By Yuri Hospodar, 1989
To You In Your Closets
To all you unemerged, unconfessed, unavowed, unadmitted, to you who have better things to do, don't have it so bad, don't need to proclaim, never felt put down personally, to you in your closets awaiting a miraculous bestowal of respect and acceptance, to you in your closets hiding in side vision waiting for the intolerant to turn their own heads, to you in your closets refusing to come out until they're good and ready for you, to you in the offices, administrations, planning rooms, and garbage trucks, to you safe and sequestered in the homophobe industry of church, cowering amid cowled clergy where your virtual majority is stifled by singular bigoted infallibility, to you in the homophobe industry of state, hiding in bureaucracy where rocking the boat is bad for your budget, to you in the homophobe industry of the military, bootcamping it up to make real men and women of yourselves in the image they tell you to be, to you entertainers who teach us what we want, are told what we want and how we want it, and how we want you, you sexy symbols who won't say what sex you really want, to all you athletes convinced persona means more than performance, that what you do ain't done by the likes of You, swimming stars afraid to make waves, football players patting ass in public but sneaking out late night to express affection, to you entertained, too, who dance the world away, who refuse to hear when the words are spoken, who hop to a vapid disco chanteuse and ignore the truths of a same sex song, who take the little offered and never work for more, who awaken in the morning with a deeper voice and say "hello" to the boss and not much else all day, to you in the streets, in the fields, in the law firms, and libraries, all furtive glances and backing down and not saying Nothing, to you proclaiming "it's none of their business", "they didn't ask", "why cause scenes", to the insecure putting on superior airs chiming "well they wouldn't understand", to you in cover marriages, marriages of convenience, marriages to cure, to pretend, to forget, in cover jobs, cover careers, cover friendships, to you clutching religion to save you from yourself and turn you into God-knows-who, to you holding office and holding your breath, hoping late marriage or confirmed bachelorhood are phrases palatable to public belief, to you holding office by the skin of your public image, doing nothing to help, fearing rumors will spread and lids will fly off, to you with your arms crossed, pursing your lips, insisting you're the same as everyone else except for what you do in bed behind locked doors, closed windows, silence, lies, and defiance of several states' sodomy laws, to you lying alone and awake all night wondering who knows, who'll tell, who suspects, and does it show, don't worry, don't fear, your secret is safe with me; I will not force you from your comfortable shadows. It shall be said that the silence you claim as effect may also be called cause - you are welcome to remain, huddled in your own embarrassment; the skin you bruise won't be your own: your saved hide will in shine safety bought off with future strangers' broken bones. Let others bleed from briars you might have cleared, let others stand in empty lots where you might have built confident temples; let them stand in the rain thinking this is all the weather there could be, let them learn one language thinking these are all the words there could be, let them be taught they are evil and alone just yards from where you are, bitter in the same presumptions. Though we rarely produce our own kind directly we still have children of our own to look after; the young among our numbers must anticipate haven, must know there is a heritage, and strong faces to find. Though we rarely emerge from the same gene house, we still have a history, tradition of our own - a tradition never inherited but constantly self-created, a non-genetic line of voice and action made stronger by the bond being willfully forged - the unrelated as one, diverse combination clasping in; union by experience, not where we emerged - our achievements and losses, our blessings and curses, erupt from who we are when we are ourselves, not bodies we were born from but the entities we are - traditions tread upon for two thousand years, bypassed, burned, beaten, belittled, untouched by acknowledged historical pen, subjects unsuitable, cloud-shrouded, "undocumented" - not enough written records to justify claims and authorities refuse to write it down still - or the ones who run the presses find no paper, and sociologists' eyes close a hemisphere away; yet we know. A method older than theirs keeps older facts alive. The greatest oral traditions - no pun intended - our self-preservation which couldn't be written, that which we know and others dismiss - the manuscripts they burned to purge fact we keep and speak in tongues, we pass secretly, directly, our truth their rumor, and histories tribal and clear and honest - of the priests and the bards serving golden Apollo who lay by the side of his beloved Hyacinthus, of the warriors on islands now buried under Westernized names, colonized, homogenized, shamed into seeing the missionary's position, of the berdache crossdressed transcontinentally, from Siberia to the Black Hills to Hawaii and beyond, called by names as varied as his/her peoples: mahu, hijra, yirka la-ul, winkte, nadle, admired and proud, carving out roles and keeping them, not backing down, standing their ground in the planetary daylight demanding respect - and when the going got tough the queer got clever - the priests became poets, the berdache, drag queens; from speaking with the gods we learned to look from the gutters as the Christian curtain came ringing down - as a solipsistic fever swept through Europe with its songs of crosses and fire, intolerant of those who ignored its condemnation and went on with the ways that powered their lives, a fever racing through the cities, forcing into the forests to where the pulse of the planet allows all rhythms, a fever burning fourteen centuries, a charred blueprint for future Hitlers, consuming cultures and continents, tribes, nations, arts and islands, and a people once praised as part of the patchwork now found the thread unbound and their pieces thrown on the flames, torn from the life tree, become discarded twigs, become faggots, queer millions who wouldn't shut up, whose words kept coming out and cocks kept coming in, tossed on the fires holding hardwilled women the bishops wanted gone, women nine million strong. When the fever cooled down the damage was done, this bed was burning, brain cells gone; a dazed depleted species wandered about in its forest-fire fog. These burning times were our first learning, that of all the hideous genocides waged those against us are the most futile - we are not a nation, begetting itself: we emerge from everywhere; and as the culture that killed us produced us anew amidst all its denial, we kept within the limits, the shadows, word-of-mouth wisdom reminding of the fires and the stronger days before them. Through signals and slang, we struggled for survival, cultural guerrillas, the sexual resistance, a diasporic three centuries' charred silence. But this Western woodwork's getting old, too worn to fade into without rotting, ourselves, anymore - it's an old wooden wall and the writing is on it - From Magnus Hirschfeld standing up in a Germany which huddled in the rubble of one world war and was building up to the next, to Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society meeting drawn-curtained, daring to speak, that first courage of acknowledging each other and not looking away, to the big yell of Stonewall 1969 where the cops made on raid too many and found themselves fleeing before the bottles and the bricks of the ones alleged law forced to fringes and edges, to the White Nights of San Francisco '79 when a merciful jury gave blessing to assassination and San Francisco burned with a queer riot fire, to 1987, the Great Lawn of Washington: in action, not reaction, over 800,000 asserted their strength and came calling to mourn as a Quilt was laid out commemorating too many who could help found too many other things to do - the largest civil rights march yet to be held cut to a third in police reports, ignored by a press claiming Sunday deadlines, yet their silence couldn't silence a voice so strong, such a big splash in their stagnant pond, and the ripples grew larger, kept reaching out, to the Boston State House, to St Patrick's Cathedral to the Washington DC FDA - Hey you in your closets we've been murdered in the churches and burned at the stake and still we are here! Bullet-riddled, beaten in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen and still we are here! Castrated in China, electrocuted in Cuba and still we are here! Massacred by the Right, mutilated by the Left and still we come, still we are here! And if you hide now and blend in with them while yet again they watch us die, waiting, wondering, salivating as the AIDS statistics unfold, watching as we hold the hands of fading lovers, you are no better than the bashers that jump us in the parks, the bigots that pounce in the courtrooms and capitals. For now we know we are in our hands. Only our voice can tear down the wall, remove us from the rubble we are consigned, resigned and accustomed to. It has happened, will happen again, and will continue until all passive cooperation stops - all your inactions, all your silences, all your waiting for the next man to stand to make your rising easier - what has happened shows us what is, what must be ended - this wall is written on and you have read it, you now have no excuse, no excuse - from this moment any man beaten and thrown from a bridge is thrown by your silence any child exiled from a disowned home is kicked out with your quiet boot lovers cut from legacy are lost by your lack of will and each city supervisor assassinated dies with your hushed hand on the trigger. You in your closets, I call through your door, we are in our hands, hands not to fold or to cover lone faces, but hands to reach, to wave, to hold, to caress the bodies of lovers who desire it, to flip the finger to the fools who deserve it, to intertwine on public streets and kiss goodbye before the subway stop, hands not to block a basher's blow or grope for crumbs of tolerant respect but hands to demand our heritage and place, our partnership in the tending of this planet, and the cosmos that awaits us all, its prodigal child. And should anyone ask why you flaunt it so, must you be so blatant and appear so obsessive, if anyone asks as they wear their wedding rings, holding spouse's hand at the family reunion two seconds after showing you pictures of their children, if anyone asks you by the television glow, irradiating rooms with American myth where all male role models get or lose the girl, if anyone asks don't you regret this lonely life, and you think of your friends and their lovers and employers and neighbors and shopowners down your street, of the emperors and artists and explorers of the past, of presidents and poets and garage mechanics' cousins, this lost tribe that knows its own, and you wonder what would happen if all the queer dead and all the queer living would thunder in one voice "We are here have been here, beside you all along", and you know how that won't happen, and how many silent and silenced voices those who dare to speak must speak for, of the covered past and the cowering present, of graveyard Europe and silent America, at such queries you need only reply in your own voice, your fully human voice: It is related to us by someone else that an old legend goes God created our kind and walled us in, telling us it's enough of an Eden don't dare the outer world - it is not our place, stay where we're told. But I've been to that barrier, and on that segregating wall a queer hand has carved: THIS WALL IS WRITTEN ON AND YOU HAVE READ IT. THIS WALL IS WRITTEN ON - TEAR IT DOWN.
Did I mention how proud I am of my husband? Well, I am.