
That’s me, the short one in the navy and white polka dot blazer, and my partner, the tall one with the gorgeous make up. We have both been queer and gender fluid since childhood, but, being middle aged now, there was not always the language to describe us growing up.
Sometimes we took questioning or abuse, sometimes we tried to hide. I was never very successful at the latter, being too strange in too many different ways.
We found each other nineteen years ago, and formed a strange, queer family with other people along the way. We formed household with friends, family, and my other—platonic—partner, whose romantic partner lives nearby.
This household has shifted and changed over the years, with people coming and going. Our family, though? That keeps expanding ever outward, whether the people live with us or not.
Because when you’re queer, you make family from the people you find along the way. When you’re queer, family looks and feels like what you make it.
The two of us have supported each other through good and rough times. We married on our seventeenth anniversary in a small, ten-minute ceremony in our back yard, during a bad phase of the pandemic, with around a dozen local friends in attendance. That’s where the photo was taken.*
And we’re surviving in the midst of the rise of fascism and intolerance yet again. We’re surviving in the midst of the murders of trans women, and gay bashings, and club shootings, and bans, and restrictions, and hate.
You’d better believe we have an agenda.
Our queer agenda is: More love. More life. More joy.
Queer love looks like doing the dishes.
Queer love looks like puttering in the garden.
Queer love looks like eating cashew ice cream.
Queer love looks like reading books or watching movies.
Queer love looks like waiting in the emergency room.
Queer love looks like building a fire in winter.
Queer love looks like a child seeing themselves reflected in the world around them, and deciding they are beautiful.
Unfortunately, our queer agenda also includes rage.
Queer life is wondering whether your partner is safe if they go out en femme.
Queer life wonders which public restroom you’re going to get called out for using.
Queer life is the person at the social security office apologizing for not having a non-binary gender marker box to check.
Queer life is being threatened with violence because you don’t look the way a bigot thinks you should.
Queer life is standing outside a school with trans and rainbow flags because their optional, student led, Pride celebration was canceled because of death threats by right wing bullies.
Queer life is knowing that your loved ones are in danger and that this danger is supported by some of the people who are supposed to love you, but who don’t, really. Because you refuse to change who you are, and for some reason, they can’t love that at all.
To be queer is to feel angry and heartbroken at the way your friends are treated, and at the fact that too many of them are now dead.
To be queer is to say, “fuck you,” to the bigots, and the haters, and those who want you to simply disappear.
To be queer is to shine in our joy, and to know, even though posting a photo of love on the internet might cause disgusting backlash… that it is important, because, to paraphrase Harvey Milk, we have to give young people—in Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Alabama, and Texas—hope.
We have to say, “Hey! We’ve both known we were genderqueer since around age six. We’ve both known we weren’t straight since around age twelve. We survived. We created family. We are living our lives.”
We’re here. We’re queer. We’re in love.
You bigots? Search your hearts and find some compassion instead of self-righteous arrogance. And if you can’t do that? Leave us the fuck alone.
You supporters? Agitate the systems of power that wish to crush your family and friends. Call out bigotry. Offer time or money or space to people needing to flee unsafe situations. Provide a haven when and where you can.
You queer people? Find a friend. Whisper your secrets in the dark. Plant a flower. Dance in your bedroom. Dance in the streets. Shout when you need to. Smash if you need to. Then fall in love with yourself and with this earth.
We are all we have, and we can hold each other, because as James Baldwin said:
“The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”
Let us be light for each other. Let us find one another like stars shining in the velvet night.
They can kill us, but our queer love will not die.
We are eternal.
T. Thorn Coyle
*photo by Salim Sanchez
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