September 22, 2011

Coming Out

Below is a video of a gay man coming out to his dad over the phone:

I wish everyone who came out could have an experience like this one. Mine wasn't. It was Thanksgiving, 2008. I told my dad I was dating someone and that his name was Ryan. My dad moved to the other side of the couch and turned the television's volume up. Later that afternoon, when my baby cousin spit up over her mom, my dad nudged me and told me that I never did that because I was a swallower. I nudged him back and told him I still was.

Jokes aside, it was a solid two years before my relationship with my parents returned anywhere near a stable place. Since then, coming out has become easier, and is something I do all the time. Whenever I meet someone new, I feel the need to drop the word "boyfriend," to make a joke about being as queer as pink peanut butter, or to act more flamboyantly than what I'm predisposed to, just to signify to that new person who I am. 

In poetry, I find the need to come out constantly, too. Like the Beatles who claimed every song they wrote was a political song, I feel every poem I wrote is a queer poem. For a reader who didn't know me to assume that my work wasn't queer (as our culture teaches us to do) would be to bypass the reason that poem exists. A queer perspective is the center of every poem I write, whether or not that poem confronts love and sex. If I write about a house, it's queer because the domestic sphere is different in a queer poem. If I write about death, it's queer because community and religious rites associated with death are different.

I think poets face coming out often, and not just the queer ones. Most poets stay in the closet (when asked what they do, they answer, "I teach"). We squirrel away in our little communities, and for the most part are ignored by the rest of the world. It was awhile before I could adopt the word "poet" as an identity. Even now it sounds a bit pretentious, a bit turtle-necked and forty-year-old Merlot to me, but coming out as a poet is another thing I'm getting used to. 

1 comment:

  1. Cheers to resisting labels! We must always try to remember that beneath the layers we wear --poet, journalist, queer --we are all students. As writers and readers we're all learning to come out over and over in our interpretations and in our own writing.