"I love the gays, but goddamn I don't understand why you guys are, like, so in your face about being gay. Like, what's with all the parades and the rainbow flags and exclusive clubs and making out in public and glitter-glitter-glitter?!"
An old co-worker once said this to me during a seemingly endless shift. We were selling makeup in a high-end luxury department store, and both of our feet were killing us because we were forced to squeeze our toes into three-inch pumps on a marble floor for eight hours a day. Physical pain has a way of making us say how we really feel.
I walked away from her and began reorganizing the lipsticks so they were color co-ordinated. Dark to light. Light to dark. Cream finish to satin finish. Satin finish to cream finish. I found myself magnetically drawn to the lipstick station every time I heard a bigoted comment that I wish I hadn't heard.
I organized the hell out of the lipsticks, but I never spoke up when I heard a homophobic comment. I wish I had, but I wasn't very outspoken at work because I felt like such an outsider there. It seemed like I was always in trouble. The beauty manager would stomp around the store praising people but then stop and berate me for a hair being out of place or my nose ring was "too punk" (his words, not mine) or my too-large statement earrings were "overwhelming" and "distracting" or my lace stockings were too "fashion-forward" and "alienating" to the client -- blah blah blah. It conjured up old feelings of being the lesbian freak in high school.
Which is funny to even say, because it's totally connected to my co-worker's ignorant observations about why us gays are so wildly in your face about our gayness.
But lez back track, shall we, sweet kittens?
We gays held a lot in during high school. There was not one out gay kid in my high school. Yeah, the rumors flew and some of us were better at hiding it than others, but there wasn't a gay clique or anything. There was no safe place to be gay (there was no safe place to yourself).
I made the mistake of telling people I was bisexual (even though I was a total closet lesbian) and overnight, a whole group of blonde-haired plastics were afraid I was going to hit on them (don't they know I'm not even into blondes? Let alone, straight corn-fed blondes?).
Yeah, school wasn't exactly a warm place to be openly queer. Any homo relationships we had were either top secret or made up inside our heads. We observed our straight friends growing giddy and excitable over first kisses and while we faked it the best we could, it just wasn't the same. Gay girls kissed boys and gay boys kissed girls while fantasizing about "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" or whatever cutie the boys were dreaming about, I don't know, maybe James Van Der Beek or whoever else was hot at the time.
But we were robbed of those first magical kisses. You know the kind of kisses that change everything? The kind that make you question if maybe God is real. Don't get me wrong, I had my fair share of spine-tingling girl kisses as a teen, but it was never anything that could be seen in public. There is a very real thrill to kissing someone you love in public.
So while the rest of our peers were experiencing the wonder of their newfound sex drives in high school, we were busy repressing ours.
So when we finally came out into the big, bad world, it was so liberating it was intoxicating. Some of us were 24, some of us were 54, but whatever. We finally met people like us. We finally had a dating pool which, after years and years and years of having radio silence, was exhilarating. We were like little kids on a diet of Brussels sprouts suddenly left loose in a rainbow candy store.
There is a very real thrill to kissing someone you love in public.
Because suddenly one-night stands are possible. There are bars (and a plethora of them at that) where we can find people to make out with. People to fantasize falling in love with, people who could maybe love us back. It feels so empowering it's almost magical, when you've been hiding for so long. You ride on a rainbow cloud for a while.
Some of us were beaten up and bullied and given vicious death threats and kicked out of our parent's house and amazingly are still alive and standing strong. We made it to adulthood. You better believe we're proud of it.
I'm proud. I'm proud that I survived being a gay kid because too many of us don't. I've been to too many funerals, and I've cried my eyes out too many goddamn times after seeing a gay teen or kid has killed themselves because they were so harassed in the school hallways or made to feel so ashamed of who they are.
We're all survivors. All of us queers. Some of us have visible scars and some of us don't, but we all have emotional ones. We've weathered some storms, girl. But damn it, we made it, you know? And our lives, our survival -- that's something worth celebrating.
I wish I told my co-worker that's why we're so "in your face" about our sexuality. We proudly wave our rainbow flags to remind us of a time when we couldn't even hold hands with our boyfriends or girlfriends without the all-consuming fear of getting the living shit kicked out of us by our hateful peers.
We're affectionate in public because we didn't get the chance to cuddle our high school sweethearts. Hell, we didn't even have high school sweethearts.
And you know what? We're really not any more affectionate than anyone else. It's just that you're not used to seeing it. Do you know how many sorority girls with perfectly ironed hair are cozily making out with their boyfriends publicly in the bar? But you don't notice them, do you? They're just "crazy kids" in "love." Because you're used to seeing them.
We're something a little different. We're new to the game, because only recently has it even become safe for us to hold hands above the table on dates.
And yes, we have our own clubs because they're safe spaces where we're free to express our real selves without the fear of running into a homophobic boss or co-worker. They're places where we can be out when we're not yet out to our families, because for a lot of us, the moment we do come out to them, we risk being blacklisted and we're not quite ready for that yet because just like anyone else, we love our families, for better or for worse.
And the glitter. Glitter. Glitter. Glitter. Well, that's just in our DNA.
Queer people weren't made for a life sitting on the sidelines. We held court on the bleachers for far too long and we're over that life. I'm all about exposing my sparkly, flamboyant skin to the world. I might even get some glitter in your cocktail while I'm at it. But don't worry, glitter can't kill you, only hate and shame can.
Queer people weren't made for a life sitting on the sidelines.
And we're going to continue to be in "your face" about our sexuality because the less we hide, the more lives we can save. Every time we lock lips in a public place or clasp hands in plain view, it's a political act.
We're showing the world that we can't and won't stay in the closet. That we're not going to "tone it down" because you're uncomfortable. And soon you'll see we're not so scary and not so different from you.
Most of all, when we're expressive about our sexuality, we're showing the kids who are hiding that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And that can be the difference between life and death for a young person. Just knowing there is a possibility of something a little more positive at the end of the darkness you're living can be the one thing that keeps you going. I know this from experience.
When you're hiding your love and your sexuality, it chips away at your core. You experience a soullessness when you're removed from such essential parts of yourself. What's a person without a soul? What's a life without love and lust? A shell of a life?
Some of us were in fact, shells of ourselves for a long time. But we finally connected and we're here. We made it and it feels good.
And that is why we're so in your face about our sexuality.