PREFACE: I find queer / love everywhere I turn. It's inspired two zines and some merch too. And in this new column, I document and chart the where, how, why, when, what, and who of queer / love through memoir, video, tools & resources, research, and art.
The video above contains a different and correlated story.
Two years ago, I had the honor of producing a national Youth Media Summit with six intergenerational fellows from across the United States for the Alliance Youth Media Network. Two Fellows, Kapi'olani Lee (Portland, OR) and Cellou Diallo (Minneapolis, MN), co-produced a conversation with organizers, artists, and media-makers on "How do we be good ancestors and build intergenerational power?" It was held on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, the day after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. We had Indigenous, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Latinx organizers, educators, artists aged 16-60+ from Minneapolis and Portland, San Antonio, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Spokane in the conversation with us, and we made space for rage and grief and sorrow and all of the emotions we all were feeling. It was a practice of love in action, and it resulted in an incredibly beautiful illustrated conversation
Two years later and cops are still killing Black, Indigenous, brown, poor, and disabled neighbors. Last week, San Francisco police arrived at the scene of an altercation not far from my home. Few details have been reported, and what has been reported is damning. Both the person committing the assault and the person being assaulted were shot. Both were killed. And the only weapon found was a knife.
A few days ago, there was a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. I was unaware of it occurring at the time as I was sharing tea with a new comrade who immigrated from Iran. We were talking about revolution, bodily autonomy, religion, and the fear that resides in the pit of our stomachs. We shared how we cope with witnessing the violence and trauma of this world, which is fueled by escalating inequity caused by global capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy. For me, sharing intimate tea with a new comrade and being open about how I see the world is one of my biggest coping mechanisms. We were practicing solidarity as we drank tea.
After she left, I scrolled social media and saw the horror unfolding online. A safe distance away, I had to close my screen before I could really take in the horror. I mentioned it briefly to John over dinner, and went to be shortly thereafter.
The next morning I work to the anniversary of George Floyd's murder and news of cops failing the families and community of Uvalde, Texas. I read testimony from parents about what they were being put through, and I couldn't help but think, "This is by design; their exacerbated pain and suffering is by design." It sent me into a spiral of rage, grief, and despair.
I also knew I could not let it cycle me into inaction and nihilism. Instead, I needed a way to reground myself, to reconnect me to my purpose, which I believe is to express my complex feels and radical beliefs so as to find and affirm my comrades.
I picked up my phone ready to text friends, comrades, and family. As I started composing, I paused. I wanted this connection to go deeper and be more vulnerable. The context of my reaching out was not just to say hello. It was to let affirm our relations as comrades. And thanks to some deep contemplation on queer / love lately, I knew exactly what to say:
Morning. Know there's lots of shit in this world. So wanted to make sure you know I 🖤🦄🖤 you and I've got your back whenever you need it. Sending love & camaraderie & solidarity from Yelamu / San Francisco.
I sent it to people to whom I have never said, "I love you." I sent it to family to whom I need to say it more. I said it to comrades I haven't spoken to in over a year or more. I sent it specifically to straight friends, who I know need some queer / love. I sent it to anyone I thought might need a showing of solidarity and support amidst so much violence and pain and trauma.
And in response, people shared their pain so they didn't have to carry quite as much. They thanked me for the message and affirmed they also have my back. They said, "I love you, too." And the responses are still coming in.
What I have learned from this experience and practice of queer / love is that the expression of one's deepest emotions and radical beliefs is a lifeline to others. It does not need to be profound or expertly crafted. It just needs to be expressed and shared. For it can be a light someone needs in a dark moment or offer an opportunity for a friend to take a breath or a way to reconnect with someone from whom you've become disconnected. You will not know until you say it.
So be brave and tell someone unexpected, "I want you to know I love you, and I have your back."
Want to read more about queer / love? Check out this growing bibliography that includes a number of books, articles, videos, podcasts, and more that explore various aspects of queer / love to me.