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[amazon_link asins=’B071G1X3JH’ template=’ProductAdRight’ store=’ourqueerstories-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e709c625-8ca1-11e7-a21b-7fe3c414d7b2′]To my fellow Queerlings:
I want to make sure you know your history, so this omi-polone is gunna park it real neat. The rainbow flag represents our community not because we are sponsored by Skittles Corp. No honey, those colors REPRESENT something. Many things in fact. Here’s the T.
In 1978 our sister-in-arms Gilbert Baker along with 30 other volunqueers (volunteer + queers) HAND DYED and HAND STITCHED two rainbow flags to drape at the doors of the Gay Community Center in San Fran. Yaaaaaas honey, like a young Betsy Ross brigade, those queens made. it. weeeeeerk. Why would your dolly aunties spend so much time needlepointing such a flag you might ask? Read child: symbols hold POWER. It’s something our generation will hopefully never have to understand to the level of our Queer elders: the disempowerment of oppression. A flag unites, and with unity comes power. The advances in equal rights claimed by our Queer forbearers must be protected and grown for the next generation. Baker’s artist statement claimed that each color on the flag represents a specific concept.
This is the time to refresh your drink if you are one of those “I’m-staying-in-tonight” queens. Since you little birds are *my* captive audience for the evening, I’m putting down some heavy T on you, so breathe deeply.
The rainbow reminds me to be unapologetically myself. Tonight, I hope to inspire you to DRAPE yourself in the rainbow honey. Make each shade REAL and WERK it for YOU.
I am very sex-positive. And yet, you’d never know it because I am INCREDIBLY PRIVATE about my own sexuality. It’s not because I’m self-hating. It’s not because I’m insecure. I just don’t divulge my personal life freely to people who I don’t know very well. That doesn’t make me any less sex-positive, it just means that I have clearly defined personal boundaries.
It’s ok as a Queer person to deny anyone (including other Queers) a view into your cottage-life. I think that we as Queer people need to cultivate respect and sovereignty for other people not only inside the bedroom, but also outside of it. I speak against people claiming that prying into someone’s personal life is somehow a part of Queer culture. If it is a part of the culture, then we need to crush it under our collective stilettos, or army boots, or leather sandals, or whatever we wear on our feet, because respecting each other’s sexual expression and the boundaries therein should be one of the queerest things a queer can queer. Pink teaches us that we should feel free to express (or not express) our sexuality in whichever way we choose.
If we are on a date and you ask me my ethnicity, I will not delimit my response to a few words. My heritage is complex, and so is my description of it. I’ve got two different understandings of my own heritage, and lovely child, you’re going to hear both.
My spoken history is that I am a person of mixed descent (PMD) and that I come from four separate ethnicities. My maternal Nonno is Barese (Bari, Italy) and came to the USA speaking the Barese dialect and only a little English. My maternal Grandma (she refuses to let us call her Nonna) was second generation Sicilian and is the most patriotic woman you’ll ever meet. My paternal Grandma was an English war-bride after WWII and my paternal grandfather was many-generations Dutch by way of Iowan farmers.
Despite this understanding of my heritage, I did a DNA test and found out that a whole 23% of my DNA actually comes from India/Iran/Pakistan. This shocked my family and gave me a whole new perspective of myself as a PMD.
I think that it’s important for European Americans of mixed descent to try to keep their various inherited cultures alive as much as possible as a means for destroying the false social construct of Whiteness and White Supremacy. White people don’t need a safe space or a safe word that unites them against systemic oppression (because there does not exist systemic oppression against white people on the basis of race).
When someone identifies as “White” they are reinforcing White Supremacy and I yearn for a day where it is no longer politically correct to respond “I’m just White” when talking about ethnicity. Any kind of white supremacist creation-myth about one common race amongst all European Americans based on skin color creates an erasure of the vast and rich diversity of many very real and unique cultures within Europe. The word “White” is used as a violent tool to divide people and power based on skin color. (I obviously still check the “White” application box because I understand the importance of affirmative action in society and NO I’m not “colorblind”).
By honoring EACH of my heritages as a PMD, I’ve begun to be able to unlearn what it means to be “White” in today’s society and it has helped me to begin decolonizing my mind and to stay more conscious of the White privilege I receive as I walk through life. Studying the history behind the imperial/industrial colonization of Europe has also helped me to begin to find the pathways back to the pre-christian medicine peoples of indigenous Europe and to begin the process of healing many generations of cultural/inter-generational trauma. Red teaches us that we are supposed to live the life we were given.
ORANGE/HEALING & FORGIVENESS:
I believe that as soon as one is capable, one should forgive. Forgiveness is a blessing. Hate is a burden. It’s sad to me that many Queer people think that forgiving someone means pretending they never wronged you, that forgiveness is like giving up. Facing as much daily oppression as we do, it would be so easy for Queer people to become bogged down in bitterness. I like the idea of forgiving and not forgetting, bearing no resentment but protecting yourself from repetitive ill-behavior. Forgiveness also doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior without a correction. Could I easily bear a grudge about some bigot telling me they were going to kill me because I’m a f*g, on the Fourth of July? Of course I could. But seriously, I have SO much to do on this planet- like, who has the energy to hold on to all that weight? Orange teaches us to forgive, never forget, and then advance forward in resistance to oppression.
In college I was a part of the Native American Student Association (NASA). We held many discussions about Native American perspectives on gender and how some tribes maintain fluid gender roles/identities and hold a special space for what has largely come to be called in english “Two-Spirit” tribal members. Many different tribes have members who explore and embody non-hegemonic gender roles. There is understandable contention amongst the Native community about non-Natives identifying as Two-Spirit. It is my understanding that some Native peoples fear that non-Natives will perpetuate reckless cultural appropriation, dissolution of cultural understanding, and potential cultural erasure of tribes who do not have a tradition for these Two-Spirit roles/identities.
In our conversations in NASA I mentioned that the description of Two-Spirit resonated with me and I was encouraged by a Native Elder to embrace the word. The teachings I received about what it means to be Two-Spirit have importance to me regardless of if other people understand that part of me or not, so I usually just keep it to myself.
My point is, there are accounts from many indigenous cultures *all over the world* describing some form of Two-Spirit people and their role within their tribe. Some cultures even value Two-Spirit people as having strong medicine and engage them with shamanic rituals. I think that although to some it is considered inappropriate for non-Natives to identify as Two-Spirit, we can all draw inspiration that in the expanse of our human story, there do exist cultures which do not penalize, shame, injure, or kill their fellow Two-Spirit community members for demonstrating gender-fluid identities. Two-Spirits of these specific tribes are not only not harmed for their identities, but they can actually be esteemed highly and considered to bring great value to their communities in the form of diverse talents and perspectives. I think we would have a better world if Queer people were able to witness their unique abilities and perspectives as being likewise uniquely positioned to bring more light to this dark world. Yellow teaches us that no matter how much shade society tries to cast upon us, we can choose to shine brighter.
I will say that the stripe in the flag that I identify with the most is the green stripe. I received religion on a trip to Ida that changed my life forever as I was introduced to the RadFae life. Right when I received it I was like YAS QUEEEEEN, sop me UP. For the uninitiated, Radical Faeries donned the name in the 1970’s. They intersect at anti-corporate and communal political ideologies, environmental knowledge of self and purpose, queer spirituality, and sexual liberation. I definitely resonate enough with the sub-culture to identify as Radfae and am very thankful to be woven into the culture’s story and community.
My dear queers, it can be really hard in this world to hold our ground at our own intersection. I want to bring some words to the Queers of the Green Stripe, who can sometimes struggle to fit into the Queer community at all. YOU BELONG. It’s so easy to get swept away in torrents of popular culture, but I’m encouraging you to RESIST CONFORMITY. When I see my family leave a THREE INCHES DEEP layer of trash after the celebration of our Holiest Day (Pride) every year, I am actually filled with shame. What does it mean to be Queer today? I’m sad to say that the people answering that question for the masses are mostly straight SALESPEOPLE. Queer culture has been co-opted by corporations and perverted into an expression of unabashed consumerism. This is not ok. We are more than the brand of clothes stamped onto on our bodies. I encourage y’all to seek out green spaces as an opportunity to feel supported by the natural world around you. Get to know your ecosystem. Volunteer at a restoration workday in a local forest preserve with Gay for Good or another environmental nonprofit! Learn the names of the plants you see. Plant a garden (!) for your own spiritual health. To me, there is nothing sexier than a man who can grow his own produce and then turn it into a meal. Not sayin’ just sayin’. Green teaches us that our ecosystem is here to support us and that we have a responsibility to support our ecosystem back.
TURQUOISE/MAGIC OF ART:
It’s no small secret that some of the best artists in the world were/are queer. What can we say? We dominate this scene. And yet somehow, we still remain behind the scenes. Support the Queer Arts! If you are going to support the corporate media with your dollars, make sure to see a movie that comes out with progressive Queer representation on the opening weekend so we send a message to hollywood that we like those movies. If you’re a writer, write queer parts with depth that demonstrate our diversity. Less of the over-done and regressive plot lines of queer people entering a drug spiral, committing suicide, or actually having been straight all along. These representations are damaging. I’ve seen first-hand that art is the most powerful tool in an activist’s toolbelt and I use that to my fullest advantage. In fact, my nonprofit Sustain DuPage is actually starting an Artist Collective and I am the MOST excited. Turqouise teaches us to hone our craft and make a difference in the world with our passion.
PURPLE/HARMONY IN DIVERSITY:
You may have noticed that our flag represents diversity. Because like the LGBTQIABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ Community, we are diverse and we absolutely SWIM in non-conformity to oppressive norms. (I’m sure at least one of you is nodding your head right now like “yaaaaas truuuuuuue” in response to that last sentence and another one of you is like “I identify as non-alphabet actuallyyyyyyy.”)
Diversity is in our makeup: not the kind you beat- the kind that flows through your veins. Our people have popped up in every culture on every continent throughout human history like a f*ckin’ JK Rowling novel. All the magic. Sometimes even operating in secret alleyway locations, with the same obsession with spectacle and OH MY GOSH IS THE HARRY POTTER UNIVERSE JUST A GIANT ALLEGORY FOR QUEER CULTURE IT ALL MAKES SO MUCH SENSE NOW.
Sorry for that tangent.
Enough discrimination y’all. Just, ENOUGH. In other countries you will see queer clubs where all different people within the community intermingle together. Most US clubs/bars you go to today, Queers are divided by race, sex, gender expression, and age. People on dating apps will boldly swear off an entire race in their description. (WTF?) If you’re going to have a preference based on race, you should just THINK about that… like, if your soulmate happened to be born outside your preferential race but you never met them just because you “don’t date ______s” like, how sad is that?! We all miss out when we don’t meet as many members of our community as we can. Especially today, it’s important to embrace our differences and have solidarity with each other. Purple teaches us that the world is rough out there, so we need a tight-knit Queer community to ensure we are all supported.
I was raised Evangelical Christian. For a hot minute in college I was atheist and miserable. (I’m not saying Atheism is miserable for everyone, it just was for me). I decided for myself then that I needed to at least believe that life has some larger purpose. That working belief started me back on the path to spiritual healing and recovery. Slowly but surely I’m reclaiming every inch of my spiritual self from regressive Christian teachings. I was raised believing that I was allowed to explore other religions, but always with a warning that I could become demon-possessed if I explored other ways of knowing the universe. So, I’ve still got some healing to do, but every day I’m growing.
I made the personal choice to continue self-identifying as Christian since so much of my relationship with God is based in Christian theology. Also, Queers drop out of the church like FLIES- which is why we have this sh*t-show echo chamber of bigots shouting praise unto themselves without any folk there to check their ignorant statements. By allowing for the Christian Church to deny your Christian identity, you’re letting them win. I don’t go to Church but I proudly assert my Christian identity in conversations. There’s nothing more confusing to a bigoted Christian than to talk to another Christian who is queer, socialist, pro-environment, anti-racism, and anti-Christian-Supremacy. Many Christians would say I’m not really a Christian. But the Bible says you will only know a Christian by the fruit of their spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” So in scenarios when my Christianity is questioned, I just bite my tongue and laugh to myself because I know that every day I strive to follow Christ and that some day when I die I hope he greets me to heaven like, “Well done good and faithful servant. Guuuuuuuurl, you have the FRUITIEEEEEEEEEST SPIRIIIIIIIIIIIT” with swinging hand snaps and a big bear hug. And all those other Christians will be waiting in line behind us like, “why is Jesus acting so gay?” And I will stroll through the gates purse-first with a hair flip back in their direction. Everyone should feel 100% secure exploring their own spiritual understanding. Violet teaches us to get to know ourselves and our intentions in life.
So queers, we’ve had fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed our rainbow carpet ride, but this is where I must leave you. I hope every day you can sling yourself in a spiritual rainbow and remember who you are and how you are connected to all that is. You are valuable. Your time here is limited. Your skills and perspective are desperately needed in this world. So, find your purpose and raise your rainbow voices! We are the people who shine through the thunderstorm!