By Michael Alles
When my professor first put on the music video for “Wavvy,” I was still in the closet. I remember everyone was loving the video until you came out in drag. Someone was like, “What the fuck?” A lot of people were laughing. I felt like I should laugh too. I didn’t want people thinking I liked it, because straight guys can’t like shit like that.
And I didn’t like it. I loved it. I watched it on repeat when I got home. I wanted to put a wig and makeup on. I wanted to be with all the queers, dancing all night. I wanted to get Wavvy.
You broke the concept of masculinity that I had held on to for so long. I had just broken up with my girlfriend after dating for almost two years. I came out to her, and a couple of my friends, but not to the world.
Being in the closet really makes you do stupid things. Like sell drugs so people will think you’re straight. Or do drugs. Or drink the most at parties, because you are so uncomfortable, and you want to dance with the girls, but you have to be straight and talk with the guys. Or cry on the subway for an hour because you really want to be yourself, but you don’t know how, and you really just hope that lady sitting across from you will care and ask what’s wrong, but she never does. Or look down from the roof of the 18-story building you work in and seriously consider who will give a fuck if you just hop over, and you wonder how it will feel, and you wonder if you would regret it.
But after all of that, I think discovering you just made me realize what my life could be. I realized that I could be happy. And I am happy.
But people have a way of trying to bring you down.
I confronted the man. I thought I was doing the right thing. He punched me as hard as he could. He broke my nose. I had to get surgery that week, anesthesia and everything. I should have been quiet. I should have let him call me a faggot because that’s his problem.
I thought that would be the last time that happened to me. It wasn’t. I complimented this woman’s dress and her boyfriend laughed at me and called me a faggot. I was going to walk away, but then I thought of you.
You wouldn’t have walked away. I wish you were there by my side, because I felt so alone.
He didn’t punch me but threatened to “curb stomp this faggot.” Someone from across the street cheered. This was in Long Island. I wasn’t in front of the Westboro Baptist Church, I was in my hometown.
I won’t ever take my freedom for granted. I know that hundreds of queers have been beaten up and killed to allow me to be who I am. I’m sorry that people take their freedom for granted. I’m sorry you aren’t in the textbooks. Queer people deserve to know that their ability to be visibly and openly queer is due to people who stood up for themselves.
I’m sorry that fatal violence from hate crimes disproportionately affects trans women of color. I’m sorry that Tonya Harvey and Sasha Wall and Amia Tyrae Berryman and Phylicia Mitchell and Celine Walker and dozens of more trans women aren’t here with us to continue the fight that you started.
I’m sorry that masculinity still pressures young boys to stay in the closet. I’m sorry that Moonlight got all these awards but people are still reinforcing the same forms of masculinity that the movie was critiquing.
I’m sorry that 30 states don’t have laws banning discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. I’m sorry that 36 states don’t ban discrimination against all LGBTQ people in education. I’m sorry that 66.2% of LGBTQ students feel discriminated against at school because of their sexual orientation. I’m sorry that 12% of Americans believe that it should be legal to discriminate against someone for their gender or sexual identity.
I’m sorry that people in our community still turn to sex work to support themselves because so many people have abandoned them for who they are. I’m sorry that 40% of young people who are homeless are a part of the LGBTQ community. I’m sorry that there are no federally funded programs designed to support homeless LGBTQ people.
I’m sorry we elected this president. A president that doesn’t care about us. A president that doesn’t want trans people in the military. A vice president that believes we weren’t born this way; that we choose to be queer in a society that was created by straight white males for straight white males.
All the “conversion therapy” in the world couldn’t change who I am. Maybe a couple of years ago I would have listened to what they had to say, because I hated who I was. But you made me love who I am. I’m a proud faggot and I will never let anyone change me, the same way you never let anyone change you.