June 6, 2016

Julie Marie Wade

I WOULD RATHER BE GAY THAN STRAIGHT ANY DAY (& OTHER THINGS I THINK BUT NEVER SAY)

after Aaron Smith

What I hate most is the I’m-sorry face
when I tell some well-meaning, left-leaning
acquaintance that I’m a queer.
 
Of course I don’t say it quite that way.
 
I say softly, and with my signature smile:
“My partner and I have been together
for almost eleven years.”
 
Translation: I love someone. In case it concerns
you, I am capable of committed love, too.
 
Notice how I sashay away from the coming-out
spiel, how I hold the word sex deliberately at bay.
 
Even the phrase “same-sex couple” might put us all
uncomfortably in mind of naked bodies, spin the wheel
of hetero-wonder a little too hard,
 
thinking who does what to whom?
 
These new associates don’t realize they are making an I’m-sorry face.
They confuse it with the I-empathize-with-the-challenges-I’m-sure-
you-have-had-to-face face.
 
They nod and lean in a little closer, to show they
are not afraid. Like expert ventriloquists, they’ll transmit
I’m sorry without ever moving their lips.
 
Translation: I know you don’t have a choice about this.
 
But what if I did? What if there was someone to
wave a magic wand and turn me wild with lust
for a man—some men—most men—all men—
 
until even a little trace of stubble on a square jaw,
a pec flexed, a bulge in a tight pair of slacks—
 
I’m hopeless! I don’t know what straight women watch
for when they go out hunting for men—sent me reeling,
 
sent me clawing the walls and calling for all their
manly names and macho numbers.
 
I’d say, Fairy Godmother, keep your spell. But what
I’d really mean—beneath my soft voice and signature smile—is
 
Fairy Godmother, you can go straight to hell, and take your goddamn
straight spell with you.
 
I love who I love, which is what everyone says, but I mean
I love loving her whole being (her body, too) exactly the way
that I do—with my whole being (my body, too).
 
Translation: I have no regrets, no wish to be otherwise.

That is: If you give me a choice, I’ll choose queer every time.
If you make me flip a dime, I’ll mark the sides GAY and GAYER STILL.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

[download audio]

__________

Julie Marie Wade: “I happily identify as a feminist and more specifically, a third-wave feminist. I grew up in a family that adhered to strict gender roles and regarded liberation movements, particularly ‘women’s lib,’ with suspicion. In 1997, I arrived at college with the false impression that feminism was something that already happened, a social movement that had come and gone. To my surprise and delight, this was not the case. I read Rebecca Walker’s Becoming the Third Wave and Naomi Wolf’s Radical Heterosexuality. Slowly, it dawned on me that feminism was still alive and well, and I wanted desperately to be a part of this third wave my new feminist heroes described. To me, feminism is about more than equality, which often conjures notions of ‘sameness,’ but rather about justice, which seeks to honor and protect individual integrity and complexity within and beyond the category of gender. One of my early mentors once said to me: ‘If there are two people—one physically agile and one confined to a wheelchair—and you ask them both to climb the same flight of stairs in the same amount of time—you are treating them equally, but you are not treating them justly.’ This example has always stayed with me. Feminism’s first wave centered on women’s equality, but the third wave encompasses the pursuit of justice for all marginalized groups, including people of color, people with disabilities, sexual minorities, and the earth itself.”