A Genderfluid Ace
I was a weird kid.
(Weren’t we all?)
I actually liked the “Just Say No!”
Anti-drug campaigns we were required to complete in school.
I didn’t know and I didn’t think to question
The racism and xenophobia underlying so much of it.
I’m not sure I had any real conception of what drugs were either,
And that only because I’d lost a friend to drunk driving.
But it fed a part of me that needed
Desperately and hopelessly
To be told I could say “no” and not “not yet”
To something I didn’t understand and didn’t want.
I didn’t have the words for it yet,
But some part of me already understood that that wasn’t true for sex
And I was terrified by what that might mean for me.
I wasn’t old enough
(Is that the word I want?)
To articulate the paradox I both feared and resented:
That while of course I had the right to say “no”
To specific individuals at specific times
I only really had it on the expectation
That I would one day say “yes,”
And that saying “never”
Was actually a good way
To be reminded
That I didn’t really have a choice.
Not if I wanted to be a good person.
Not if I wanted to be a person at all.
My parents were some of the few adults
Who didn’t press me on the subject.
Even if they didn’t know what I was asking,
It felt good to have someone act like my choice
Could be a choice and not a pause.
I’m grateful, too, and a little ashamed of it,
That even knowing the hypocrisy in
“Of course you can say no!
It’s so good that you’re saving yourself!”
I never had to confront
How many people believe in the helpfulness,
Even the godliness,
Of the right kind of rape.
I still don’t know many ace people older than me.
I know fewer still who weren’t raped
Sometimes when they were younger than me.
Yes, some are men.
And yes, too many of them had to watch their parents thank their rapist
And pretend they were grateful as well.
I know too many people my age
(When did undergraduates get so young?)
Who already know that when school ends for good,
They’ll have to choose
Between never seeing their families again
Or smiling and bearing it
Through a lifetime of unwanted sex.
I don’t know what to do in the face of this.
I don’t even know what to pray for,
And I’m not sure how many of my siblings
Would be comfortable with me praying for them
After too many prayers for them to stop existing
Or as an excuse to leave the beaten traveler to his fate.
Lord, in my ignorance and my weakness
I have done both.
Please forgive me.
Please forgive me also
That even with all my new words
I don’t know what to say.
Lord, be with my siblings.
Watch those facing a choice
Between their right to be unassaulted
And their family.
Watch those who won’t even get the semblance of a choice.
Watch those who try to support the survivors
When therapists and the police won’t.
It can be very odd, at times,
To be both Queer and Christian.
I used to wonder, as a kid,
The sort of kid who sometimes unsettled the teachers with my whimsy,
If maybe I’d inherited a larger slice of original sin than the other children
And that’s why I sometimes felt so wrong.
I’m still uncomfortable, sometimes,
When people say I’m kind.
I’m not sure it counts
If sometimes all it boiled down to
Was me knowing that I really didn’t have room to judge
When I still regularly questioned if I was sane or not
(Lord, watch those who are living with mental illness.
Even when we’d never say sanity is a requirement to be human,
We so easily use insane and inhuman interchangeably)
Or I was just tired of cruelty.
Is that all kindness is?
When I first read the book version of the Wizard of Oz
I knew it was supposed to be funny
That the Tin Woodman was so careful not to hurt anything,
Because he didn’t have a heart and so had to be extra careful
Not to do harm.
I can’t remember if I laughed.
Lord, forgive me if I did.
A woman told me once
That God didn’t love me anyway.
He just loved me.
I cried the rest of the night.
I don’t think she knew that I was Queer.
Whether she supported it or not I don’t think she’d have tried so hard
To set me up with her son every year if she did.
Wrestling with that kind of love
Is something I imagine is complicated for everyone who tries.
Still, it mattered and matters so much
When I know that there is nothing in me
That can pay for love that is nonplatonic,
And that what love I can give is too often undervalued
Unless it is familial, and sometimes even then.
I want to laugh, sometimes
At how similar both the conservatives and exclusionists
Sound when they talk about me.
Unless Scripture gets tossed into the vitriol it can be hard to tell
If the speaker is straight and cis or not,
And even that’s not a guarantee.
I can understand, a little,
How people who grew up knowing the best they could hope for
Was to be told to say “no” to those they loved
Can resent those of us who want so desperately for our no’s to be heard.
It’s harder to understand
Those who want me to take my theyness
And preferably my friends who fall under the B and T,
Somewhere out of sight,
Where we won’t confuse or offend
The sort of people who are too delicate
To wear rainbows
Because they’re afraid people might think
They’re a supporter,
Or worse, an other.
(Lord, the first rainbow was a pledge
Not to again cull humanity with a flood.
We are drowning.
That the flood is as much ignorance as deliberate malice
Doesn’t make the victims less wounded
Or our grief less sharp.
Lord, remember your covenant.
Lord, have mercy.)
Lord, I know I am loved;
Help me to go and love others.
Lord, I have been supported;
Let me be a support as well.
Lord, whatever honesty I can safely show
Was bought with the blood of my siblings who came out first,
And there is still so far to go.
Lord, so many of my siblings are children
Who already know how conditional human compassion can be.
Lord, give me the strength to be open
That I may shield others as I have been shielded.
Lord, I have been seen;
Let me never lose my joy in your grace.
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.