17 things

This is a revised version of a poem originally posted on October 11, 2016. Spoken word version can be found here. 


Seventeen things you have to

learn for yourself

as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,

Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual

or otherwise Queer youth

by the time you are

seventeen.

One is that the first Pride

was a riot

I don’t mean that it was full

of laughter, or that it was some grand party

where everyone spiraled up to

dance among the stars

because the only glittering

that night

was broken glass on

cobblestones.

The first Pride was a riot

on the backstreets of New

York

and they never tell us

that that night

we won.

They never tell us

that it was the only protest

in a decade full of turmoil

where the cops had to hide

from the shouting, dancing rioters

who fought to reclaim the

only ground they had ever been able to say was theirs.

Stonewall is only an echo of

a name in our history

Christopher Street Liberation

Day even less

but I swear to you

the first thing you need to

know is

the first Pride was a riot,

and two, around the same time

it took place

it was a debated topic in the

gay community

whether or not it would be

too bold to say

that they weren’t mentally

ill

which, three, homosexuality

was only removed

from the American Psychiatric

Association’s list of mental illnesses

in 1974

congratulations

all it took was a riot

and five more years of

protests, before they decided with a vote

that whoops, we were never

actually mentally ill

except, four, there are still

teenagers being tortured today

in what some dare blaspheme

as “therapy”

used to destroy their

self-identity

in the hopes of making them normal.

except, four, the queer

community still carries overwhelmingly high rates for poverty and homelessness

and depression.

Did you know that, five,

over half the children forced

into conversion therapy

commit suicide?

Or six, that before the AIDS

crisis

lesbians were considered

“hangers-on”

by much of the gay community.

Because it turns out, seven,

you can wear a rainbow on your shirt

and still be a bigot.

There are people who stick

rainbows in their ears

or wear them on their fingers

or slap them across their

cheeks in badges of defiance

and will still hate you for

the color of your skin

or the size of your thighs

or your gender

or the genders you like to

kiss

or don’t.

Don’t ask me why this happens

it just does

I think it might be that

we’ve all been taught to hate ourselves

for so damn long

that we don’t know how to create

a space with no hate.

Or maybe it’s that the space

seems too small, because

eight, there are people who

will tell you that you are not enough

that you do not reach the

magical benchmark of “gay enough” to pass through the gate even

especially

when you are some flavor of

the rainbow other than straight-out gay.

eight, this is bullshit

eight, those people are

bullshit.

eight, you are enough.

eight, there is always enough room.

nine, there is no overarching

“homosexual agenda”

sorry

we’re all kind of flailing

along in here trying to figure out some way to make it work

when most of us have nothing

in common

except that society looked at

us in different ways and decided we didn’t fit

so we could all go be misfits

together

under one big rainbow flag

but just so you know, ten,

there are plenty of other flags

there is one for you, I

promise

and eleven, misfits may not

all need the same things

but we need to stick

together, especially in a world where

twelve—refer to point seven—there

are lesbians who hate other lesbians

for having the audacity to be

born in a body

that the world looked at and assumed

“boy”

which brings me to

thirteen, there is so much to understand.

fourteen, you need to understand

because we need to stick

together

and to stick together we don’t

have to be the same but we do have to understand

and it will be hard because

you were probably thrown into

this world with no warning because

fifteen, being queer is not

genetic

and we are not unique among

minorities

in that we must collect our

heritage through broken bits of history and research in a world constantly

working to erase us like we are yesterday’s wrong answers

but we are unique in that

when we try to prove our legacy

we can be laughed down

or re-erased

or flat out ignored

but I swear to you

you have a history as old as

Alexander the Great

as brilliant as Sappho

as dignified as Abraham

Lincoln

and as proud as Eleanor

Roosevelt.

But even with that behind us—

sixteen,

they have always watched us

die.

because, sixteen, even though

the bystander effect is bullshit,

no one ever mentions that Kitty

Genovese was a lesbian, sixteen

Ronald Reagan was a mass

murderer and needs to be remembered that way, sixteen

our children, your brothers

and sisters and siblings of all stripes and all colors and sexualities and

genders are being murdered every day

through neglect

and rejection

and hate.

Sixteen, there is an entire

generation of gay and bisexual men

missing from history

because the government chose

to do nothing

when they were dying by the

thousands.

sixteen, we died from the

disease and died from going back into the closet and died for staying there and

died for coming out,

sixteen, they laughed at our

deaths because they believed their god was punishing us for daring to love,

sixteen, the grieving ensured

the ashes of your forerunners rest on the lawn of the White House because

SIXTEEN, THEY HAVE ALWAYS

WATCHED US DIE.

SEVENTEEN

Seventeen, you are allowed

to be angry.

You do not have to be one of

the nice gays

or one of the nice trans

people

or sweet or kind or educate

the rest of the world in anything less than a yell

you are allowed to be so furious it scalds your bones

at the way we are forgotten

and passed over

at the way, as soon as June

becomes July

we are expected

to go back to dying in

silence

and mourning our dead

and kissing in closets

where no one can be offended

at the sight of us.

You are allowed to be angry

and scream down the stars

so they shatter like broken

glass at your feet

because you know what?

One

the first Pride

was a riot.

One thought on “17 things

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