Isn’t it Queer?: Our Legion of Closets

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We live in a wounded culture, one where each of us is required to not just “be in the [proverbial] closet,” about who we choose to love, but also to create a legion of closets within which we are required to confine our personal interests. One closet, say the one where we hide our sparkly, faux, patent-leather, unicorn-shaped paddle for our weekly spankings may not be the same closet in which we hide our lipstick, platform heels, and formidable piles of sequins, from our straight male friends. One closet you may have the unbelievable strength to keep, is the one in which we hide our volcanic desire to live authentically, the one that drives us to show up for eight hours, armed to the toes, in black ballet flats and/or presentable button up shirts, rather than follow artistic wiles to do something genuine and inspiring… I call that one the career closet. Our identities are so begrudgingly entangled in the roles we are taught to play in order to survive, that we begin to believe that performing our roles in a satisfactory manner, makes us worthy of love and connection. No wonder so many of us feel trapped. Which is why for today’s entry I bring you, my lovely rainbow warriors, some of history’s most prolific radical artists and poets. These two women, Audre Lorde and Frida Kahlo both felt the unbearable tearing of their culture’s expectations. Both women rebelled and healed their wounds, with extraordinary art. Enjoy:

Frida Kahlo: A Woman With An Arizona Heart and a Bathtub Full of Tea
{Frida Kahlo: A Woman With An Arizona Heart and a Bathtub Full of Tea}

Kahlo, a radical supporter of the Mexican Revolution and the Communist movement in the 1940’s, and an openly bi-sexual woman, is now famous for her viscerally painted depictions of herself drenched in constant symbolic limbo, torn between two worlds. In Los Dos Fridas (1939), she depicts herself twice, her westernized self tries to stop the gushing of her blood from her open vein with surgical tools, as her somber insides soak her European style garb. Opposite herself, her indigenous self, holds her hand and continues to provide blood and life force to sustain both of them.

{Los Dos Fridas (1939)}
{Los Dos Fridas (1939)}

{Arbol de Esperanza (1946)}

{Arbol de Esperanza (1946)}

Advice on surviving love and life from a compassionate revolutionary:

” Leaving is not enough. You must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he’s never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size. A bathtub full of tea. A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid. Don’t wish away your cracked past, your crooked toes, your problems are paper mache puppets you made or bought because the vendor at the market was so compelling you just had to have them. You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses, you make him call before he visits, you take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle you consume in this place a relic. Place it on whatever altar you fashion with a knife and five cranberries. Don’t lose too much weight. Stupid girls are always trying to disappear as revenge. And you are not stupid. You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas. Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street.”

Audre Lorde: “Revolution is not a one time event.”

lorde

Audre Lorde, a black, lesbian, feminist, born of Caribbean immigrants and raised in Harlem, set a new precedent for activists and writers, regarding the intersectionality of oppressions in 1950-60s American culture. In Sister Outsider (1976-1984), she wrote,

“I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self.”

Bold spirited and relentlessly honest, Lorde’s poem Who Said It Was Simple (1973), concisely illustrates her disillusionment with white feminist colleagues, unaware of the blatant racism they witnessed, while they planned a women’s right’s demonstration (Irony loves those of us with the best intentions):

Who Said It Was Simple (1970)

“There are so many roots to the tree of anger   

that sometimes the branches shatter   

before they bear.

 

Sitting in Nedicks

the women rally before they march   

discussing the problematic girls   

they hire to make them free.

An almost white counterman passes   

a waiting brother to serve them first   

and the ladies neither notice nor reject   

the slighter pleasures of their slavery.   

But I who am bound by my mirror   

as well as my bed

see causes in colour

as well as sex

 

and sit here wondering   

which me will survive   

all these liberations.

Words from Lorde on how to heal during your many revolutions and rebirths:

For Each of You (1968)

“Be who you are and will be
learn to cherish
that boisterous Black Angel that drives you
up one day and down another
protecting the place where your power rises
running like hot blood
from the same source 
as your pain.

When you are hungry
learn to eat
whatever sustains you
until morning
but do not be misled by details
simply because you live them.

Do not let your head deny
your hands
any memory of what passes through them
not your eyes
nor your heart
everything can be used
except what is wasteful
(you will need
to remember this when you are accused of destruction.)
Even when they are dangerous examine the heart of those machines you hate
before you discard them
and never mourn the lack of their power
lest you be condemened
to relieve them.
If you do not learn to hate
you will never be lonely
enough
to love easily
nor will you always be brave
although it does not grow any easier

Do not pretend to convenient beliefs
even when they are righteous
you will never be able to defend your city
while shouting.

Remember whatever pain you bring back 
from your dreaming
but do not look for new gods
in the sea
nor in any part of a rainbow
Each time you love
love as deeply as if were
forever
only nothing is
eternal.

Speak proudly to your children
where ever you may find them
tell them
you are offspring of slaves
and your mother was
a princess
in darkness. “

Simply put, none of this is simple. Sometimes the art of creating ones true self is damningly complex and painfully intricate. Braving the world outside of our closets, drawers, sometimes even wardrobes, can feel like a giftless venture, but as Lorde said, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” Our expression of our pain, our passion and our anger is our vitality, and I plead with you, dear reader, to do just that. Even if it’s from within your closet and you are creating from within your darkness, read, fuck, write, play, sing, dance, paint, tattoo yourself with your experiences. You are a vibrant night light of joy and you are valuable just as you were created, as quiet, as inquisitive or as queer, as you might be.

 

-To your personal revolts and riots and especially to your learning,

Cory

———-

Cory is a poet and novelist in the Los Angeles area. They have worked in mental health, education, social justice and fashion blogging and they aim to lead by example by bravely living an examined lifestyle.

“The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.”

Audre Lord

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