I’ve told this story to maybe a dozen people, but I haven’t written it yet. There are already waterworks on the other side of your screen, because I cannot look back on any of this without anger, fear, regret, and deep, deep sadness.
It started with road rage on the commute home from work. A guy started to pull out in front of me and I honked. It was as simple as that. It could have ended there.
He followed me and drove erratically. I tried to get away, not to safety, necessarily, but away from him—out of wrath’s reach. But he kept following me, gesturing and swerving. I took myself to what I thought would be a place of safety.
I don’t remember getting out of my car. He is there in front of me. Fists. Shaved head. Gray shirt with red print. He is in my face—our noses inches apart. He looks down my face, my shoulders, and his eyes stop on my breasts. The space between our faces grows just a bit. He’s stepped back. He tells me he thought I was a dude. He calls me faggot. He calls me faggot. He calls me faggot. Faggot. Fucking faggot. You’re a fucking faggot.
I am, in that moment, more gay than I have ever been. I am a name to be shouted. I am a quivering, pathetic puddle of homosexuality, rendered nearly mute by a mixture of fear and anger.
I am, in that moment, the target I never let myself be because I never truly realized I could be.
What follows is week of nightmares and fear-shakes. The word faggot echoing between thoughts. My body like a brick wall tagged with black spray paint: a dirty, faggoty canvas. My Self, a shame slate.
When I breathe, I breathe the word that was thrown at me. I breathe and believe my otherness.
I find a space, vast and dark and cave-like where I can hide. I go there when I’m afraid, when that word thrown at me becomes louder than the rest of my world. My feet fill shame-shoes and I walk into a place filled with people who want to be there just as much as I. We joke, laugh, celebrate each others’ successes, and commiserate over loss. The room is electric and filled with so many songs that they all begin to blend together and in time I fall utterly in lust with their hope-filled lyricism.
I stay as long as I can—because outside, in the parking lot, in my car, on the freeway back home, there are my thoughts, dark, and rancid. Even inside my house, in my bed, head under blankets, dog curled behind my knees, there is the promise of fear. I cannot separate myself from my Self. I cannot separate identity from being. I am Kim the faggot.
Weeks pass before I recognize that this place I thought was warm and safe and inviting is venomous. I have been lured by the Sirens’ call. I have given them all I have, and I have borrowed so I can give them more. I am rendered penniless. Shame stacks itself on top of shame and the burden breaks me.
I sink into my brokenness. I sink into it and see all the undoing that must be done and I am enveloped by impossibility.
And yet. There is this:
Someone once told me I had a dream—that I’d had a dream I was diagnosed with cancer. In the dream I am told by a doctor that I am dying. It’s okay, I tell him. It’s okay, because I am Kim.
The same is true now. Right now, my life is a series of days bookended by nightmares, and it doesn’t feel okay. But I know that it will feel and be okay. Because I am Kim.