Tomorrow, Andrea Gibson, queer poet and object of my distant/lyric adoration, will be in Minneapolis on a release tour for their new book, Lord of the Butterflies. I’m attending this event, and will be happily releasing any restraints I may have placed over the 16 year-old girl currently emerging from my chest, who waits impatiently today for the chance to squeal with delight in their presence.
To be sure, the 16 year-old girl to which I’m referring, she is real. I love her, and she is me. Perhaps it’ve been better if a more age-appropriate girl emerged from the depth of my soul or tummy or wherever she was, but here I am regardless, enduring the slings and arrows of finally coming out as the genderqueer trans femme I didn’t even know I was waiting to be.
For much of my adult life, I was happily straight, happily married and in love, though carrying within me a potato sack of denial about what I did in fact know (I was not a hetero boy). That denial was released when I came out as gay; only to immediately confront something I did not know (I was not a boy).
The comparison has been made by many LGBTQ folks, but in case you’re not reading the queer writers of the world, coming out as an adult is very like entering a second adolescence. In my case, coming out in my mid- (or late? is 36 mid or late?) thirties, I’ve found the emergent experience of second adolescence to be highly disorienting.
Great effort did it take me, getting from in the closet to out of the closet. First, just to myself, then to my first secret-keeper, then eventually to others, only to go back to the first person to come out again, this time with a more precise notion of my identity, with additional details culled from my therapist and shared with the unwarranted confidence of youth…it’s all very much like being in high school again.
I wonder not infrequently why this pubescent teenage mindset must set upon the newly queer folks of the world. I wonder how it relates to becoming the Responsible Queer Advocate I imagine myself being. I mean, I’m a parent. I love being a parent. Can I also be an emotional adolescent, prone to the common mistakes of 16 year-olds, throwing on-and-off identities like vintage skirts?
Obviously, the answer is yes. And the feeling, while admittedly taxing for the people around me, is also intoxicating. Just thinking about hearing Andrea Gibson tomorrow moves me. I hope that the piles of tears I’m waiting to shed provide me even a pittance of the emotional depth of the teenage heartbreaks this girl never got to feel. Intoxicate me now.