Updated: Aug 14
On a good day when I get dressed, I pick the queerest outfit possible. Something tenacious and audacious. Patterns that clash as beautifully as queer people do against the backdrop of all that seeks to make them invisible. But then there are days when the world makes me afraid, when I can’t take the stares at the grocery store, or the fixed gazes on my leg hair despite it being a fantastic day for shorts. Changing my body to make the world more comfortable is out of the question, but I cannot deny that the world succeeds at times in making me afraid of others seeing my queerness. Seeing me.
The truth is, when I dress more queer, I do so because of the joy it elicits to look in the mirror. If I could, I would fill a museum with photos of queer people just looking at themselves in their truest form, because that is the sacred joy I cling to before I venture out into a world that will try to take it from me. Because that is inevitably what I feel before I walk out the door… people will stare. I don’t mean harmless curiosity, but those who sometimes, for some reason that I cannot understand, feel genuine anger at the sight of a queer person.
The truth is, I glare, too. I glare at those who would otherwise do the same to me. Sometimes my face does it before my mind realizes it, and I’m working on that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Trent’s sermon last Sunday, about the story of the Woman at the Well. I wonder how the Woman at the Well felt before she left her home that day to gather water. Did she think about wearing something colorful? Something that made her feel pretty? Did she try on more than one outfit because she couldn’t decide? Did she long to be looked at with love and affirmation for all of who she was? Or was she afraid of being noticed? Afraid of being seen by someone who would glare at her, at a Samaritan? Perhaps, God forbid, some random Jewish traveler will be there.
The truth is, sometimes we don’t want to be seen, because as Trent said on Sunday, being seen invites vulnerability. But we’re also simultaneously parched for belonging. We need living water. To live for the boundary transgressors that came before us. For the queers who were brave enough to walk around the grocery store, or read a story dressed in drag, so that a queer child like me could feel known in an unexpected place. It is a gift to be seen, and you’ll never know how refreshing your existence is to those who see you.
Artwork by Rae Senarighi, a transgender, non-binary artist. According to the artist, this series, “Transcend,” features portraits of trans/nonbinary individuals “living their lives out in the open with courage, authenticity, and commitment to integrity over safety.”