We are super excited to introduce you to our newest Thinker in Residence, Catherine Hernandez. Catherine has appeared on our stage, and our blog, many times before but is now going to be here with a regular column of her beautiful and personal writing. Here’s Catherine:
About two winters ago, I made a horrible mistake. Perhaps now is a good time as ever to rationalize this mistake. Perhaps I could remind you that it was that winter with the devastating ice storm in the middle of the holiday season. I could make up stories about how the power outages that occurred as a result of this ice storm had me malnourished and hallucinating within my lakeside house whose door and windows were sealed shut by the sheer weight of crunchy snow. For good measure, I could pretend I had lost power. Or better yet, I did NOT lose power, which is why I was locked in my house suffering from a Netflix-induced stupor.
But it was that winter that I hit on my neighbor who is a cis-gendered, heterosexual white male. And when I say neighbor, I mean, his backyard faces my driveway kind of neighbor. As in inescapable if all goes awry, kind of neighbor. I am not sure what it was about his non-descript demeanor and unremarkable-ness that had me leave a post-it note on his doorstep (remember? The ice storm.) But I did. It read “Hey if ever you want to hang, text me.”
Being an obvious monogamous kind of person, he texted me letting me know there was a woman he was dating already and was open to taking me up on the offer if ever things changed.
“No problem! Lucky lady” I replied. I didn’t mind. Rejection is no stranger to me and opening letters from funding bodies saying “Too bad, so sad” is not something to take personal. Only, this dude, even though he was the one to let me down, didn’t process this as well.
Whenever I would wave and say hello cheerfully, he would change directions. It got even worse when the woman in his life then became his partner who he lived with directly behind my house. Like, I am talking about full out scrambling to look for a bush, a corner to round, or wanting to drop a smoke flare and run away from me. It astounded me how different the processing of exes has to be amongst queers considering the smaller dating pool. Most of us have to share space with exes (either interacting in a friendly way or lovingly detaching) on the regular.
When I got married in August, I thought it best to talk to him in a kind way to put his mind at rest that no, I will not sabotage his relationship with his partner. Now that I think about it, I actually don’t know how to do that. Despite being flirtatious onstage for burlesque, I am a failure at flirting offstage. The dynamics of cruising – heck even making eye contact across a dance floor – gives me the sweats. I wouldn’t know how to “steal” a partner away any better than I can do grade five math (read: I don’t know grade five math at all).
After several months of finagling trying to cross paths with him alone without his partner, I began to call my mission Operation I’m Just Not That Into You. Just a few weeks ago it was Mission: Accomplished with me intercepting him at the lake near my house. What I said was “I just wanted to let you know I got married recently. And I’m queer. So I hope that clears anything up and doesn’t make things awkward between us.” Perplexed and shocked he told me he was happy for me and tried to walk away looking somewhat chill and normal. And that was that.
After several months of Operation I’m Just Not That Into You, I had wished I said more. If I had my way, I would have added this:
“Let me preface this by saying there is nothing wrong with us queers dating cis-gendered hets. There are so many of my chosen family who both identify as being proudly queer and who are engaged in loving, healthy relationships with amazing and inspiring allies. I’m talking about my aversion to straightness. Like, hot dogs going into buns. Like Jack and Jill parties. His and Her towels.
“You see, when you’re part of the beautiful LGBTQ2S spectrum, it means you transcend body parts. Straightness and its fascination with puzzle pieces that fit into one another can be rather dull. It is a wondrous act to look at puzzle pieces that do not ‘fit’ in a traditional sense and using our imaginations, our ancestral powers to make sexual magic.
“In truth I wouldn’t give up being queer for the world. As in, I wouldn’t give up being magical, being imaginative for the world.
“Here are other things I would never give up:
- Having a selection of sex toys within arms reach. It is a joyous thing to be able to lube up, vibe, or strap on with no one feeling attacked.
- Being in community and communion with others. I have seen people come together to raise money and offer post-operative care for trans surgeries. I have seen children raised by dozens of chosen family who care shift to ensure a healthy upbringing. I have witnessed chosen family come together to strategize the conception of children. People taking turns keeping watch over friends who are suicidal. Community organization when issues that matter most hit us hard.
- The ability to talk about sex, failure, poverty, race and privilege openly; knowing difficult conversations reap much if done with love and care.
- I love that we can celebrate and mourn our shared triumphs and tragedies.
“So you see, you and your partner are completely safe and I affirm you in your traditional partnership.”
That’s what I would have said.
photo by Caro Ibrahim.