Performance Piece, Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York, 2023 Collaboration with Alex Williams (photographed) and Sarah Blesener (photographer)
I have a confession to make.
I have to confess that I have this grief.
This grief of not having grown up with an “Unnamed You”
to teach me how to live.
Without old gay people.
Without Queer Elders. Queer Mentors.
I have this grief
that instead of a ringing in my bones
Instead of a felt sense of my ancestors,
Instead of a deep knowing
of a history of generations of people like me
There is a big empty space.
A combination of erased and unwritten, and wiped out, and withheld, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting
to be heard.
Waiting to be memorized like nursery rhymes or catechism or a good song.
I want to be rooted, too, ya know?
I want to feel history in my blood.
Do you ever take for granted the certainty of being real and valid and alive?
I want someone to tell me the story of myself before it’s mine, so that I might recognize it a little sooner and a little softer.
I want deeply un-tragic homosexual mythologies.
I want fairy tales where faggots live happily-ever-after, with no “just kiddings” at the end.
I want a Twelfth Night where Viola is neither a man nor a woman and falls madly in love with both Olivia and the Duke…
I just want to make me a willow cabin at your gate
But do not think we have been twiddling our thumbs in the meantime
To find yourself on stage without a script in front of the audience
Means one must improvise
Even the sacred rituals:
Define Marriage - Verb. to swear an oath of boundless love to one’s friends
Baptism - the act of shaving each other’s head in the bathroom
Communion - a repeated event of eating dinner with all the people who are also not invited home for christmas.
We name and rename ourselves - a christening.
We practice pronouns, we try things on - graduation.
We change our minds
We are fluid and contradictory and impossible and delicious.
We, who have not been guaranteed a future,
Are fashioning new ways of being here now.
I want memories of an old geezer who lives upstairs with his husband and his cat. Who’s seen some shit and wears his pants too high, but his laughter fills the air with oxygen and he secretly likes it when we play Madonna too loud.
I want memories of the late nights he would come downstairs to sit around the kitchen table and tell us stories we’ve heard a million times of falling in love and making inconsequential mistakes over cookies and milk until the sun comes up.
I want a jaunty old dyke to tie my tie for prom and teach me how to dance with a girl.
How to lead and how to follow, because I’m not sure which one feels like me yet.
And maybe it’s both.
I want a drag queen with bad knees and a chain around her glasses to read to me before bed and the rusty baritone of a wrinkly trans man to sing me to sleep.
So it’s true
I have been thinking
about Weddings and Funerals.
About Sunday Dinners. And Holiday Get-to-Gethers.
About first kisses and throwing around a football.
About learning to shave, learning what to shave.
I have been thinking about Quinceaneras,
and Bar Mitzvahs,
and Tao Moko,
and the Debutante Ball.
and I have been thinking about Top Surgery.
As another sacred rite of passage.
That universally recognized moment when someone in our community is ready to step into a new role.
The natural maturation from youth into leadership.
I am thinking about a day when we gather in ceremonious celebration and the elders smile and say, “Ah, I remember my big day.”
And the young ones look up and say, “I can’t wait for it to be my turn.”
And the repetition hangs in the air, rich and meaningful with the passage of time.
There are speeches and toasts and traditional songs for the occasion, and we dance the night away.
Perhaps what I lack in looking back, I make up for in what we have yet to look forward to.
And how even though I am not
I am swimming in beginnings.
Not front to back, not past to future.
But left to right.
Surrounded on all sides by the sweet and slow accumulation of Big Brothers.
Who have only just begun to teach me how to live.