Queer Voices changed my life.
I’ve been trying to freelance my writing since I was 17, and have been writing literally since before I can remember. One person flipped my world of huddled-in-the-corner-hiding writing into a new and novel concept for me: something to be proud of. He–AJ, a teacher at The Gifford School–was the first person to nurture this fiery passion I can’t even pretend to suppress, to encourage me to stoke that fire at every possible point, to never let it go out. AJ told me that “poetry is frozen music;” the next day “Frozen Music” became my first tattoo.
Poetry was always my (main) medium. I bleed ink, not blood; when I was first published for the first time (Breath and Shadow) in 2012, I wept words, not tears. It’s history from there–every time I’m published I weep, regardless of how often or what literary journal or website. One more coat of mortar on the walls I erected to shield myself that, somehow, morphed into the cold stone steps of achievement.
Still, that purpose wasn’t complete. I’m not sure it ever will be, because helping people is an ongoing process; changing the world with words is a struggle in nearly all aspects. Not everyone consumes poetry as voraciously as I. Channeling my passion for Social Justice into poetry is kind of hard. Not so much for me, but because poetry is not always accessible or easily understood. So I began writing about Social Justice outside of poetic structures as well, combining my own life experiences with, and applying them to, what I was learning about the vastness of intersections and interlocking systems of oppression; that’s an ongoing process as well. An uncomfortable one, a difficult one, an ever-evolving unequivocally complex learning experience; sometimes confusing and frustrating, always necessary. Each time I open my mouth to speak a sloshing bile of self-doubt creeps up my vocal cords and squeezes them until my mouth is forced shut. This is one reason I write.
But through what medium could I truly reach people? Personal blogs are hit or miss–but still check out my Tumblr page (TheUnlovelyPoet) or my DeviantART account (Kairesdream)–and so is Twitter; readers are only guaranteed if a person is huge in the Social Justice world or already has a previously established online presence. Seeing a small piece of your soul sent out into the world bypassed is only slightly less discouraging than the 10 rejection letters one gets for every one acceptance letter into a literary journal. And, literary journals are not a medium wide-spread enough to reach out to large groups of people, as they are a niche (albeit a wonderful one). Still, I’ve never stopped trying.
Writing based on my own Queerness is emotionally draining–because I put all of my emotional energy into writing in general, but also because I am thrown to the margins of Queer communities for “not being trans enough,” “not being Queer enough,” or because of my pansexuality. It’s a horror to think what it would mean if my words, my Soul Storms, my Tempest-in-a-Teapots, were to become intrinsically connected with ostentatious displays of, and the emotions associated with, such exclusion. Sometimes it’s scary, making an attempt to mesh two things one feels so strongly about, for reasons like this.
When I applied to QV, I was in a monolithic slump. The sludge-slick kind where forward momentum is a grueling process, the kind of feeling that seeps through the pores of your skin and no matter how hard you scrub you just can’t get it off. Weeks prior, my intellectual property was stolen by a ‘company,’ which asked for three to five completed articles a day on absolutely nothing (refrigerator parts, repairing garage doors, and the such) while simultaneously paying cents a day per article. My first–and last–payment from them for the two weeks worth of work was $1.27. The person I was corresponding with was emotionally manipulative when I attempted to end the ’employment,’ but because no contract was signed–which was sketchy as Hell in the first place–I was harassed for quite some time after I ceased answering altogether.
Yet, my work was accepted by the QV editors, I was welcomed into the QV team. And here I am, wearing a big goofy grin that boasts growing pride in myself, my writing, my identity, strapped with motivation to match the scars on my arm and my heart on my sleeve, and the fingertip callouses grown large from wielding a pen I always knew was mightier than the sword.
Queer Voices has given me a sense of empowerment, writing-wise and self-wise, a source and solid sense of purpose. It has given me a Queer community filled with wonderful individuals who are brilliant developing writers, who do not marginalize or discredit me or others on the basis of Queerness or varying intersections–something I hope becomes a long-term big, happy, Queertastic family. QV has allotted me a space to speak, a platform to write about Social Justice, and a safe space to share my experiences without that sense of no-don’t-do-it gnawing at my grey matter ideals I harbor between my ears, gnawing at the soul-cage of my rib bones. Here, I hone my craft. Here, I am called out, called in, and welcomed without condition. Here, I make mistakes, correct them, learn a more appropriate response to institute next time, and move on. Here, my writing evolves alongside my thoughts, views, actions, allyship, and advocacy.
My identity is exorbitantly complex. At QueerVoices, I–we–bare all.
Despite all the crap I endure trying to live day-to-day, I consider myself a very fortunate person. I have found my true love in this life so early on, discovered a passion so deep and wide just thinking about it has brought me to tears more than once. Not only a passion but perhaps a talent–at least, that’s what AJ told me.
There are plenty of obstacles I face. Plenty of obstacles anyone who chases a dream–and anyone who does that while enduring their own unique and various intersections of oppression–must face. Not least of all is ridicule and accusations that I am wasting my time, that a person cannot make a living off of writing Poetry or Social Justice. But that’s just it: I’m not here to make a living, I am here to be living. To touch, tenderly, people like myself. To prove, viciously, vehemently, that bigots are wrong, that ignorance will not be tolerated. To stand in solidarity. I am here to say to everyone who doubted me every step of the way: I told you that you’d look at me once I wore a poet’s laurels, and here I am.
As I mentioned, when not writing about Social Justice I write about poetry. Here is a sample of my work.
a garden of scars still blooming,
breasts like pale roses grown
in between fence slats
(hedge trimmers won’t clip.
Rather, spiral outwards and back in tandem
with the days they are beauty
and the evenings they are pain.)
deep in a betwixt that screams twilight
louder, growing, louder than a crowds eyes
chewing, like stale tobacco, a self-proclaimed self.
identity into a fine powder,
tongues run, saliva a dismantling diction, smoothly
along cavities-turned-caverns that are not their own.)
We–me, us, together–are
seismic fault-lines inside earthquake;
dandelions having cracked the sidewalk to be seen;
dismembered, deconstructed, denied;
a light switch scotch-taped halfway
up nor down.