Warning: This article contains graphic detail about hate crimes and violence toward the LGBTQ Community
I am queer. I am an out and very proud woman-loving woman, as gay as the day is long. I’m a Doc Marten wearing Dixie Chicks listening dyke. I will give you a 45-minute rant on the consequential damage of Section 28 and the full life and times of Harvey Milk. I have a queer cinema and literary collection as long as the list of victims at Stonewall. But I am ashamed to hold her hand.
I’m ashamed to hold the hand of the woman I love and I hate myself for it.
I do not hide that I am queer. I was one of those kids that when you look at them, you just know, that is a gay child. I’ve been out since I was 15. I’m proud to be gay but my pride and shame goes hand and hand.
My shame is not even a conscious act, it’s a built-in finely tuned system, that I’m sure every queer person has installed. You’ve heard of the gay-dar, well this is the gay-dar’s overly anxious cousin … The Queer-meter.
The queer-meter is a high-tech device that belongs beside James Bond’s gadgets in Q’s lair. It has a rare yet intense ability to survey any room you’re in and suss out the level of threat. It’s like a traffic light system in your head, but if it goes red you don’t stop, you run, or you straighten the hell out.
This tumour-like system makes everyday life a minefield. A normal couple or however normal a heterosexual model might be, the only worries they have is whether the pasta has too much garlic in it on date night. Whereas the lovers of homosexual persuasion have entered a military operation.
Are there any big families with kids and an overbearing mother that loves the gays until their children are being forced to watch the ‘pornographic’ actions of two girls holding hands? Or the elderly couple in the back who has to say something because the Lord commands them to call out sodomy as scripted in Corinthians 6:9–10. Or worse, the lads out on the town having one too many beers that think our love is an open invitation to f*ck us straight or all their lesbian wet dreams have come true by our mere presence. Because of course, we live to serve as men’s brainless f*ck toys, don’t we?
Every bigot has a reason for hate and it usually stems from ignorance. Whether they cloak their hate in child protection, religion or just being horny, I don’t care. However, the ones that bother me the most are the looks of sheer disgust. The looks that make you want to take a shower after. You don’t even know these people, but they have unconsciously chipped away at something inside of you they shouldn’t even have the right to see. Those are the worst, because your love is the reason for their hate.
So instead, we pass for real good gal pals. The nights lying in her bed while she holds me don’t exist; the sleepy do-nothing days when we just talk disappear; the moments that make us, us, they are gone. You may think that’s dramatic; you don’t have to announce your love everywhere you go and you’re right, we don’t. Holding a hand to any other couple might be a routine for them, but not for us. The act is 50 per cent of it, the choice to do so without fear or shame is all of it. Because I want to hold her hand for us and because the people who made it okay for me to be me (some of the time) didn’t get the chance to.
I just sit on my hands that are squirming just to hold hers, a universal sign that I’ve got you and I love you, but the fear of the what if, just won’t let me.
It’s not the fear of the unknown because it’s known. It’s not just the looks of disgust that make my hand drop hers too quickly. It’s Scott Johnson, it’s Matthew Shepherd, and it’s Sheila Lumumba. The list is endless. Do you want to know what sickens me the most? You probably didn’t know their names either, why would you, they died because they were gay.
The fear of physical violence or death (because doesn’t matter how many Pride flags you stick up for 30 days, it’s still a possibility) is justifiable in my mind not to be proud. But what a sick concept it is, to have to choose between authenticity or safety.
Do you know what’s worse? Nobody in power seems to care anymore. Every pride month we get reminded of how far we have come and how grateful we should be. So, go wear your rainbows, jump on a pride float, you get to stick a sparkly plaster over the problem. If you think that I’m ungrateful, good. I am. I’m selfish. I want more because the only way we got where we are today is because people who came before us demanded more and they took it. Not because the masses devoted a month to cash in on the pink pound through some tacky rainbow merch. (That clearly wasn’t made by the gays because… well just look at it).
Regardless of the people in power, or the fear, the guilt is the worst part. The guilt ricochets through my body every time I check over my shoulder or let those looks drop my hand. The guilt is ingrained inside of me but is not even mine to carry. The guilt that I’m letting the people down who came before me. The people who fought night in and night out when the world was not darker, who lay down their lives, cut ties with their families and watched loved ones die without anyone batting an eye. And I’m ashamed to hold her hand after the life they have given to me. It sickens me. They went out and fought and risked everything and I sit here and write.
But I remember that they probably know the greatest act of rebellion in some circles is to hold a hand.
I’m queer. I am an out and very proud woman loving women. As gay as the day is long and I am ashamed of being ashamed.
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