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I was 12 the first time I looked up the word "homosexuality" in a library card catalog, and I couldn’t have told you what I was hoping for other than a larger world than the one I knew.All I could tell is that I was someone who didn’t fit into the life the world expected me to lead. In middle school and high school, the secret and even illicit books I didn’t dare let people see I was reading: Fire From Heaven and The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. The novels of Gordon Merrick, especially The Quirk and Perfect Freedom.
I kept looking for and finding queer books and writers.
I began reviewing, and wrote my first published reviews about Kate Rushin’s The Black Backups, and Mark Doty’s My Alexandria.
I took classes where these books were assigned, but I also loved skulking around the college bookstore, looking over the books other professors were teaching in other classes.
I found Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the poetry and essays of Adrienne Rich, and June Jordan.
I can play “Smalltown Boy” on my phone as much as I want. I say “my husband” in social and professional situations and like to watch as some people’s heads jerk back.
And yet in some states I could be fired for saying that, or denied housing, or denied healthcare.
I am thinking about what got me through to this place. The ways in which a story or essay in an anthology would or could lead to more publications. The independent LGBT bookstores, queer booksellers, friends who would become writers, friends who were writers, editors who were putting together anthologies — editors who looked for me before they knew I existed, hoping I did.
The someone I met in graduate school or college who became one of my favorite writers, or would teach me more than I knew about what I needed to do or be next. Or how I would or could become one of those teachers. In 2019, we are in a strange place, a place I never imagined.
Over the past year, more than a hundred people have worn my handcuffs. Three months before his third birthday, his Italian grandfather (on his mother’s side) set him on a proper bicycle, pushed him forward, and shouted, “Spingi, spingi, spingi! I suggest that a powerful antidote to the manufactured past now being created for us is the secret history of Indians in the twentieth century. But no matter where we go, I notice that he always knows the way home.
Not long ago, in a self-defense class, I wore them myself. Geronimo really did have a Cadillac and used to drive it to church, where he’d sign autographs. I saw the smoke over the hills, knew the ferocity of the Santa Ana winds, and figured it wouldn’t be long before the fire would reach us. Like the other fishermen, I am waiting to have the day’s catch processed and flash-frozen for transport back to the Lower 48.