Tonight I’m talking with the Queer Theory class at Eastern Washington University. Tomorrow at dawn, Mary and I fly to New Orleans for the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. It’ll be our first plane trip together to the city where I became certain I’d marry her. The city of Zombie Brides.
My ideas about this book and marriage equality and being queer have a cohesion I hadn’t expected. Coming out is a second adolescence but there’s something else, there’s something so vital about coming out — about the universal experience of recognizing and naming your sexual self. This is true about me, we say. This is the story of where I was when I woke. When I startled up and broke open. Straight people have been telling me that they can relate to the story because they came out, too. Of course they did. We all name our sexual selves.
The difference here, for the queer person, is coming out and being in the statistical minority. Coming out and having to push against assumption and inequity and bigots. Of maybe taking longer to sort out your sexual self than your culture is comfortable with. But you like boys, right? So how are you a lesbian? Technically, you’re bisexual, aren’t you? I love you, but I just don’t get why you’re choosing to live like this.
How gay are you? How gay is gay enough? You keep using that word and I don’t think it means what you think it means. Enough. You get to name your sexual self. And you get to name it for the rest of your life. It may vary and it may not. It may terrify you. It may be the purest vanilla. It’s yours, love. Nobody gets to feed it to you. Nobody gets to confine it, rename it, inhibit it. Name your sexual self without shame. Let it surprise you. Let its wingspan seem improbable. Let it be whatever beauty it is.
We talk about sex like we all agree. How fortunate that we don’t.