I’m a nerd; also, I’m gay – and other things I’ve hidden.

[ 24 April 2019 ]

Hey, guys. I have… something I need to say. My palms are sweating. I don’t want you to think anything different of me for saying it – I’m still me, you know? My heart is beating so hard and fast I can barely hear myself think. But it’s been on my heart for a while so… I guess I’ll share it, so, here goes. Throat dry. I can hardly form the words. Ok. You may have guessed it. Maybe you could tell. I’m… Deep, shaky breath… kind of a nerd.

Though the account above is exaggerated (maybe not as much as I’d like it to be), it strikes true to the heart of my inner world: people finding out that I have nerdy interests draws out genuine feelings of fear, self-protection, and shame. Even today, I sat on this post for far too long, asking myself, Do I really want people to know that I’m gay a nerd?

I never thought I’d be here – where that familiar stomach-curling, mind-blanking, defense-mechanism-activating feeling that I thought was exclusively reserved for coming out of the gay closet has been sequestered by an entirely separate experience: coming out of the nerd closet.

It’s a joke I’ve been saying recently: that I’ve gotten to a point in my life where it’s harder to tell people that I’m a nerd than it is to say that I’m gay. Strange, yes, but true; I am more likely to be open about the fact that I’m gay than I am to let them know that I wanted to name my first son Mace Windu when I was a child (it was a phase, ok?).

Being a nerd for me is now associated with many of the same questions and anxieties I had about being gay.

They were looking at me funny. Can they tell? Do I dress weird? Do I dress like a nerd?
They were looking at me funny. Can they tell? Do I walk weird? Do I walk like a gay guy?

If she knows that I play video games on the weekends, will she think less of me?
If she knows that I’m more likely to be into her brother than her, will she think less of me?

Did he notice that my eyes lit up when I saw the cute Pokémon poster?
Did he notice that my eyes lit up when I saw the cute boy walk by?

I mean, I like anime, but that doesn’t mean I’m a nerd, right?
I mean, I like boys and not really girls, but that doesn’t mean I’m gay, right?

It’s not a perfect analogy – it breaks down in a number of places, specifically when it comes to a question of ethics and morality; probably no matter which way you slice it, being a nerd is an amoral identity, but being gay, as we all know, depending on your worldview, does not get afforded this category. Therefore, being gay or seeming to be gay may, for seem people, provoke a genuine moral crisis whereas appearing to be a nerd can only provoke a genuine intrapersonal social crisis. However, realising this odd parallel between my sexuality and my personal interests has provided a lot of food for thought and personal reflection on what it means for me to be a queer person, especially how I see myself and how other people see me.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned more about love.

I’ve come to see that I’ve been particularly blessed on a number of fronts. With the exception of my family (which has not even been as bad as the stories of many), my coming out has been remarkably easy. I don’t think anyone was surprised, which probably smoothed the road.

But, more than that, I have been overwhelmed by how even my many friends who, for various reasons, do not affirm homosexuality have unilaterally (with two exceptions) loved and supported me throughout the process even while holding their doubts and questions. I think of my friends, some of whom didn’t believe homosexuality was okay, who loved me and my boyfriend enough to take us on double dates because they thought no-one else would.

I have been amazed by the amount of time and care and love and resources people have been willing to extend to me over the years as I have come to embrace my sexuality. I remember how many hours I’ve spent on the couch crying with my friends about boys and biblical texts and Aristotelian cosmology – trying to understand a way to make sense of what I felt and what I’d been taught.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned more about Love.

Yet, somewhere along the way, the grace and love that is shown me gets lost in translation. Because I’ve also learned more about how I see others, particularly other queer persons. This internal dialogue continues on in different forms, insidiously.

Yeah, ok, I’m a nerd, but at least I don’t go around shoving it in everyone’s face. I don’t wear Zelda t-shirts or Death Note novelty buttons and I’ve never been to Comic-Con or a Smash tournament.
Yeah, ok, I’m gay, but at least I don’t go around shoving it in everyone’s face. I don’t wear rainbow capes or equals sign pins and I’ve never been to Pride or a gay bar.

Yeah, ok, I guess I do play D&D on the weekends, so maybe I am a nerd. But I’m not like the other nerds. The ones who watch all the Marvel movies. That’s not me. I’m way more intelligent and attractive and well-adjusted.
Yeah, ok, I guess I do like other guys, so maybe I am gay. But I’m not like the other gays. The ones who don’t even try to pass for straight. That’s not me. I’m way more intelligent and well-adjusted (editor’s note: observe the glaring omission of “attractive” above).

I think this inner monologue, says a lot, too; a lot more than I want to admit. Somewhere along the line, pride has reared its ugly head. In the subtext: I may be a nerd, but I’m not that kind of nerd (I’m learning Japanese because I like it, not just for the anime, ok? 余計なお世話だ。) ; I may be gay, but I’m not that kind of gay.

Fundamentally, the part of me that should be proud of diversity and differences still feels threatened by it and feels threatened by people who are in my “camp” but are unlike me in some ways – ways that I scorn or look down upon.

But why should that threaten me? Why don’t I want to be associated with someone whose inclusion in my “camp” frustrates me? I wonder if it is because, at the heart of it all, a small voice is asking,

If I were that kind of nerd instead of this kind of nerd, would you still love me?
If I were that kind of gay instead of this kind of gay, would you still love me?
If I were that kind of person instead of this kind of person, would you still love me? Do you actually love me for me or am I just, by chance or design, the person you want to see?

The scary thing is that I don’t think there are answers to that final question. As much as I’d like to, we can’t deal in non-realities – we can’t know how things would be if things were different. The only thing we have before us is that which is before us. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. Perhaps you, dear reader, wouldn’t love me if circumstances were different.

And, though it is tempting to search for answers to these questions, the only thing we can know is that, in our own faulty ways, we are fumbling towards Love and towards Real Knowing. We are learning to see each other truly and to, by extension, see ourselves more truly, as well. Read Martin Buber if you don’t believe me.

But I haven’t yet fully internalized the unconditional regard and love and respect I have been shown throughout my journey, because, most fundamentally, what I’m asking is,

Am I actually lovable? Am I actually valuable?

And I think that’s what it comes down to. Love.

And I am learning, slowly. I am learning to love and to be loved. The more others see me and they don’t turn away, the more I have the courage to see myself. And the more courage and honesty I have to see myself, the more I can look on others with supernatural love – not needing them to be exactly like me so I can feel good about myself.

It’s a beautiful cycle. As we learn to see, we learn to be seen. As we are seen, we learn to see. As we love, we learn to love and learn to be loved. As we are loved, we learn to be loved and learn to love. And what is loving but seeing? And seeing but loving? Can we truly see another without loving them? And can we really love another without loving ourselves? The more I know Love, the more I see that the tent is broad and the table is full.

Love can most certainly never look like elevating self over others. Love is not a me-vs.-them comparison game. If we’re playing that game, we’re not seeing the person in front of us. And if we can’t see the person in front of us, we can’t truly see ourselves.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. I have a few more episodes of Naruto I need to catch up on before I turn in for the day.

Be nothing but thine own, and happy

19 April 2019

Be nothing but thine own, and happy, but, by degree,
Therein lies deepest draws down dells and sleeps,
Seeps crown ánd smell – first and fearsome way, the sóunding sílenced, keeps
Safe in itself what in itself must keeps hope be;
And being, goes – góes down, rusts, but its own decree
Demands that time here is not here spent – nor wanted, nor wasted leaps
Far but lies bent and pent-úp; the earth, cold, and barren trust créeps
Ón, wearing, stággered-bearing the haggard toll of being free.

Yet, still, slow, as first fruits crúshed, gúshed,
And trampled – hushed, yet it goes: proclaims the same
In what goes forward its outer nature is: Lóve, near, and flushed
Flame sóng finds full its swing on long and wing – aim;
And sigh, spéak, and shoulder: find open arms of one from rúshed
Feet free and húrried pace bring soft now slow in the sound of its own name.

The Somnambulist

[12 April 2019]

Lean your head against my chest. Your even breaths syncopate the rhythm of the hands
of the clock. Co było, nie wróci, as some have said, but still
we carry it with us, believing that perhaps memory can be made
into something material one day. The powers and dominions have all but subsided,
the castles crumbled and the watchfire dimmed in Salisbury and the Duomo.
Hera in all her glory could not hold the eye of a boy, yet the
plum blossom settles on the lake; the light falls,
reflects, demurs, echoes underneath and around and within until the
pool becomes a holy fire, a monument to something wholly sacred and
utterly other than itself, and the blossom a dark pyre backlit against
a late winter sky. The fish slumber in the depths. The golden prize, too,
has long slipped into dust, or at least into the annals of a history so long forgotten that
they have become in memory both larger and smaller than they once were.

Memory is born of experience, and experience is something
we have known to be true, at least once, before the vacuum pulls us forward and backward
and inside and outside until we’ve stretched out of shape and
become something we could never recognize. The imprint remains, while
hoary hairs of wisdom too-soon begot crown the heads of the ancients on their hallowed frescos
and the sun and the moon and the scales of justice blinded fade into the deep.
The mother holds her sleeping child under the olive tree; he holds a withered fig.

Lean your head against my chest. I know you have slept in other arms. I know
you have dreamed dreams not mine.
I stand in-between, largely unmoved; unmoved because unseen and
unnoticed, but not untouched – an assault on the inarticulate, unformed
unpropitious murmurings that form what we carry with us as we die and the clock
of the saviour chimes somewhere in the distance. The moment of self-transcendence
stretches on and on in perpetua amidst Egyptian cotton and the hyacinth and the somnambulist
while the sleeper sleeps and the dreamer dreams.

Captain’s Last Speech

[11 April 2019]

In exactly 27 minutes, at our current speed, we will have travelled farther
than any human before us has. For the last few years, we have been on the
verge of making history – today,
we will make it. In 27 minutes, we will never be forgotten. People will
look back on us – us! – and say “They did the impossible. They did
the unfathomable. In their short lives, look what they accomplished.”
Children a hundred thousand years from now will say, “When I grow up,
I want to do what they did – I want to be like them.” People will look to us for
the rest of time to remember what humans can accomplish when
they put their minds to it.
Imagine: the glory and the wonder of pushing farther and farther out,
reaching deeper, fixing our eyes on the point just beyond the horizon
till we reach the apogee, the zenith, and we pass it, and then
we will push deeper still till we become the culmination of all the
human longings and fears and desires that brought us to this point.
This is the new horizon – this is what makes us human:
to tackle the impossible, to become the Moses in the wilderness, always pushing,
never satisfied, never saying “no.” Our only enemy is death, and she, too,
will be conquered one day. Death, you will die. Maybe not in our lifetimes.
Maybe not in our children’s lifetimes, or our children’s children’s. But someday,
someday you will die! We will triumph despite all odds. This is what makes us
human. We will never surrender, never say “no.” This is why we –

Charleston: 6 August 1945 or 2018

[10 April 2019]

August.
Memories and emotions are stewed together, congealing in the humid air – slow-cooked and boiled down to their base parts.
Dogs and children gather to play in the front
of the broken fire hydrant. Mud and asphalt squelch up between their toes.
Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Robinson watch them from the porch,
talking about this and that, idly taking a drag from their Chesterfields, fervently
whispering in hushed tones about Mrs. So-and-So, bless her, and did you know
she did the deed with the postman while her husband was on a business trip? God above
would be proud if He could have half such devoted followers.
Mrs. Johnson saw the whole thing. Why Mrs. Johnson was watching and why she
cares, nobody bothers to ask. Scarlet nails clink on the pink lemonade glass like
so many ice cubes and the magnolia tree smiles down on them warmly and a bit condescendingly.
Somewhere down the street, a dog barks and a child cries out. It seems
Johnny beat Rufus with a stick. Hope he got bit. Serves him right, the poor dear, God bless him. Mrs. Jones
lays down another checker. Red on black, black on red. I hope my darling Jenny marries Fred. The army boy? Yes, dear and it’s good for a man to be able to protect himself.
A lawnmower starts up.
We’d best go inside. I can’t hear you over that awful noise and we have so much more we have
to say. No really I should be going. I promised Mrs. Jackson I’d come for tea. Ok well do come
again, dear, I’m sorry you have to leave so soon. Take care and I cannot wait to see you again. You
must tell me everything she says. Oh you know I shall. Ok then take care dear sister. You too. Bye now.
She takes one last drag from her Chesterfield and tosses it in the elephant-shaped ashtray by the door.
Mrs. Jones watches Mrs. Robinson leave from the kitchen sink window and sighs thank the stars
she’s gone, the bitch. The suds pile up and she scrubs away at the cucumber sandwich plate
like she’s trying to trying to purge Mrs. Johnson’s soul of her sins. Maybe her husband will find out
when he gets back. Mrs. Robinson gets into her Ford Convertible and drives off, a smile on her face.
Mrs. Jones can wait till Thursday.
And all the while time comes undone and is reborn in the moldering summer heat
in the shade of the sassafras.