In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, Jonno Revanche pens this lament to their queer identity existing in a foreign world.
It started with the remnants of a little rush. Seeing myself in other people, and then turning back inwards. I thought I was ‘boring’ once. I knew that there was more to it than that. I knew there were things I was avoiding, secrets I held from myself since being a child. It started with tiny steps down the path to a figurative moonlit lake, paths adorned with carvings and floristry, kaleidoscopic colours dusted by light. These were the physicalities I noticed in my daydreams. My realisation was a street that opened up the more I lowered myself into the deep.
The further I went, I saw:
The thunderous applause, the full crowd of the opera and the teeth gleaming in the dark, random flashes that came from nightmares, the splitting sky, the heaven message sending itself down, the signals that decree which ways are which and that which is directional and salvational, visions that corresponded with the most intense personal narratives,
the transformation scenes, the tuxedos on lithe bodies, the gowns on dark skin, the tiaras encrusted with gems that glow and emanate a strange magic, the power to be that which we once dreamed of, because different ways are always sought upon in order to shift perspective, and are inherently queer.
Because to be queer is to inhabit that discomfort, to keep on being inside that space, to be forever questioning, to be damaging and destructive; and yet to be destructive is to inflict harm.
As I came to terms with myself, as I saw my body in mirrors and in the palace, I realised the danger of it all. I noticed that I could not shift that ugliness I felt about my inner self. How illegal it was simply to be, to embrace that which was offered, even though my mind was fucked and my heart was fucked. I realised that to ‘be myself’ was a bizarrely difficult question of identity with platitudes upon platitudes. How can I not speak about myself, talk about myself, how can I stop wondering when I don’t have models of normality to base myself upon? To ‘be myself’ was much too complicated a concept to decide upon. I felt I had many selves but at least if I attempted to I could find an inner peace knowing part of my soul was aligning with body, construing with cloth.
Yet I anticipated violence. I knew that to embrace that which felt honest was to open myself up to the possibility of Bad Things. This is the dichotomy that so many of us face – do we confidently challenge the cis, when those confines offer us so many myths of safety? And can safety really be promised?
It’s better to throw it all in.
We often underestimate the cost of visibility, and whether the freedom of that notion actually permits us to be ourselves in the way that we would like to. Like mythological creatures, we are baited out by unseen characters and then trapped through sociality. We are documented and thus transfigured. I have looked to the above and seen images which would resemble myself, which are born from the Renaissance and depict Angels and gods reclining and being at one with each other. Then there are Greek Gods of many formations and dull hues, who colour each other by name and by history. I resonate with them as I echo their narratives. I am mythologised by the love of my friends and by my own anonymity. I construct a meaning from a magical community. I have waltzed into movie halls and seen those that are like me. I have stepped out onto Broadway and caught sight of tremendous women and genderless humans who make their own ideas, who redefine what love is for those with a different body, knowing that it was possible for me too. I have seen humans who carve out their own space relentlessly, who are unapologetic, who are hell-bent on some perverse need for godliness within their own survival,
And I carry that knowledge with me when I travel out, when I am walking highways (one heel held tight in hand, face beat, lips beat) and when I am in forests and streams and climbing mountains slick with body sweat, I have that secret caught deep within me.
To exist outside of the cis feels like a constant cacophony of misread thoughts and happenings; like there is always a catastrophe waiting to happen, that every moment is a fiery temptation that ends in something damaging – something that is huge, and beyond comprehension. And maybe there’s a truth in that. To be maximised is to be most visible. To be most visible is to be made the most easy of targets.
Every time the window of opportunity swings open I feel that it is dangerously close to slamming shut, so I brush my fingers lightly against warping glass, seeing reflections, seeing rainbows, like in Sailor Moon. I see visions of violence as they take place, digital variations of stories I have heard before over and over. I’m a lunacy waiting to happen, I’m a mantra, I am a gasp caught in a million throats.
So if it is possible I do a dance of surrender, my fingers plucking against air as if something was there; I find myself running onto open plains, the moon rising behind me; I wake up with the strangest feeling that the person I love won’t be there, that I will always have to sacrifice that because of who I am – and I wake up and realise it’s true and that they are gone.
I’m #dramatic, but at least I’m here.
I’ve existed outside of you and I never hesitated to make myself known. I was devastating, I was beautiful, I was powerful. I occupied space and made people know that I was there, even when I couldn’t make it. I was close to death, then ricocheted back again. I sacrificed normality because it was not accessible to me. I was startlingly unnatural. I threw a little glitter on my scars and suddenly they were new again.
Now I’m in the bathroom and I’m fingering a pot of dye then streaking two fingers of it across my cheeks like paint. I hear the child next door screaming, wanting their mother. I hear violence happening all around me, and it’s inevitable. I barely react. I have been blushed out of the picture, barely know how to feel.
I am now moving through the road near Central, the sounds trying to resonate…all sirens and people talking, their voices raised to a thousand decibels. I am attacked by chemical, by anxiety, by premonition. Among the chaos I am nothing, but also quite suddenly I am everything. My body is the anomaly, I am the monster, I am the grand grotesque thing I have always feared and wanted to be at the same time. I hear strangers comment and I wonder if they know that their words slice like sharpened knives. I wonder if everyone sees me as the same spectacle, a human without a gender, something effervescently and delightfully queer. I am a continual question mark again. If I am to be labelled a freak, so be it, because something dirty can be polished and pushed out on a runway, and I’d like to think that I’m living proof.
To be alive is a danger as much as it is divine privilege. Every moment I feel the sweet release of being, of thankfulness for whatever it is I am. I feel the equal rush of adrenaline at being alive and fighting for my life. I understand that there is purpose to it. To be always afraid, to be gasping for air in the hope for a space that is non-threatening and salvational – I am walking thin lines. I have colour smeared across my face, hair streaking out from my skull. In a world that asks us to put everything on the line in favour of our appearance, it feels revolutionary to take a hold of that and shake it until it’s dead, until the concept is our very own to hold.
My existence is nothing more than a clean slit. A narrow parting for which air can come through. A little opening. Out if it comes all the misappropriation of language, of pronoun, all those little words blurring themselves and making themselves clear like in a cartoon. It is the language which is the hardest to negotiate, there has been no rulebook, and those of us who do not conform to the gender hierarchy have only received our role models in the form of dead honoured queens.
“You have one shot.” A little whimper. One glimpse of hope.
We all fought very valiantly. We all thought things would get better. But as they did, the ecosystem getting worse, threatening to collapse. We feel this dread that we’re on the edge of destruction, when liberation once felt so close to us. A dead world is no place for decaying queers.
But every one of us raising our voice becomes sweet music. Every breath taken by a trans warrior is a full hand, some aces on the table. If I am direct, I am always trying to gasp away my worries, am always teetering on the brink of death – but how marvellous, how glamorous it feels to be there at all.
Words by Jonno Revanche.