Note: This is the first post in a new series I’m titling An Unfolding Queer Cosmology. It is not the beginning. It is not complete. The ending of this post is not the end.
My hope is to work out ideas, concepts, and stories related to my understanding of identity as I develop a cosmology of space and time that is emerging from over two and a half decades of co-creating within and among a multi-racial, intergenerational, cross-territorial community of queers, trans folx, immigrants, disabled folx, and poor folx.
These vignettes may be messy. They may be incoherent. They may be illuminating, intriguing, conflicted, uncertain, depressing, hilarious, confounding, magical. Some might not even be real or of this world. All (even all the ones that will remain unwritten) are a part of my unfolding queer cosmology.
This is all to say: this is a work-in-progress; just like me; just like us.
We are not complete. We are neither a beginning or an end. We exist only now.
And may the now that is unfolding unfold all perception.
I really don’t know where to start, actually. My mind is unfocused and untethered. It wants to flit about wandering from place to place hoping that at some point some point may be made. Or maybe it won’t. I simply don’t know.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “all that came before” and “all that may be possible”. I ask a question, like, “Who am I right now?” And I let unfold before me either on paper (be it physical or virtual) or in my mind’s eye “all that came before” and “all that may be possible” and notice how what “came before” will sometimes suddenly change when I notice something unexpected “that may be possible”. I, too, will find myself rediscovering something that “came before”, and its revelation will ripple throughout all of “what is possible”. .
As I ponder this question and its unraveling, time bends, twists, distorts until “all that is possible” and “all that came before” are simply “now” and everything exists simultaneously.
I’ve always worked with youth. My first regular job was babysitting when I was just 10 years old. I then worked at a childcare center in high school. From there, it’s been one youth service job after another. Even during my stint working as a barista saw me connecting with workforce development programs to train system-involved young folx in food service (and that wasn’t a part of my job description).
Every setting in which my white, male, queer body is seen and experienced is a political moment. Whiteness, maleness, and queerness are all political constructs. Legally, I am a White Descendant of the United States as my ancestors came from the legally recognized White Countries of Germany and Sweden. My maleness is equally enshrined in laws of property and ownership. Sodomy laws, some still on the books, have been (and are) direct assaults on my queerness. All this makes my intersecting identities political, which makes my entire life political. Every moment. Every decision. Every thought. Every expression. Absolutely everything. I cannot exist outside of the policies and politics that have made my existence possible.
For me, as someone who creates and works in solidarity with communities and peoples that have been politically harmed by White Descendants of America and men, I must deeply interrogate and understand the mechanics by which my whiteness and maleness is yielded as a weapon against those same peoples and communities I stand alongside. It is constant and ever present. I am never not thinking about race and gender and sexuality.
My criticality quite often overwhelms me. It drowns me in a space of nihilistic despair for if all is political, then every moment seems of consequence.
How can I possibly hold the weight of such consequences?
I bought a copy of the Tao Te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell when I was 21 years old. I was attending Antioch College, and I felt out of time and place. I was a poor continuing education student on a campus of mostly wealthy, straight-from-high-school students. No one had spent a year working AmeriCorps trying to pay rent on a job that paid only $600 per month.
I was searching for something to tether me, to ground me to a time and a space. I spent a two and a half years since coming out questioning race and gender and sexuality and religion, and I was feeling like I was getting lost, like my questioning of everything was making me question all reality. It was disorienting. How could I find direction if all was possible?
I had hoped Antioch College would be that tether because it was a radical college that studied race and gender and sexuality. It was a place where they openly talked about the dreaded socialism and had feminist policies about consent. It was the ideal place to discover legacies and roots, especially as it often boasted, “Yellow Springs was at the end of the Underground Railroad.” But the class and race divide on campus felt even wider than the one on the Catholic campus that kicked me out.
It was hard find solace within the buildings on campus, so I often went into town and sat among the books in one of three bookstores. Epic Books was the one that had all the esoteric, philosophy, magic, and astrology books; I would skip class just to browse their numerous tarot decks and Buddhist texts. I was feeling for something.
A small book with a cream spine and thin lettering caught my eye. Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell. I opened it, and its pages felt of velvet. They were sturdy and textured and filling their pages was poetry not prose.
Was this the feeling for which I was searching?
A core tenet of Taoism is that Tao has always existed and will always exist. There is no time before Tao or time after Tao.
Embedded in that belief is another belief: you can never fully understand Tao because Tao defies comprehension.