I came out to you 2 years ago in a letter I had written, on the night I took the Admissions Test. I had been rehearsing what to write for several months; where to begin, how to introduce the topic, in which part of the letter it would be. But when the night finally came to write it out, I put aside my scratch paper and just let the words flow. It felt like pumping water out of a well: a few spurts of forcefulness, a few spurts of ease, and gravitational physicality in between. But I completed it in a few hours and mailed it to you the next day.
I cried as I wrote, and little balls of tears rolled down my cheeks, splashed across the length of legal pad paper and bounced off, momentarily, in the shape of an embossed water crown. They must be wrinkled now, those edges, if you look at them carefully. But you can spare yourself that inspection and do more important things with your time.
In that letter, I remember, I asked you, not to internalize the nature of my identity as something you and Daddy did ‘wrong’ and requested you not to look at my sexuality as your fault -as anyone’s fault. I realize that this can be hard, especially when I see kids in the playground with their wrists clamped gently around their parents’ silk finger-tops, that raising a child screams responsibility and requires exposure, often inadvertently, to a catalog of social pathogens, unfavorable circumstances and contestable situations. I realize that the product of parenthood morphs into a human formula, and that along the way faults and responsibilities and feelings of ownership for deviance cannot be avoided. But I still hoped that you would understand that my being queer has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with you, even while the rest of society, the radical feminists, the academics and the politicians included, hypothesize and argue back and forth between the unknown effusions of nature and nurture into the funnel of the developing brain.
If nature wins, there is then a political legitimacy, a social hands-off: it wasn’t me, it was the DNA, and if nurture wins then there is cause for dystopia, silent support for social cleansing, for territorial eugenics on behalf of the social conservatives to reinstate the “natural order” of things, bolstered by Biblical kingdom, unforgiving theology and the cataclysm of Darwinian fitness. If we have a conjunction of both elements spilling into the foundation of sexuality, into the moot point of the histology of desire, what tug-o-war man will play to politicize human rights, uphold equality labels and make profits from a psychological quandary, I cannot even imagine. But as long as the answer -if you believe in a concrete scientific agenda, that is -remains contested, suffice it to say that the twinings of my inner erotic, emotions and aesthetics have origins in me, and in me alone, the frazzled territory to which you gave birth, and does not involve you. At all.
Towards the end of the letter I wrote “please call me if you want to talk about it.” But you never did, neither of you, and it made me very sad, tacit and extremely embarrassed about myself. The reason I wanted you to call was not that there was anything new to add or particular to deny but that I wanted to explain to you the nature of my life in a society you have never seen. The nature of my life beyond boundaries you have constructed based on pop culture and Hollywood and contrast it against the sawdust of grievances that corrugate and spark anger in your own neighborhood. I wanted to tell you that I am happy overall, that I found myself on the edge of an enormous breakdown and that I picked myself up and found the support to waddle through days as a first-time queer. They never talked about us, people like me, through all the years in Catholic school, where the boys locked eyes, kissed at night and gave blowjobs to each other behind grease-capsuled food stalls. The revelation of my tendencies, the awakening of senses, therefore, came utterly unprecedented, wrapped in a confusion, in a hasty metastasis of self-loathing and second-guessing and in a cancerous aversion that I didn’t know how to make sense of.
I sometimes wonder how you reacted when you first read my letter. Maybe you were in the living room, your arms rested against the coffee table, gazing at the fish tank and sweating through your temples. Or maybe you were by my nightstand, staring at the piano, adjusting your frames and blowing your nose. Or maybe you were at the kitchen table, frothing your coffee, rattling some ice cubes by the swooshing of the record player. Maybe you bawled, maybe you whimpered, maybe you smiled and knew this was coming. Or maybe you froze in the middle of the backyard, while the honey breeze of sweet mangoes clucked at your ears. Maybe it really didn’t matter to you, because I had been on my own for seven years by then, and we had drifted apart like two melting icebergs in the middle of our own realities. We had forsaken, mutually, the status of mother and son, on the ream of a violent disagreement and on the turn of the century, became two private individuals on a facade of business -caring sometimes, chatting sometimes and existing beyond accountability. Despite how broken we are, I thought I should let you know because this has become fundamental to who I am and if you thought of the vignettes of a once-upon-a-time son, you should know that your child wants to love boys, passionately. It would complete the emotional portrait of your Midwestern love child, who spent half of middle school cross-dressing in a closet, masturbated to Hustler at the age of eleven, had role playing fetishes with Joey the mechanic and yearned to be fucked by a gaggle of gays at the 2 am raves in Trowbridge Court.
Your picture of me is of my era of morality, studious, principled, and intoxicatingly religious. But the chunk of me that I wanted to show you in my letter is that of the national criminal, who breathes heavily, the aroma of sunshine, prances around fields of honeysuckles and bees, dreams of a husband, a reformed Semitic and jangles his mind with the politics of identity. I am also a human, you know, just like any other person, capable of loving and smiling and singing, and breathing and learning and educating. But a difference remains in the commodity that is me -the difference that you may have guessed, scrolling through hours and hours of Internet logs or periodic screen pop-ups sprouting from viral fenestrations in the memory chip of your computer, that that typified the nature of my violence, my menacing yearnings, the cavernous outcome of my dangerous desires.
You are probably shaken, feel uprooted and think that you have failed to perform your responsibility, whatever that may entail, as a dutiful mother. Perhaps, you want to protect me, with words and love, and cradle me to silence as I whimper, seismically, at the peninsula of injustices. You want to hug me and kiss me and re-tell me the stories about the big bad world. You want to be by my side and touch my cheeks and talk about doctoring, the riskiness of bare sex and the untimely death of Melanie Gerschel. And I will sit and listen in silence, as the phonetics of your words needle my ears, and stir within me a pantheon of thoughts, lickerish and severe, an hippodrome of burning animals, raunchy temptations and sadomasochism, stimulating the tentacles of underground sexuality -only to wake up on a Sunday morning to a buffet of drugs, hallucinations and self-pity. I admire and respect your ability to protect, to love like a lover and bark like a father. But the way we dealt with our ideological flora, the variegations and nit-picky microfilaments, de-magnetized our stances a long time ago. We are threadbare in our present time, you in your concrete pink in a pit of poverty and me in a cubicle, woven with starlights, chandeliers and hope.
Do you know how it feels to be an identity criminal? No, you don’t. But I do, because I love boys, sweet harmless boys. I am a criminal in the land where I breathed my first, learned to walk and said your name for the very first time. I have no rights, I have no say, I have no audacity to show my love because I am a delinquent, an uncharismatic wrongdoer in the panoply of culture. If I were to reveal, even a tiny sliver of my affection, I could, in theory, be handcuffed away, confined in a cell with the vortex of laws -and why? Because my fundamental rights do not matter. Because yet again, my desire constitutes a minority, alien, unnatural compared to everyone else’s. They say -but it is only the conservatives who think that way, to which I say, but does that change the fact that I am still a criminal? You talk about liberalism, about outrage to tradition -well, then show it! Show it to me! Scream at my face you are welcome here as much as I am! Howl at my senses you can love whoever you want and we will not jail you, we will not victimize you, we will not burn the reputation of your family! I feel homeless at home, and severely bruised. And when you write to me and say “come back home and serve your people” I scoff out loud and clasp my hands so hard that my thumb nails bleed. My vessels burn with the anger in my blood, the shame! the outrage! They say, give it some time, the wheels are already turning, but there is no going back for me; no energy or desire left in me to fight relentlessly. I have ceded responsibility. Call me a cop-out, call me weak. Maybe I am, and regretfully so, but I will leave the pall bearing to other heady activists. Feeling homeless at home -it makes me choke.
I have a lover now. A curious doctor-to-be, from Vermont – a historian, a philanthropist with a wide-open window. You will probably never accept a husband for me, ever, even though you responded to my letter saying “I don’t really care. Do whatever makes you happy.” So we never talk about it or even come close to questionable territory. The politics of my identity, however, does not end with the bigoted jurisdiction of your paralyzing subcontinent. Even in the cavity of the dangerously civilized, across the permeating sands of the wild far West, on the plateau of the corporate and the cafeteria of the powerful, matrimony is a contest.
A few months ago, they said history was made. You probably read about it in the daily Telegraph or heard about it on the radio, while driving to work. The agents of law decided to redefine marriage, sloughing off the part about a man and woman exclusively. This winnowed into Americans a crisp odor of justice and raised among them a thunderous cheer. But when you break it down to the basics along state lines, the legitimacy shudders and the confusion of identity politics is put in place. Think about a situation like this where my lover and I marry in New York, and make our home in Manhattan, with our child and us as dads. If we go to Indiana to visit Marsha or Cayla, our relationship becomes illegitimate and our child has no legitimate parents. But if we drive away to visit Beverly at school, we are “married” again and our child has parents. Can you imagine how confusing and unfair this must be for a child born into non-traditional families, growing up in a society that chooses to make gashes and poke holes like this in queer people’s lives? No one has and ever will question your marriage. Not like you are in a mother-now-friend-next situation, but I hope that the laws change and that my lover and I and our little baby can live like anybody else – as humans first and then as gays.
Suffice it to say that I am a little confused by some of the social mores of my adopted home. When I heard opportunity and freedom, the bedrocks of this land, I had imagined a utopia in a civic society of progressive minds, and the liberty of enjoying the celebration of identity. But that, I realize, was the voice of my naivete and I have learned to adapt to the eyes of judgment, the reality of a nation, that prides itself a Gargantuan, the developmental magnate, the power pool of humanity. What meaning is there in a “developed” land that still contests its humans rights? That, to me, defeats the foremost tenets of being a developed welfare. It feels like insidious advertising, like a marketing lure -come here, and be free, as we squeeze out your rights of an alien identity, as an immigrant, a gay and a man of color.
Despite all this, I am happy overall. I have a place that I call home. I have a lover who brings me joy, immense happiness and comfort. And I am happy that the politics of this land made me challenge establishments, practice everyday anarchism and question what is existing. I attribute a lot to my liberal arts education, for which I am forever grateful. But how do I answer a boy from your globe who envisions only happiness when he thinks about America? He expects freedom, acceptance and the glamor of identity. He finds an outlet in the history of this land – I can run away from my criminal reality and seek asylum in America. What do I tell such a boy who asks – I want to breathe, can I come to you? I do not know yet, but I will think about it. But let this be known to you and to everyone else that no child is born criminal, your society makes him one.
Hope you are doing well.