Pride Week: T. J. Garcia On Being Queer and Writing About Everything Else
While I was in university studying for my BA, I took an introductory class on the LGBT movement, which covered about 115 years of history over the course of four weeks. When, about halfway through the accelerated semester, we reached the point in recent history when the topic of coming out became more normal and less treated like a disease, the professor (who was remarkably like Ellen DeGeneres in a multitude of ways) asked if anyone would be willing to share their coming out story. After a number of tear-jerking stories, I offered to share mine. The entirety of my coming out story is that one day my mom came into my room and asked, “So are you gay then?” I replied, “Yeah, I think so,” to which she responded, “Okay.”
I always enjoy telling this story. People laugh and smile, and ask if I’m joking or if that’s really how it happened, and I get to affirm with a grin that yes, it really was that quick and easy. Despite the complete truth of my sort of circumstance, there is this notion in the world that it is impossible for being gay to be that simple. Granted, most coming out stories are not as simple or clear-cut as mine, but part of the reason for that is because the stories where coming out is treated normally don’t get told. It’s not thrilling media, it’s not exciting, it doesn’t make for a gripping narrative or an emotion-packed poem. More importantly, it’s not something I want to write about.
For some people, being queer is a huge part of life. It encompasses many of their interests, it is a part of life that manifests itself even in the interests that aren’t directly related to being queer, and that is entirely a good thing. For others, like me, it is a very small part of life, which is just as entirely a good thing. Because being queer is something that should be out in the open and be treated as normal (the way that it really is normal), then everyone on all sides, straight, gay, or otherwise, should grow to embrace the fact that being queer can range from dressing up in sequins and hairspray each night to telling the barista at Starbucks in a completely genuine manner that their hairdo is nice.
In truth, being queer only manifests itself in a few places for me. Namely when looking for relationships and when talking about my taste in music. My poetry sometimes covers my relationships, and in those instances, maybe I am a queer writer. That said, if I am a queer writer, it is more in the label than it is in the writing. I don’t take an approach where I focus on the relationship being complicated because it’s a queer relationship. My relationships aren’t complicated by being gay. They’re complicated by self-doubt, lack of communication, and occasionally by my bad taste in men. (My taste in men is not always bad, to be sure. My last boyfriend is a wonderful guy.) Outside of that, I write about living in California. I write about the frustrations of the world around me. I write about memories, and about being nostalgic. I write about being nostalgic entirely too often. But the advantage of writing about these things is that it’s something that any reader can identify with, queer or not. I don’t have to explain in every work that you have to be queer to get it. You don’t. You just have to be living.
The beauty of poetry as an art form is that to every person it is something a little different, and by that token, every writer should express what they feel is most important for them to express. If a lesbian wants to write about the complications of her office job, then that’s what she should write about. If a trans* person wants to write about the struggle of their transition into the sex or gender they are comfortable with, then they should absolutely write about that. The truth of being a queer writer is that being queer is part of being alive, is a part of living. Whatever experiences come naturally to writing poetry are the experiences that should be written about, be it about being queer or about life in general.
One of the things I learned in that introduction to LGBT studies class that has stuck to me the most was the study that Evelyn Hooker did that focused on well-adjusted gay men. The significance of this study was astounding to me, not just because it was something that was actually necessary at one point in history, but because the thing that homophobic people were most caught off-guard by was the fact that it was possible for gay men to live happy, natural lives. To this day, I find that more powerful than many of the things we covered in that class. All it takes for people to recognize that being queer is natural, that being queer isn’t something to shy away from, is proving that you can live and be happy, regardless of what the world decides to throw at you.
With all of that said, go live. Be happy. Write about the thing you feel is important to write about, regardless of what that thing is.
T.J Garcia is a southern California based poet who studied English literature at Chapman University. Currently working in the Product Marketing department at deviantART, T.J has been published in various literary journals and is working on his first book of poetry.