What started it all…

So, here’s something I wrote that started this whole Trailer Park Queer thing. I’ve changed the names of my brothers, not to protect their innocence as much as to let them have some privacy. Hope you enjoy:

Trailer Park Queer

I grew up in a trailer in the rural South. For years, my mom worked third shift in a hosiery mill until she got heel spurs so bad she couldn’t walk all night, or even stand on her feet by morning. I have two younger brothers. We all have different fathers, and we all have different lines that we follow. I loved school from the first time I smelled Mrs. Browder’s classroom – in the basement of my grandparents’ church when I was three. John, who is two years younger than me, turned everything round and plastic into a steering wheel and learned to make car noises long before he could speak. Chris is five years younger than me, and when he was two professed his desire to be a fire truck.

Years later, I’m in graduate school, John is a long-haul truck driver, and Chris has finally realized that human bodies cannot transform themselves into automobiles. We are all in different places in our lives, yet we all began in my mother’s desire for one or another of many alcoholic men who were not cut from parenting cloth.

I remember a smell emanating from under my mother’s bedroom door, which I learned was named “pot.” I learned early that cheap bottles of Thunderbird wine and 12-gauge shotguns are not a good combination. And, I learned that whatever I wanted, I needed to find it on my own – or learn to live without it.

At 19, I realized my non-desire for romance was also a non-desire for hetero romance. Though a few years later, I would learn that my own sexual identity is much fuller than I had given it room to be. At 19, I met my first girlfriend, came out to my mother, and learned to be a lesbian – with everything that means. A few years later, I got kicked out of that club because lesbians don’t fuck men and live to tell about it.

And I learned in that moment that no club wants me – a trailer park queer. I get inundated by shit from the Human Rights Campaign, begging me to become a member. But they don’t want me. My bank account can’t hold enough money for them to want me. My body can’t move in one direction without questioning where it’s going – so they don’t want me. And my mind refuses to grasp the notion of leaving behind others in need for the sake of small political change – so they don’t want me.

They want the few cents I have left after paying the bills and their blue and gold emblem on my car (ever notice how the HRC’s colors are the same as the Cub Scouts?), and they want me to say that what I want is the same as what they want. But what I want can never be the same as what they want – we come from different places. Our roots are planted on different ground, both solid – mine sometimes crumbling.

And here I am in graduate school – surrounded by academia and never knowing which direction to turn. And turning is important because if we turn the wrong way, our mortal souls or our academic futures are in question, and there is no return from the wrong way. But I’ve already turned the wrong way because I dissent from mainstream opinion and I stand dissident against normalizing forces, and I refuse to be drawn in by their rhetoric.

I have already turned the wrong way because I am queer. But it started long before that, in my mother’s womb, when she was managing a Burger Chef and living with my great-grandmother before she bought her first trailer. It started before that when my mother decided to leave college, canceling her chances for success in a world where earning your keep means getting your credentials. And it started before that when my grandparents struggled to save money to send my mother and her sister to college. And it started before that when my great-grandmother was plucking chickens to stuff her own pillows and no one cared if there was money because everything they needed was there on that farm.

And everything I needed was there in that trailer – I just had to soak it up. The strength to move forward even when the world is pressing its full weight against my loose skin; the courage to speak out even when the only voice that counts is stamped with dead men in green ink; and the will to change course with each obstacle failed. Because there is failure. Sometimes the bills don’t get paid, and sometimes the power gets turned off, and sometimes it’s the water, but I can handle it.

And sometimes, I don’t care about gay rights or queer politics or even getting my homework done because my mom fell through her kitchen floor and I’ve got carpet to rip up and boards to screw into beams.

One Response to “What started it all…”
  1. Jonathan says:

    I love your writing! Though our expirences are different they’re similar too. What ever direction the thesis takes I’m sure you’ll be successful.

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