ghosts

906_ghosts

Ghosts

Here I am, sitting with my memories again.

Surrounded by my photographs, pinned to the walls, gently fluttering as the spirits of the 80’s visit this exhibition of their souls’ new bodies.

I am alone with their ghosts, literally weeping with humility. I get to be a faerie in this lifetime thanks to them.

Something starts to burn in my chest – the pent-up screams of 80,000 souls rumbling to break through to the physical universe. These are angry spirits who died in vain, and it is necessary to stay calm, stay open, let them pass through me. They are getting closer.

I am an instrument to the universe, therefore I need to let them pass.

We shall live again
We shall live… in peace.
— Patti Smith, Ghost Dance

How does a generation who died united in anger learn to live in peace again?

Why did they choose us to live through?

Because they were ready to set it down already.

They were ready to grieve.

They had worked through their anger and were ready to be held.

They had uneasily been taught that the secret antidote to grieving is trust. Understanding that you’re never alone in your suffering.

We are never alone.

You and I are never alone.

Even in our darkest hours, the elders who came before us impart us with their wisdom, mold us with their invisible touch.

Their weary souls wanted to go home, to hold each other, to be healed.

And then, they wanted to DANCE.

* * *

Do I really believe that the angry souls lost in the Plague have actually been reborn into the bodies of me and my friends, in order to find each other, grieve as a community, then move peacefully forward into the neon?

I believe in the narratives we tell ourselves to make this vast world make sense. The ancient Greeks had the Titans, the Jews had the Torah, I had Mx. V and Nath Ann, Killer and Rozele, Contessa and Trisha, the wise Queen Heather and her Legendary King.

Do you ever pause and listen to the voices in your head?

Do you watch the images your imagination brings you?

Do you believe in you?

* * *

It’s an odd coincidence – or maybe it’s not – that many of us faeries have experienced trauma, often in our younger years. Some occasion that caused a moment of aloneness in our bodies made us silently call out –

Somebody, please help me.

I like to think that in moments like those, recently detached souls with unfinished business on earth, cruising for new bodies, can hear us – can choose in an instant whether or not it’s us they want to save. That it’s possible for souls and bodies to get mixed up. Our outside shells, and the hard drive of our human memories remain constant, but some ineffable drive, magical abilities, sensitivities, inner lives merge with the souls that chose to save us.

I’d like to believe that when I was violated as a nine-year-old, in 1985, my silent cry for help was heard by a kindly queen who had recently departed. On her flight from St. Vincent’s she decided to pause at her childhood home on Long Island and unexpectedly ran into that whole mess. She was a peaceful queen, charming and charismatic, who understood the politics of anger and chose to transcend them, to channel her energy into healing instead. She heard my swallowed screams and unthinkingly jumped in to my rescue, then used my body to have all the experiences she never got to have in her too-short life before making her way back to the faeries.

How many dead fags chose female bodies to return into?

How many of them chose to lose the whole male socialization thing and came back as women instead?

Who is this fag inside me?

* * *

Are we too destined to die young as a community? Will the seeds we are planting now be our fruit to bake pies with later, or will they rot and waste away? How will we grow old?

Harry Hay told a story about Rudi Gernreich. “If we repeat the errors of Hirschfeld’s German Movement,” [Rudi] would say, while Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon were kicking every suspected queer they could out of the Civil Service, “we could set the potential of an American Gay Movement back for decades to come.”

Rudi Gernreich thought about movements. So did Harry Hay.

Hirschfeld’s movement, in Berlin in the 1930’s, was making strides at identifying and organizing “sexual intermediaries”, what he considered to be a third gender of homosexuals, when the Nazis came to power. They burned the archives of his Sexology Institute in Hitler’s first major book burning in Berlin, seized the Institute’s lists of contacts, and rounded up the queers, one at a time, for extermination.

It happened again in the 80’s. The Plague came and wiped us all out. 80,000 in New York City alone, according to Sarah Schulman.

Let’s not even discuss the Ghost Dance, and how many Native nations’ understanding of the two-spirits in their midst was obliterated, made void by colonialism with its binary gender system.

Is now our time to rise again? To move out of the night and into the light?

Who are we meant to become and what are we here to do?

* * *

I want our stories to go on forever. I want to see the Wise Queen as a salty old femme in pink pumps, hairspray and plump cheeks. “C’mere, sugar,” she’ll say, opening the screen door to her lanai with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth. “The King is still out back mowing the lawn, but you and I are gonna get stoned and have a kiki while we get ready to go to that damn award ceremony.”

I can see it.

I can see Little Wings dancing in the crystal future, a tender bird with iridescent wings. Colorless feathers float down from his body as wiry and aged he moves, silver light sparkling the wisdom in his eyes. So graceful when he takes flight our breath will catch at the sight of it.

Baby, I can see his halo. It’s written all over his face.

I want us all to grow old together, to change the world in the process. Transform our culture so there’s more space for people like us to be exactly who we are and always have been, without pressure to conform to a broken social system.

Get people to put down their cell phones and listen to each other’s stories more closely.

Or, as the wise Queen Heather always says,

Hold each other tightly.

This is what we have.

* * *

They were angry, so they came back.

I think when you leave this earth you get a choice.

How would you like to come back next time?

What is it that your soul really needs right now?

Released from the prison of a human body, the soul gets to ask itself – what do I need?

I need to sit and think for a while. I think I’ll come back as a tree, take some time to grow, stand still.

I’d love to learn how to fly. This time I’ll be a bird.

A dog’s life would be risky – so much depends on the owner.

I think, though, that the ones who decided to come back through us were the angry ones. They died not in peace, with a clean sense of direction, but with a really charged agenda to settle.

They wanted to come back smarter, stronger, more queer. They wanted us to be powerful enough to change things. They wanted us to be angry enough to say FUCK YOU to the people who let them die.

They would not be killed in vain.

And now it’s up to us to fix it for them – for ourselves – because the battle is NOT OVER yet. To use the powers they invested in us – the movements they started, the visibility, the awareness to never let this happen again – to get this world in order. So that it never happens like this to anyone, ever again.

We already know it won’t happen to us. No fucking way we would let that happen gain. We were smart and we were powerful and it STILL fucking killed us because we weren’t powerful ENOUGH yet.

That was then, this is now. We are gaining visibility but we’re not there yet.

It’s not about seeking power for power’s sake. It’s what you do with your power that marks you.

They were angry, so they came back.

The calm ones whisper to us in the wind, they seek us through the simple sounds in silence. They call to us in the click of rain, drip off of branches and melt into the earth. They grow near us; we watch their leaves uncrinkle, green, and speckle over time.

The angry ones came back through us because they weren’t done fighting yet. They needed us to fight against the injustices of the world – any shitty thing where too much power and too much capitalism caused actual deaths for the people without the power and the money. Any time where bigotry fucks with people getting what they need.

We are called to do their work but we are human, we also need to be free. We need to play and laugh a lot, go to the movies and talk quietly with each other, sometimes maybe we need to cry. Mostly we need to look out for each other, not let ourselves die before our time. Not from the relentless shaking hand of the restless transperson trapped in the wrong human body – not from a disease that comes to us in our moments of pleasure. We need to look out for each other because that’s the only way forward, the only way to bust through all this pain and release all this anger. And in some ways that starts from looking out for ourselves, being kind, living ethically. Understanding that it’s not over yet, but learning how to balance the intensity of the battle with the peace that will sustain us for the long haul ahead.

Again I look to the trees, listen to the wind. Think of my elders, think of my friends in Brooklyn. Believing in us as one unique continuum is the most comfort I know. It gives me strength for the long-term struggles they initiated – so that I get it right this time, for us.

Peterborough, NH

December 2012

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