I don’t think of you often these days. Meaning, you’re not the certainty you once were. I am not sure if I will ever be a mother. And I think that is okay. But today, you were the person I kept wanting to write to. I can’t really say why. But I’m hoping that maybe, in the course of writing, it will begin to make sense. I work with young people. I am a teacher’s assistant in a social justice art class – a space in which, so far, we have discussed tragedies like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. Because as a school with a nearly 100 percent black student population, it’s an issue that both frightens and relates to my students in an incredibly intimate way.
But today, the instructor walked into the classroom. And the conversation, among my students, descended into something about how being gay is wrong. And gross. And condemned in the bible. I am almost certain that you will listen to similar rhetoric as you grow up. In the same way that I am still listening to black boys being referred to as “thugs” in our “post-racial” America. These phobic views of the world are embedded in our culture in a way that has proven both tragic and exhausting. But I guess I’ve grown used to the former in a theoretical way: I know homophobia is real. I’ve experienced it in both first and secondhand ways. And I’ve come to almost expect it in the black community: the fear of homosexuality seems to be burrowed quite deeply into the bedrock of our culture.
But still, I grew hot throughout the class period: watching as the instructor scrapped her initial lesson plan to turn attention to LGBTQ social justice issues. There was an urgency about her decision, and the way she moved after taking the pulse of the room. I sat in a corner. And felt a sense of relief when some students argued against the two champions of homophobia in the classroom: those spewing a chorus of “Adam and Steve” and what the bible says.
I was hot. But I had heard it all before.
Until I hadn’t.
Until one of these champions, sitting across a table from me, said something about how the world would be better if gay people were dead. And I feel my hand getting weak as I write this. A similar sensation to the paralysis that fell over me in that moment. Or maybe it was an out of body experience: watching this student, sitting next to the person occupying my body, saying that he thinks the world would be better if gay people were dead. Not knowing that he was wishing death upon me. He couldn’t be more than 13. But he is impassioned. And the she that is me is over a decade older than him. And frozen.
I was frozen. And I guess I am beginning to worry that my intersectionality is too much like being caught in a crossfire. That being black and queer and a womyn whose gender expression has become progressively more androgynous – who feels at home in these spaces – I’m worried that those intersections meet in a place where a disaster is waiting to happen. And that I will be too paralyzed, in the midst of it, to escape.
So I was staring at a wall this afternoon. After crying a bit. And then trying to sleep off the weight of that moment, of having my existence callously prayed away. How devastating that our churches have become the place where intolerance is most violently convicted. But as I stared at the wall, I realized that I was not mad at that boy.
But at everything that made that moment possible – that made it possible for him to wish death upon an entire group of people; death, because they are not living the life that he imagines to be right. I am devastated by the ability of the oppressed to oppress. By the way fear twists into hatred, as it creeps past our lips. By the fact that the bedrock of our culture is showing itself to be the destruction of difference.
I am disgusted.
And I suppose I write to you because I hope it will be different. That somehow my experience and this particular moment won’t even make sense to you – because our world will be so far removed from such rhetoric. And from moments like these. I write to you, I suppose, as a way of dreaming for myself.
But perhaps I know better. And my hope is not for some magical transformation of the world. But rather, for some magical transformation of myself: That I can be more than a person anticipating tragedy at her intersection; but one who celebrates the way all the parts of her intertwine. And maybe by celebrating, I will be emboldened to wildly defend those who reside in the same spaces as me. And maybe it is in this way that the world will be transformed.