On June 7, 2014 I made a little speech at Austin’s fifth Queerbomb celebration. Many kind people came up to me afterwards to say that they liked it. One girl asked if the speech was online? I’d just written it so no, it wasn’t online. Yet. Now it is:
Yo Queerbomb! Wow, Austin, TX! Look at you, look at your beautiful freakiness! I love this town and I love you people. I’m so grateful to be here tonight amongst you, all of us alive in this one moment together, doing this thing. I’m glad that we’re here!
There is a preacher inside me and I have been given a pulpit tonight. Thank you Queerbomb for inviting me to speak. Let the sermon begin.
I’m from around Houston. Back in the day, when I was a kid in the ’60s & ’70s, I was teased mercilessly in school. I had very few friends. I was different and not accepted. But then I was lucky enough to go to a queer friendly performing and visual arts high school and there were other queers there and I didn’t stick out so much. I began to have dear friends. I learned what love is. And I learned what the purpose of my life is.
Of course, I wanted to be famous. I wanted to touch people with the magic and beauty of my music. And I got plenty of encouragement for wanting to be famous, I mean, come on, doesn’t everybody? But I understand a different purpose for my life now. My sole purpose is to love. My whole reason for being here is not so that you think I’m cool, but for me to love you.
What do I even mean by love? I mean kindness, compassion, respect, forgiveness, being there for each other. I mean a softening in the face of adversity as well as a softening when confronted by beauty. And I think that working on love means working on the muscle to be able to pull back and see a bigger picture than just the most immediate feelings I may be having. I think that working on love means trusting enough to let you inside me and to let you change me while you’re in there. I want to work on a transformational-love-power that is able to do things beyond my imagining. I don’t need to know the destination already, the journey is what’s important.
I got into this whole queer thing as a result of love. My unbidden desire for a sweet little girl who rode my school bus resulted in me getting into a peck of trouble when I was 15. But still I persisted. I did not receive a lot of encouragement in 1978 to pursue a lesbian lifestyle but I knew what I wanted. And I got all courageous and stuck to my guns and said “fuck all ya’ll who don’t like this, this is who I am. I’m gonna be who I’m gonna be. You can’t tell me that loving this person is wrong. How is loving somebody wrong?”
How IS loving somebody wrong? I mean, Jesus himself said, “I will know you by how you love one another.” It’s what we’re supposed to do. And it is challenging. But like many challenging things it’s also extremely rewarding. Loving people is hard. People are infuriating. They don’t do things my way. But I gotta accept that. I would prefer to be with you and all the messiness that entails than be all by myself trying to make it perfect for this princess.
Also, I think that being queer is about noticing things. We’re observant. We notice the birds singing and the light and the shadows and how cute that scar makes the girl in the desk in front of us look. We observant, engaged. We’re artistic. That’s why queers are so well represented in the arts. We have an eye. We have an ear.
We also have a heart. Oftentimes being on the receiving end of so much pain and discrimination and oppression and hardship makes us compassionate. We know what the hell it feels like to be the butt of a joke, to be excluded, mocked, threatened with violence and the recipients of someone’s misguided hatred. We’re a bruised and beaten people. But we’re a tough people. We really are. And I believe we gain our strength thru our hearts. I believe we gain our strength thru our caring. Our literal vulnerability is what makes us strong.
We queers have so fucking much to teach this planet about being full human beings! We know so much about having a wider range of emotions and experiences than the gender binary allows! Come on! We’re fucking superheroes who save the world! I truly believe that.
And we save it thru our love. Our love that does not back down. Because I believe that with queerness comes bravery. We’re not encouraged to be this way, but we still do it. And we find each other and we gather strength from the collective. We exercise our hearts, fall in love, get those hearts broken and then fucking get up and do it again. Why? Because we’re lovers. We are LOVERS! Queers are lovers! That’s what got us into this mess in the first place! And what a glorious mess it is. It is a hot mess and would you really have it any other way?
We have this incredible opportunity and power to NOTICE the world around us. We can actually see the forest for the trees. We have the unique ability to lead the way down the path of love due to our experiences, innate sensitivities, vast courage and ability to fucking think for ourselves and not just follow the herd. Moo. It’s a big world out there. And I believe that individually we can create a life for ourselves that’s big enough to accommodate all of us and our big feelings. Because if nothing else, queers have big ass feelings!
Let me reiterate, yes, people bug me, too. I have big ass feelings myself. But what am I going to do? This particular lifetime I’m a human among humans. And luckily I have found myself fortunate enough to be among you people of Austin TX for years and years and years of this lifetime. I believe that ya’ll are excellent people for me to work with on this lifelong project of being a better lover, being more compassionate, more respectful of our differences, more quick to bond over our similarities, more centered without being just self-centered. I ask a lot of my queer self and I ask a lot of my queer people because I truly believe we’re special and can do a lot. I believe we’re leaders as lovers. Let’s continue to reach for each other!