The Politics of Being Queer, Brown, and Culturally Catholic

By Riah Dawson

I couldn’t even get being gay right, because I’m not gay—but I’m not straight. My little brother and I grew up in two different worlds of queerness. He is his own big, proud one-man parade of gayness. Ru Paul’s Drag Race reruns, eye makeup with pops of colour, and an Instagram bio that literally reads, “Hello, I am gay as hell.”  My world was being 14 and looking at girls a little too long, was full of lingering looks, hugs that lasted a little too long, and (only drunk because if you’re drunk it doesn’t mean anything) kisses at parties. It wasn’t real, and even if it was it didn’t matter because you could not be a queer brown girl in a Catholic school.  Because you don’t want to make it harder on yourself, because you already tick so many minority boxes on the census of your life.

You are a woman, you are brown, you are a Catholic in a Christian world. You couldn’t tick another box on the diversity/oppression chart because that is too many rallies and protests to go to. Better to just pick a side, make it easier on yourself. You can’t be that mad all the time so it’s better to let yourself be something less than what you are, that way it’s easier to come up for air.

When I did come out as bisexual at 18, for real and fully. It was a quiet revolution of self.

I wasn’t even the right kind of queer

Gay, lesbian, trans. Non-binary maybe, but you had to have short hair and wear a lot of button downs and no makeup. Bisexual women are greedy sluts—indecisive—and all they wanted was to blow through a queer friendship group, fuck everyone, and leave. Fickle beyond approach. So bisexual is out, gays are always fighting for the right to be treated like human, non-binary is kind of in, trans is having a moment so I have to pick one or I’m not right.

My mother pretends, tries her hardest to understand it but relies heavily on stereotyping she has seen in RENT or The L Word. Dad doesn’t say anything and hopes my brother isn’t making a mistake by “calling it too early.” Long-haul flights home, humid in a city that doesn’t love me, I am comforted by my little brother hugging me at the door—a rainbow pinned to his school collar. I pour all my hope, all my love for my queerness into him. I hope it seeps into his skin, because if 14-year-old me needed a champion, 13-year-old him needs a champion, too. And so I mirror myself as someone he needs to see.

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