family

My Queer Alone (or how other queers shame me)

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Every time I enter a queer of color space with my clicks and my bowtie, I hear the words “community” and “family.” The two words that hold so much pain for folks like us. The two words that capture all the times our blood families alienated us, all the times our cultures rejected us. The two words that are supposed to shove this alienation and rejection back into the face of this white cishet world, and finally allow us some healing. With others.

But you know, when I hear “community” and “family,” the two words that are supposed to heal and refresh and decolonize me, I feel even more alienated. That is why I make up imaginary friends when I’m talking to the queer folks I meet at woke events. That is why I pretend to be all comfortable in my bowtie, even when my skin is crawling into my lungs. When I hear these two words, I feel a new kind of queer shame, one that is not caused by cis hetero culture but by the queer folks who assume that I too, must have a chosen family.

But I don’t. Most days, I feel utterly alone. No, I do not have twenty queer muslim friends living close to me who can come over anytime. No, I do not even have ten queer friends far away from me who I can have a heart-to-heart skype session with. And this is not just because I am a terribly anxious person. This is because I do not know how to find a new queer of color family. Because I do not have the energy to create new community ties when it’s trying so fucking hard to maintain the ones that were forced upon me.

And mostly, this is because I am out of balance: I am full of a painful love for a family that suffocates me with their normativity, and full of a painful emptiness for other queers who revel with their chosen families in their non-normativity.

My dear fellow queers who have found a queer of color family, this is not an attack. This is a confession. This is a confession that when I see another person like myself—so queer, so muslim, so brown—lean so comfortably on so many folks, I feel jealous. I feel jealous because I don’t have what you have. I feel jealous because I can’t have what you have. But mostly, I feel jealous because I am supposed to have what you have. I am supposed to have a chosen family, I am supposed to have queer of color friends, I am supposed to have a community that sustains me, I am supposed to have folks who pull me out of this depressive shell. I am supposed to survive it all, collectively.

Sure, I have some online queer muslim and PoC friends. Sure, I know some queer folks in different parts of the world. Sure, I sometimes have someone I can “connect” with to talk about politics, and perhaps even go to a protest with. But this is not family. These connections don’t heal when I feel like the world is thinning me. These connections don’t comfort when I’m crying over her departure. These connections don’t validate when I feel guilty for lying to my mother. These connections don’t laugh, or hang out, or weep, or listen. They are mere connections after all. Not “family” or “community.”

So my queer fellows with chosen families, stop shoving these two words down my throat. I am already living within the ever-enclosing ball of queer loneliness, but your assumptions and your prescriptions fill me with a different kind of alone, one that is terrified of your pity, and ashamed of existing in this queer loneliness.

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lessons of love

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the women in my family taught me how to love women by not loving men          no, they are not lesbians or queer or whatever labels you stick onto me, but they refused so wholly           to succumb emotionally to men

the women in my family are embodiments of light because they could not get tied to false ideas of hetero romance           yes, they spat out the lies fed to them by the afsanay they read the films they watched

the women in my family married men for circumstance, not love

and this is not their tragedy but their ferocity

[yes, this is not some sad poem about their oppression but a testament to their battle, to their unwavering courage]

the women in my family have been fighting since they hit puberty, and some even before then, and they do not tire           they labor on and on in the kitchens and bazaars and gardens by closing their hearts to men even when they can’t close their legs, by rising through hardened mud to build suns for their daughters

my mother has held the entire fucking world on her breasts and she still stands straight always             my phuppo learned to make love to god after learning that the man she called husband could only make rape, not love, to her           and my nani has had her head filled with clouds since she got married, and yet she never let it rain            because the women in my family are goddesses whose kisses planted wings on my back, who filled their own voids by loving each other, who taught me to look beyond the hetero romance ideas being drilled into me from all the arenas that were controlled by men

the women in my family taught me the different colors of love, the multiple directions that I can get and give love, the million ways of drinking and savoring and holding love so deep inside me, and none of these teachings           ever involved men