For the children of the rainbow

Queer is punk rock. Queer is synonymous with brave. It means moving 2,800 miles from the Bronx to Sacramento because a California woman stole my heart. It means being yourself in a world that encourages you not to be, because it’s a direct form of activism. It means being a living, breathing rainbow flag, 365 days a year, ever so noticeable in your oversized men’s tees without the seasonal validation of celebrity hashtags on Instagram. It means calling the LGBTQ Center of Sacramento as soon as your plane lands to set up your allies in a new city, just in case your love is too loud for the block you live on. Just in case you’re called “dykes,” gawked at or followed home.

It’s sometimes quitting jobs and nearly getting evicted because of discrimination in the workplace. It’s praying for the lost queer bodies in Texas, and your trans friends on their way home at 2 a.m. It means creating your own family because you still get calls from your grandmother asking you if you’ve changed. As if you’re a phase. As if the gay might have washed off by age 33. If you’ve found a husband yet. If this time you might wear a dress to the party you shouldn’t bring your girlfriend to because queer is to be kept obscure.

Queer is wonderful hanging over shoulders as a Marc Jacobs purse or Calvin Klein blouse, but never face-to-face at Thanksgiving.

Queer is all or nothing. It means loving your girlfriend anyway and warm afternoons with gregarious Vallejo gays who take you as you are on Christmas. It means loving her, even if I’m not invited over for dinner by her parents tonight or possibly ever because every Sunday a pastor invokes ancient ideas that our love is a sin. It’s learning that in Hmong communities, there isn’t even a word to describe your queer friend’s life.

It’s getting to know God on a personal level and laughing with him about how ignorant the world is and inventing new religions and new psalms. It’s discovering David Bowie’s makeup, Gia Marie Carangi and Frida Kahlo’s seldom acknowledged lesbian lover, Chavela Vargas. It’s Marsha P. Johnson, Gloria Anzaldúa, Freddie Mercury, Sylvia Rivera and the first brick thrown at Stonewall that smashed the patriarchy.

It’s realizing your children are not a second chance at life, but beautiful beams of light no matter what gender section they choose at Forever21. It’s knowing we are human beings first. We are pansexual, bisexual, transexual, asexual, unrepressed and liberated truth-tellers. It’s coming out to your lesbian friends that you are straight now, or bi, or maybe just changing your mind for the weekend.

Being queer is decolonization of the mind, of the spirit, of the conditioning of our ancestors. It’s unlearning and teaching tolerance to our elders.

It’s highlighting a Jesus poem like “You were born in the image and likeness of God” and using it as shield against Christian radicals on a train platform.

It’s familiar faces at Faces, or Badlands and the bookshelves carrying comfort and healing at Lavendar Library. It’s holding her hand in McKinley Park and wishing upon every 11:11 that one day you will achieve normalcy in a country run by a bigot, who entices other bigots to snarl at the accent of your very last name on top of the sex of the person you make love to. It’s being a triple-threat: a queer, Latinx woman in America. It’s laughing through discrimination while watching John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and knowing everyday is worth the beautiful struggle.

It’s love. It’s writing these narratives, owning them, sending them, sharing them and serving that stardust all across the world.