I found myself on the ferry recently going nowhere in particular, which is one of my favourite things, scudding along the water on one of those rare days where the sky is clear and there’s enough of a breeze to keep things cool but not so much that you are being buffeted about, and there were little sailboats dotted here and there, and it was like something out of a tourism ad, so disgustingly clear and perfect, almost like hands from above were carefully arranging things. The boat was humming beneath me and I was trying to ignore the voices of the people around me, everyone crowded up on the deck to enjoy the weather, like I was, and I watched the city loom larger and larger until we bumped up against the dock and the boat disgorged us onto the Embarcadero, where we split apart and joined the vast, rapidly-moving stream of people.
San Francisco is one of the few places on Earth where I feel entirely comfortable being my monstrous self.
When you find your people, you need to cling tightly to them. Never let them go, because they are weighty and beautiful and glorious. You will know them when you find them — if you aren’t sure, you’re still looking. Don’t worry, friend. You’ll find them. They’re there, waiting for you. It is my fellow monsters I find here, moving with the pulse of the city.
It is hard to articulate what it means to be with your people.
We are all of us playing at something, putting on masks, taking on acts, all of us hastening away from something and towards something else, unwilling to let our true selves, our monsters, slip. Some of us are doing it more than others, burying ourselves under layers and layers of shadow, wrapping ourselves in cloth and burlap, trying to smooth the edges away.
It is only when we are with our fellow monsters that we can be ourselves again, wholly, utterly, completely, artifice falling away at the door. ‘Community time,’ I call it, it is the place where we do not need to perform for other people, because we are with our people, because we accept each other as we are. We are myriad monsters, all of us, some more than others. It is among the crazy that I can relax, it is among trans people that I no longer feel that I need to look over my shoulder for danger, it is among queers that I roll my shoulders back, become who I truly am.
Just be yourself, some people say, but those people have never been punished for being who they are. Those people don’t know the short, sharp pain that comes with each reminder that they do not belong, are not wholly of the world, are only proximally, conditionally allowed to be a part of it, under sufferance. And it is only in these nooks and crannies that we can find out who we really are.
This is a year in which I have become tired of, exhausted by, done with those who are not my monsters. I have scorn for those who hate us and wish to tear away at our very being, but I am not impressed with those who proudly call themselves ‘allies,’ either, who are equally exhausting in their own way. Those who hate us want us to disappear, whether to die or to vanish or to submerge our true selves so deeply that we become invisible, puppets pulled on strings of normativity. But ‘allies’ want us to perform too, want us to behave precisely as they like us, as though we are dancing ponies, dogs to do tricks and then be rewarded with a biscuit. They don’t like the full glory of our monstrous selves. They want something tidy, sparse, contained, easy to navigate.
We have to retreat to our hidden places to simply be. To exchange our inside jokes, to express frustration, to share the information we need for survival, even as people edge against these places, demand access to them, want to know why the door is closed, whine and scream like cats, scratching with long, sharp nails that make jagged, harsh, unpleasant sounds on the doors of our imagination, pawing and pawing and pawing and not understanding why they are not wanted there, for surely, they must be wanted everywhere?
We are eating kimchee. It’s hot, she says, passing me a spoonful, and it settles in my mouth like a tiny incendiary bomb, and as the heat ebbs away, I taste the other things, layer after layer. The air shimmers and it almost seems as though it, too, is pickled. We are all pickled, hot and sticky in the summer heat, down to our underwear under a slowly moving fan, sweat trickling between our shoulder blades, and even the iced oolong at my fingertips doesn’t seem to help, the glass weeping in the heat so frenziedly that I think for a moment it might have cracked.
This moment crystallises around us, two monsters in the heat, uncaring in our monstrous selves. We are two people eating kimchee, nothing more, freed from the need to pretend, to perform, to bob and weave and nod and buckle ourselves up with plumes on our heads so we can trot trot through the ring, with you riding atop our backs in spangled clothing, a crop in one hand to punish us if we stray. Here and now, we are in a state of perfect balance, our true selves unfolded lazily, like peonies, boldly open and uncaring.
Image: sunset, j.lau88, Flickr