I went back to my parents house recently to pack up some of the things I had left there,books mostly,a few photos and really rad toys.As I cleared out an old bookshelf I found a plastic spiral book,complete with laminated yellow construction paper cover.It was a story book made for a second grade project.Each page had lined paper at the top,the kind with the little dashes in the middle so you can shape the letters better,and a blank space at the bottom for a picture.Mine was about some archaeologists who find an” Egyptian tomb with a a gem in it,which by the way is totally cursed.” Direct qoute there.”The archaeologist touched it and is turned into a jaguar man! Oh! I forgot to mention the cat goddess Bastet had cursed it”- another direct qoute there.
Long short story short the jaguar goes on a killing spree and they trick him back into the tomb with another shiny gem and slam the doors shut.Basically burying him alive.The moral of this story was either “don’t be greedy and steal gems!” Or “always follow correct archaeological documentation procedure when entering a field site”.
I remember making that book.In fact I remember what I was wearing while laying on the floor with a box of crayola.I also remember proudly showing my book to my parents.I remember my mother howling with laughter.Not in a ” what will you kids think of next?! ” laugh or at the cleverness of the plot or my adorable fourth wall breaking asides to the reader.
But at the fact that she thought it was stupid.It was frivolous,the drawings of the jaguar monster she pointed out were more dog or squashed dog turd then scary cat and why did that guy have six fingers? My father told me it was “very nice” in the same tone old southern ladies use when they say “bless your heart”. Which every Southerner knows is old lady code for ” that is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard.But you are sweet for trying”. I was ashamed of it.I hid it.Every move or so it would be re found while packing and trotted out for laughs along with any drawings or short stories,poems or collage of things from my ” insert thing here dismissevly”- phase.
Having my mother proof read my homework was a nightmare of inadequacy .I had an
amazing English teacher in 10th grade.He was the only one to ask why my take home essays were so stilted and unlike me,unlike the in class essays.I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was because my writting voice, my creative voice,my soul voice was hated at home.
How many of us queers do this? Either through being told our voices are literally bad,unacceptable,too high,to flamboyant or conversely too butch,too bitchy.How many of us grow up struggling in silence voiceless for so many reasons? Not straight enough.Not cis enough.Not passing enough.Not smart enough.Not as well versed in queer theory or prose enough.How often do so many of us shrink back from conversations,from places where we could make real change because of this fear of our voices? Or of being viciously silenced or derailed in so many ways.
I constantly compare my voice,both in writing and non writing to others.Mostly those amazing academic types.Judith Butler,Shiri Eisner etc.People who write like that get respect.Their parents don’t tease them about yellow paper books from second grade.They are worthy and I am not.That has been the chorus in my brain for nearly 26 years.
I’m done with it.I’m done having my voice drowned down or silenced.By parents,lovers,friends,straight people,cis people,gay people and even myself.My voice is loud,sometimes angry,often silly or joking.But it is MINE.And no,I won’t shut up because you don’t like it,or think my tone is wrong,or I might scare allies or I’m too jokey or whatever else.It is my voice and it is valid and worthy of being heard by virtue of its mere existence.
Well, I have a sequel to write about what happens when that jaguar man busts out.Oh! I forgot to mention,he’s immortal!