EDITOR’S NOTE: This was adapted from a speech delivered at QueerBomb Dallas, an alternative queer protest march and celebration held annually in Dallas near the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.
What I’m about to say, I say as a genderqueer kid, a young transling who feared for his livelihood when he got his first binder. Who used to panic and rip it off whenever he heard his mom ascending the staircase to his room, which, to those of you who have never worn one, let me tell you is quite a trick.
I say it as a bisexual, who may be in a relationship with a man, but who constantly feels the need to remind people that bisexuality is a constant state that doesn’t change with whom you date, yet who also vividly recalls being terrified at the prospect that he might really, really like girls.
I say it in my capacity as an autistic, a neuroqueer, as someone who stutters through normal speech and has to funnel social anxiety through a transphobic culture in order to tell people that I prefer the name ‘Kit.’
I speak in all of those capacities to say something revolutionary.
It’s okay to be in the closet.
It’s okay to be in the closet if it means you get to sleep another night in a warm bed instead of under a bridge. If it means you get to hug your mother and not feel her shame radiate through you. If it means that you have a job, so you can feed your children. It’s okay to be in the closet, whatever it means you get to have. It’s okay, because the reasons you want to stay in the closet matter. It’s okay, because you matter.
Yes, I’m talking to you. You, the one who’s reading this, the one who keeps a smile on their face but a fear in their heart that if someone found out you were reading this, you could lose something that matters to you. Or you could lose everything.
I know you’re here, because I know I was there, last year, standing in the crowd at QueerBomb (though closeted folks attend other Pride parades too). I was loud and proud, but quietly relieved that my mother probably wouldn’t find out I was there.
I mean, she would find out, because I can’t keep a secret for shit, and I can deal with her disappointment. But you, maybe you can keep a secret, because maybe YOU have to. I didn’t have to. I had the privilege of coming out. Not everyone does.
But it’s okay. I support you. Because you matter. Even if you can’t let your freak flag fly, my freak flag flies for you.
I’m going to stop here a moment and note that I know not everyone agrees with me on this. That’s okay. The queer community is growing to be huge, and every queer doesn’t have to agree with every other queer.
What the queer community does have to do is love itself. It has to care for itself. It has to take its flowing rainbow flags and hoist them higher for those who would risk too much by touching them. It has to take its most vulnerable and make a world where they are no longer so endangered.
I see a future where we do that. Where we don’t fight each other over who’s queer enough, who’s queer in the right ways. Where we love each other because together, we are all queer. Where we don’t hate others because they feel safer in the closet, but work to make a world where nobody has to be closeted.
I see a future where we work together, closeted and out. Where we lift up those who want it and protect those who need it. The queer community is not every person for themselves. If we allow ourselves to be that, we’re just dividing and conquering ourselves to the benefit of those who hate us. The queer community should be, must be, every queer for all queers. Together.
(featured image via Akash Malhotra)