there is the playground
where you are too young to be yourself because you do not yet know that you exist. what you see are the girls and the boys and you are a girl so you pick a boy. you become an acting prodigy, learn how to sigh dramatically, make sure that you are caught staring, and perfectly blend in with the bubbly, giggling children. there is an emptiness to this facade and you are aware of it, you feel it, but you do not think of it, because you do not yet know that this emptiness is just for you. you go home and write in your journal repeatedly “i like him i like him i like him” as if it is a spell to cast or a wish that will come true, if you could just want it badly enough. but it is not real. none of it is real, and eventually, you start to wonder if you’re not real either. years pass, your acting skills are perfected, and you convince yourself that you don’t have a crush because you are academically responsible and boys are a “distraction”. your mother laughs and this makes you happy, so you forget about the emptiness and you forget that you’re acting and it becomes truth. a truth that you hold tightly to yourself, as if, should you let go, it would fly away, leaving you once again to question the missing part of yourself that shouldn't be missing, but all you see are the girls and the boys, and you are a girl, so shouldn't you pick a boy?
there is the softball field
where she takes the truth from you and pitches it fifty miles an hour toward your face, and you let out a scared breath before swinging the metal cannon in your hand, then watch as it flies far, far away into the forest behind the field where it will stay there and rot away like the lie it really was. there is shock at first as the emptiness comes back but it is quickly forgotten as she fills it with her strong arms goofy laugh and dark eyes and it is amazing how warm and safe it feels to be whole for the first time. you didn’t understand the analogy of butterflies in your stomach until she smiled at you and you decided that butterflies were too gentle of a creature to cause the suffocating happiness you felt buzzing around your insides. her laugh is so beautiful you decide to become a comedian whose life purpose is to bring out that smile with awkward accidents and ridiculous sound effects that can be heard from the pit on the side of the field which is where you stay while she stands grounded and fixed behind the batter but when she hears you, you see the crinkles of a smile beneath her mask and it makes you smile just as broadly in return. for every hour spent on that field there is another question, another why another how come about yourself and this warmth you are just now experiencing and it isn’t until you get the courage to ask these questions that you find out, no, you do not have to pick a boy, and you cry because of how thankful you are that you are not broken, that the emptiness was not normal and you don’t have to keep living with its suffocating hollowness and no, it is never coming back and finally, finally you start to exist. the piece that was missing was found and accepted and loved by your ignorant innocence and that version of you standing on that softball field staring at the coaches daughter is convinced that the worst is over, that now you can start to learn and love and accept this part of you that you’ve been searching for. but that part of you that you have found can never be innocent. because once you choose a girl you become sexual before you even know what sex is, you become the centerpiece of a social revolution before you even hold a sign in your hand, you become a label before you even become a person, you become a unit that needs to be converted, when all you really are is a girl standing on a softball field.
there is the middle school
where your best friend takes you by the hand and guides you through the confusing blur of middle aged adolescence, where you can barely keep your eyes focused on anyone other than her, and that stability alone, that hand, is what gets you through. but you do not get through untouched you don't get out unscathed because this is where you first encounter that anger brought upon by the flamboyant girl that wears your identity like a mask, taking it off and putting it on whenever it seems to be most convenient and your father, unsettled because short hair might give off the wrong impression, might make people think you’re one of them, might treat you differently because of a stereotype that he upholds and the anger grows when you hear the word faggot being shouted in the hallways and you are reminded of those who burned and suffered before you, it grows when you finally learn what the word politics is, what the word marriage, means and that for you, no it is not an option and why? you can’t seem to find an answer that doesn’t involve some mythical man in the sky spitting out what some people called blessings although to you it was more like a curse and it grows when you look in the mirror and accept that you will never be beautiful the way you want to be beautiful and it grows, threatening to suffocate acceptance threatening your mind with thoughts of rejection threatening to kill that girl standing on the softball field who was filled with hope for a future she had just discovered and she would have been killed. she would’ve been consumed and turned into a raging force against a world that raged back if it weren’t for that hand. for that smile, that voice reassuring you everyday that there are people that care, that change is happening and that you ought to be in your right mind to see it and you push through. but on the other side you turn back for just a moment and think of those who didn’t have someone to show them the love that was in the world to balance the hate. you feel the sickness of guilt knowing millions are trapped in households where their very existence is considered a sin and you feel the grief for those who came out the other end of the middle school in a conversion camp and you feel the shame of weakness because there is nothing you can do. except push forward for those who cannot.
there is the bar
where you dream yourself in the distant future, lounging and laughing and dancing under pulsing lights, dozens of bodies moving around you to a rhythm that connects all of you, a rhythm of pride, a rhythm of understanding, a rhythm that claws away at the tight knot of fear inside you until it’s undone and you let go of it all. fuck being careful fuck staying in the shadows you step forward and you scream into the night, drown yourself in the light as your walls crumble your chains melt away and you take the hand of the woman beside you without hesitation, without checking to make sure you’re alone, without fearing the consequences. you become weightless, breathing in the love and the smoke and the heat in the air giving you a new form of freedom, one that the purest of american philosophies could not provide you in your own country but one that this vibrating hub of your community could. you hear yourself laughing over the music as the night comes to an end and you are just about to make your way to the sidelines and resign back to the constraints of the outside when the door slams open and pours harsh light into the blurry darkness and immediately you can tell they are an intruder and every head turns and a second later a thundering sound explodes over the music and you fall to the floor, no longer laughing but screaming you crawl behind the bar and begin to pray to a god that hates you as the fear seizes its moment and digs its nails deep into your skin and this time, nowhere will feel safe enough for you to pry them out. this time the fear stays.
and then there is her
who shocked you with her strength and hypnotized you with the long reaches of her hair pooling at the base of her back making you want again even if the fear still clings to you even if you're still healing from the last time something about the history in her eyes and the softness of her skin draws you towards her even if the whole time you’re kicking and screaming because she is simply too tempting to love. you look at her like she holds the universe in her heart and she smiles back admiring the raging tide in your eyes and suddenly she is there. in front of you and you take her hand to steady yourself because she is so close you’ve become light headed and you wonder if she’s as terrified and as impatient as you are and for one more moment you revel in the giddy dizziness of that fleeting feeling before you pull her down colliding stars and sea together in faultless warmth and harmony it is practically magical and the part of you that is strangled is reminded of what it is like to breathe and to you she becomes oxygen, finally running your hands through that dark cascade of silk and holding her so closely bringing some part of you that had been dormant back to life when suddenly.
she pulls away.
her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are glistening with tears and the stars she once held are gone when she chokes “i can’t. we can’t” with a shaking voice poisoned with sadness and a reality that should not be and the moment is gone, and suddenly you are reminded of that version of yourself on the playground, in the softball field, the middle school, the bar and you start to cry with her because of the truth her words hold and you blink forcing the tears to spill over onto your face, listless you look to the ceiling and wonder if it will always be like this, if the fear will always win, or if one day we will have the courage to move on.
this story is not for the girls who pout when the boy in her class won’t look her way.
this is for the girls who are taught to be afraid of themselves and the feelings they have, who are trapped behind a foolish mask breeding loneliness and shame.
this is for the girls who look at each other and nothing more, longing for a life that they have been told is wrong.
this is not for you, it is for us.