I made the word “queer” a part of me
right around when I started college
during a time when
nothing really made sense
and I was looking for a place
to call home.
I know what it is.
It know it’s a word with
skeletons in it’s closet.
A word with a past.
Queer is a word with a body count.
And we took it back.
Because queer was a word they threw
along with their fists
when they wanted it to hurt.
And we smiled back,
bruised knuckles, split lips,
"Come and take it."
Queer loved us
when our fathers looked through us
and talked about grandchildren
we didn’t know if we’d ever be able
Queer loved us when the law
said we didn’t have the right
to love each other.
Queer loved us when the townsfolk
were setting their fires
and sharpening their pitchforks.
I won’t ask for a show of hands.
I know it’s not safe for some of us.
But I’ll extend my hand to you.
I use this word to stand for love
after all the years it was used to hate.
I use it, because it saved me:
a word like heavy rainfall
on a crop dying of thirst.
I made the word queer a part of me
during a time when no other word
seemed to fit right,
and it’s still the warm hearth I come home to,
and if that’s not revolution,
I don’t know what is.
Because to me,
Because if queer can save
that lost little kid
then maybe there’s hope for the ones
who are let down by their parents,
beat up by their peers.
I have to believe that this word can do better.
Because it’s been causing harm for too many years.
Americans spend more than thirty billion dollars a year on security… it is the fear of threat rather than a real threat that is the catalyst for an obsession with safety that borders on madness.
Culturally we bear witness to this madness every day. We can all tell endless stories of how it makes itself known in everyday life. For example, an adult white male answers the door when a young Asian male rings the bell. We live in a culture where without responding to any gesture of aggression or hostility on the part of the stranger, who is simply lost and trying to find the correct address, the white male shoots him, believing he is protecting his life and his property. This is an everyday example of madness. The person who is really the threat here is the home owner who has been so well socialized by the thinking of white supremacy, of capitalism, of patriarchy that he can no longer respond rationally.
White supremacy has taught him that all people of color are threats irrespective of their behavior. Capitalism has taught him that, at all costs, his property can and must be protected. Patriarchy has taught him that his masculinity has to be proved by the willingess to conquer fea through aggression; that it would be unmanly to ask questions before taking action. Mass media then brings us the news of this in a newspeak manner that sounds almost jocular and celebratory, as though no tragedy has happened, as though the sacrifice of a young life was necessary to uphold property values and white patriarchal honor. Viewers are encouraged to feel sympathy for the white male home owner who made a mistake. The fact that this mistake led to the violent death of an innocent young man does not register; the narrative is worded in a manner that encourages viewers to identify with the one who made the mistake by doing what we are led to feel we might all do to “protect our property at all costs from any sense of perceived threat.” This is what the worship of death looks like.