the defiance and pain of queer being

a nebula in shades of red and black surrounding a white star

cw: honest discussion of queer existence and existing as a queer person

I have been consuming a lot more queer media lately; more than I have at any time in the past. It’s beautiful, and it hurts.

Most of the time I try to put my face forward, my chin high, ignoring all the things that might hurt me while also not actually being able to ignore them. I’m in my mid-forties and I am queer, and it is my job — so I tell myself — to be a light in the vast darkness for other queer people, especially queer people who are younger than me. Because our lights flicker out so often. Because our candles burn inexorably until they are gone.

When I watch and read queer media, I cherish all the secret ways that infinite and similar queerness shows up. It’s beautiful to see the hope, the hidden smiles, the love so bittersweet. But the simultaneous grief of being queer, of existing as a queer person in the world, sometimes gets too loud in my body for me to keep my head up for a while.

I grew up as a girl that climbed trees, read books all day and by moonlight, misunderstood how to be feminine, feared my father’s explosive anger. He did everything he could to silence who I am, although I don’t think he actually knew the whole of me. I don’t know that I do either, but I’m more than what he thought I was.

I am not a girl. I am not a woman. I am not a boy. I am not a man. I am myself. My gender is me. There is no one else like me in the world.

The tattoo on my right arm, my first one, is Jörmungandr. Jörmungandr has no gender; it is a child of Loki and Angrboða; a monster, the world-enclosing serpent whose purpose is to be. It creates boundary. It lives in a liminal place. The World Serpent wraps itself around the edges of our world, holding its own tail, waiting in timelessness and moving in the warmth of life’s water for the always-repeating cycle of action, destruction, death, rebirth. The Allfather is afraid of all of Loki’s children, because they all bring a kind of doom, but that doom is familiar to me.

I am also a monster (all of my favorite people are monsters). I have a doom in my heart, borne out of the truth of what I am. Jörmungandr wraps around my right arm, scales in shades of turquoise and blue and green and black, insistent that I exist, I am here. A thing in liminality is still itself. My doom is not of a fate that will destroy me — it is the doom of living in different-ness. I am the shape of an unknown thing, and many people are afraid of what they don’t understand.

Defiantly I live my queerness, yet also I keep it in quietness and with the anticipation of future-possible destruction. There are so few safe places for us. I have found and helped to create a safe place here in my family, ten people strong, nine of us always living in the same big house together, holding each other after we fall down and insisting that we belong.

I don’t always know who I can trust, out there in the wider world. I don’t know who will see me and feel hatred. I don’t know who will want to hurt me, although I can sometimes guess. I wear my mostly-shaven hair and the metal in my face and ears and my inky arm in shamelessness, but I walk in danger always. My voice gives away that I am in-between, one of the things I love about me the most; a little bit of testosterone, not too much, not too little, and I can feel the depth of voice that is part of me now that my vocal chords have physically changed.

I am a nebula painted among stars. I am Beethoven’s Symphony Number 7 in A Major, Opus 92: II Allegretto. I am the many-colored fire that lives within the wood becoming coal beneath a bonfire in the night. I am a tree discovering itself to be a tree, rooted but also interconnected. I am the horn of Helm Hammerhand sounding in the deep. I am the sweet heavy scent of summer air in a forest so dense the sun can’t be seen. I am a lost thing, a found thing, a rediscovered thing, an old thing. I am an eternity and I have no idea how long I’ve been here.

We are so beautiful. Even as we dance and glitter and breathe an air maybe only temporarily free, we are beautiful. So long as we exist, we will always be light in the darkness.


I long to feel
my heart burned open wide
’til nothing else remains
except the fires from which I came

like parted souls,
divided for an age,
awe and wonder I’d embrace
and the world anew again
but now, this picture from me fades
from still’s cold hand there’s no reprieve,
light the fire in me

shine your light on me
illuminate me,
make me complete
lay me down,
and wash this world from me
open the skies,
and burn it all away
’cause I’ve been waiting,
all my life just waiting,
for you to shine,
shine your light on me

— selected lyrics from Nova, VNV Nation

Spotify link: Nova, VNV Nation

YouTube link: Nova, VNV Nation

No more words, just vibes. I am going to finish the book I am reading, Light From Uncommon Stars, and then I am going to put myself back together a bit at a time, but not alone.


featured images is a photo by Tasos Mansour on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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