As the daughter of lesbian mothers, I always knew I had a sperm donor, and that I could meet him when I was 18. I loved my moms; I loved my queer family. Still, I had always wondered what part of me was cut from a different cloth.
I changed. But it was a gradual process, in the way a forest becomes stone. Petrified forest of a body.
“This is what happened for me: I started crying as soon as I put my legs into the stirrups.”
Depression is not forever because it always ends, and depression is forever because it always comes back. It won’t work if I only want to stay on the days when my brain breaks through the muck. Turn Out The Lights is a meditation on wanting to stay on the very worst days.
Doctors agreed about what kind of sex I should want to have, and how much pain and inconvenience I should be willing to endure to have it.
“I was terrified that I was going to receive a bunch of angry phone calls from parents or a visit from the overly religious principal as a result of word getting out that I didn’t fit the heteronormative cookie cutter mold that all of the other teachers at the school did.”
He pressed further, asking if I was an actress. I said something along the lines of “I hope so.” He suggested that I meet his brother as well – his producing partner. I remember him suggesting some place quieter, more private.
To me, magic means resilience and connecting to ancestors who survived the tragedy of the Middle Passage. Magic runs through my veins and feels like my birthright. It’s stronger than white supremacy will ever be.
Stacy asked what she could do, how she could help, all she wanted to do was be useful, and I said nothing, nothing, I’ve got everything under control. And so she held me on the nights I was pretending to be able to sleep and whispered “I’ll take care of you” over and over without ever expecting an answer.
“I watched her zip up her white dress in the mirror; I watched her cross and uncross her legs; I watched her, and my friends watched her, and in the movie we were watching the other characters, men and women, watched her. I hated her so much, and so purely, with such satisfaction. I couldn’t look away.”
“I’m done putting my faith in well-meaning surrogates. That’s not enough now, and it never really was.”
The women I kiss like to drink red wine, and I drink them in. I taste red wine and I move past it; my deliverance lies elsewhere.
“I decided to make lobster bisque for my mom at the same moment I decided to come out to her. Only one of those things went according to plan.”
“I couldn’t afford to go home, but it was common knowledge among the many international students that, technically, one could remain in the country beyond the visa validity period as long as you were still enrolled in school. So I did.”
“They were a union organizer and liked to throw themed parties (for example: Naked Brunch). One time I bought Gap jeans and they called me a capitalist pig dog. They were not wrong.”
Read these if you want to master the art of the essay.
“I thought changing something on the outside would change the wrecked ruin of me on the inside. I thought somehow the inside would get a memo from my outside and get into shape. It didn’t, but my hair is the first way I was able to gain autonomy over my body.”
Then I met Summer, a junior counselor at the Christian summer camp I went to between sixth and seventh grade. Summer wore a different band shirt almost every day: Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Led Zeppelin. She told me she loved classic rock, and without hesitating, I said “me too.”
With every nude I take and share, I see my sexiness, my erotic power, with my own eyes. Sexy self-portraiture has allowed me to envision and realize myself as a sexual being.
Fitting into Los Angeles wasn’t going to happen for me. Or so I thought, until I stopped trying.