A Love Letter To My Queer Community

The first drag queen I ever met told me: “Stop staring, honey. I know I look good.”

They did.

After being invited for weeks, in a rare restless mood, I’d agreed to meet up with a friend. Vibrant, funny, with a dash of crazy. You know the kind. She’d danced her way into my heart as quickly as a story I couldn’t wait to read. Just as quickly, I found myself wishing I’d put this particular book back on the shelf.

19-year-old-me felt completely out of place in that eclectic, joyful environment. There were people……. kissing. Swearing. Loud music. Alcohol. I berated myself for ever once agreeing to come. I was nowhere near fun enough for this place, and I felt certain it showed on my face. My friend brought me sprite with a lime slice.

“Don’t worry. It’s virgin.”

“The drink? Whaa?”

She clapped me on the shoulder and grinned. The person I’d seen earlier made their way over to us, exchanging cheek kisses, and sized me up in a few seconds. They softly smiled.

“I’m Tor. This is your first time?”

“Yeah, I’ve never been here before”

“Baby, I can tell. What do you like to do for fun?”


“Yes, fun. You’ve heard of it?”

The gentle teasing and pet name put me a little more at ease, and we talked for the entire time I was there. When my friend came to get me to leave, Tor and I hugged and they whispered, “You’re safe here. Don’t worry. Next time, just keep an eye out for me.” They winked, kissed my friend, and left.

It wasn’t until a week later I realized they must have thought I was a baby queer. I laughed. What a strange thought.

Multiple friends have said I have excellent gaydar, and I always want to laugh. I don’t. I just easily recognize the combination of love and lust, attraction and affection, as long as it’s not directed at me. Three months after turning 17, I got called into my dorm director’s office where three different staff people lectured me, prayed over me, and guilt-tripped me for hours because I was “better than this” while a stack of printouts of my computer history of erotica from the past 6 months sat on the counter.

It took me a few years to get over the guilt and shame, but I laugh at this memory now. You gave a sheltered teenager a laptop and privacy, and were so surprised when I immediately searched for masturbation material? (C’mon. That’s on you, boo-boo.)

I got sent to an accountability group for pornography. Accountability groups are fun tools in religion for shaming teenagers and adults alike for their #sinfulness.

This particular group was led by two lovely girls who were best friends. I met with them once and instantly thought to myself, “Oh honeys. Ya’ll love each other.” 4 years after graduation, I went to their wedding. Today, they’re thriving as teachers and have three children.

I’m indebted to many in my queer community. The lovely photographer who patiently explained gender vs. sex to my naive, unaware self in a junky dive bar and gave me the language to explain a part of myself. The drag queen who took me wig shopping with no shame. The non-binary, asexual blogger who shared their story and was the first person I shared my fumbling doubts to and was encouraged. The poets who spoke of love and secrecy for safety and the joy of authenticity. The friend who helped me research painful stats on queer youth and cried on the couch with me. You can’t pay that stuff back. You can only pay it forward. Pass it on.

There’s a poem I’ve re-read every June for the past few years. I’ve shared it with friends sparingly. I’ve been unable to trace it back to an author as of yet (Medium fairies, do your magic!), but it shatters and pieces together my heart every time. For this Pride Month in history. For you.

“Seventeen things you have to learn for yourself as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual or otherwise Queer youth
by the time you are seventeen.

One is that the first Pride was a riot
I don’t mean that it was full of laughter, or that it was some grand party
where everyone spiraled up to dance among the stars
because the only glittering that night
was broken glass on cobblestones.
The first Pride was a riot
on the backstreets of New York
and they never tell us
that night
we won.
The only protest
in a decade full of turmoil
where the cops had to hide out in the bar they raided
and run from shouting rioters
who fought to reclaim the only patch of ground they had ever claimed as theirs
the first Pride was a riot,

and two, around the same time it took place
it was a debated topic in the gay community
whether or not they should say
that they weren’t mentally ill

which, three, homosexuality was removed
from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental illnesses
in 1974
all it took was a vote to declare that, whoops, we were never mentally ill

except, four, there are still teenagers being tortured today
in what some dare blaspheme as “therapy”
used to destroy their self-identity
in the hopes of making them normal.
except, four, the queer community still carries overwhelmingly high rates for poverty and homelessness and depression.

Did you know that, five,
over half the children forced into conversion therapy
commit suicide?

And six, that lesbians
were regarded as “hangers-on”
of the movement
by much of the gay community
before the AIDS crisis?

Because it turns out, seven can wear a rainbow on your shirt
and still be a bigot.
There are people who stick rainbows in their ears
or wear them on their fingers
or slap them across their cheeks in badges of defiance
and will still hate you for the color of your skin
or the size of your thighs
or your gender
or the way you like to kiss two or more genders
or none of the above.
Don’t ask me why this happens
it just does
I think it might be that we’ve all been taught to hate ourselves
for so damn long
that we don’t understand what to do
in a space with no hate.
Or maybe it’s that the space seems too small, because

eight, there are people who will tell you that you are not enough
that you do not reach the magical benchmark of “gay enough” to pass through the gate even
when you are some flavor of the rainbow other than straight-out gay.
eight, this is bullshit
eight, those people are bullshit.
eight, you are enough.
eight, there is always enough room.

nine, there is no overarching “homosexual agenda”
we’re all kind of flailing along in here trying to figure out some way to make it work
when most of us have nothing in common
except that society looked at us in different ways and decided we didn’t fit
so we could all go be misfits together
under one big rainbow flag

but just so you know, ten, there are plenty of other flags
there is one for you, I promise

and eleven, misfits may not all need the same things
but we need to stick together, especially in a world where

twelve — refer to point seven — there are lesbians who hate other lesbians
for having the audacity to be born in a body
that everyone looked at and saw “boy”
which brings me to

thirteen, there is so much to understand.

fourteen, you need to understand
because we need to stick together
and to stick together we do not have to be the same but we do have to understand
and it will be hard because
you were probably thrown into this world with no warning because

fifteen, being queer is not genetic and we are not unique among minorities
in that we collect our heritage through broken bits of history and research in a world constantly working to make those misfit bits go away
but we are unique in that when we try to prove our legacy
we can be laughed down
or re-erased
or flat out ignored
but I swear to you
you have a history as old as Alexander the Great
as beautiful as Sappho
as dignified as Abraham Lincoln
and as proud as Eleanor Roosevelt.

But even with that behind us
they have always watched us die.
because even though the bystander effect is bullshit, sixteen
Kitty Genovese was a lesbian, sixteen
Ronald Reagan is a mass murderer, sixteen
our children, your brothers and sisters and siblings of all stripes and all colors and sexualities and genders are being murdered
through neglect
and rejection
and hate.

Sixteen, there is an entire generation of gay and bisexual men
missing from history
because the government chose to do nothing
when they were dying by the thousands.
sixteen, we died from the disease and died from going back into the closet and died for staying there and died for coming out,
sixteen, they laughed at us because they believed god was punishing us for daring to love,
sixteen, ashes of your forerunners rest on the lawn of the White House because

you are allowed
to be angry.
You do not have to be one of the nice gays
or one of the nice trans people
or sweet or kind or educate the rest of the world in something less than a yell
you are allowed to be so furious it scalds your bones
at the way we are forgotten
and passed over
at the way, as soon as June becomes July
we are expected
to go back to dying in silence
and mourning our dead
and kissing all alone
when no one can be offended
at the sight of us.
You are allowed to be angry
and scream down the stars
to shatter like broken glass at your feet
because you know what?
The first Pride
was a riot.”-Author Unknown/Elodie




Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Miyah Byrd

Miyah Byrd

Hipster. Hooligan. Writer. Wanderer. Host of upcoming podcast, We Don’t Talk About That!