“DON’T HONOR IT by calling it ‘reality,’” the gay elder said at the end of the ten-day gathering to a large group of queers, preparing us to re-enter the supposed real world. The land we were standing on, owned by a government-recognized faggot church, was sacred. I could feel the power and breathing magic of when I pulled in, arriving a couple of days early. Many queers have walked there. Many, many, many have died or had their ashes spread there, their families disowning them or their remains when they were killed by inaction to AIDS. “There’s a lot of good energy and there’s a lot of chaos energy on the land,” a fellow trans witch briefed me early on, before the gathering was fully populated, and it was so strong that it was like body-temperature water in a warm medicinal spring—holding. Surrounding. Palpably soothing.
It diminished some once another hundred people arrived. People bring outside-world energy; we carry, and bring, its dysfunction. Most of the other people in this case were cis gay men, and though they were not each individually they did belong collectively to a culture that has a tendency to be handsy. Famously. Affectionately, in the default hugs among strangers and touches to arms and shoulders and legs and backs and, yes, butts, but also sometimes predatorily. I did exert a lot of energy saying I’m not a hugger. Saying, I don’t like to be touched without permission; saying Don’t touch my ass. I did get groped, and smacked, and, once, face-straddled, sitting peacefully on the ground and suddenly finding a bare dick an inch from my face. I did on several occasions hear people plainly holler anti-trans sentiments; the penultimate night on the land, I abruptly started retching into my sink, crying and spitting up Nobody wants me here—at that place, or on this planet—because I’d swallowed the spewed transphobia that—even more devastatingly—no one spoke up to stop. Collectively, the assaults counteracted the healing. Overshadowed the magic, of moments when a near stranger caught me as I collapsed into sobs on a dirt path after I woke one day drowning in baby grief; when I got to listen to so many elders tell so many stories of brave and unique trying and/or thriving; when I met random wonderful beings in spontaneous wells of deep conversational connection. The harm ultimately outdid the good, tipping the scale in real time the moment someone reached under my dress to touch my bare ass while I sat down to dinner one night and I knew: I won’t return to this particular gathering again.
And still. The moment I left, I could feel my increased sense of unsafety outside it. Whatever the dysfunctions of that queer world within the world, the hate-crime odds were nevertheless definitely in my favor. At my local Wal-Mart, which is part of the regular world, where 434 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were proposed in the first three months of this year, that feels less true.
When I got home from the gathering, I felt anew the tension that packs into my shoulders when I run errands. For weeks, when I lay down to go to sleep, I closed my eyes and envisioned myself pushing or punching or kicking or screaming and I couldn’t stop picturing it, however I wanted to, the buildup of the day’s potential fight like rage in my limbs, unbelonging like fire that doesn’t fuel anything, just burns.
My indecision returned. It had been so quiet in my system on that land without it, the constant swirl of what am I doing what have I done everything I am always doing is always wrong replaced by a silence so natural that I didn’t even notice anything had changed until I got home and the noise came crashing back: internalized wrongness.
It can’t be the whole straight cis capitalist world that’s wrong.
So, it’s got to be me.