I am you in 7 years time. I hope you are well. I know you are hungry to dress in a label, eager to find understanding, and anxious to redefine sex with your own two hands. I know you are confused by the sudden way urges take your body and sexuality pulses at your fingertips (whispering). I know how you yearn to push pin yourself to the bulletin board with a label that will grasp you from all sides, soothing.
Child, you are only teenaged now, just earning your first kiss against the cool of the bleachers at sixteen, as the smoke of the woman you longed of bed years after the single kiss soaked the flannel you’d bought just for the occasion. Child, you’ll be happy to know I haven’t forgotten that fateful moment when the metal pressed to your thighs as she leaned into the electric desire that sparked between you both. Nor have I forgotten your second kiss, last kiss, with the same woman against the lockers of the girls high school hockey room, how the full-sense experience of sweat, piss, and cliche took hold of you as you escaped third period and headed to lunch wet-drenched and wanting, unable to put words to the way her lips unraveled you. And yes, I remember the way your best friend took one look at you and knew.
I remember your story, how you came into your sexuality to the tune of puberty and your body raced to the pulse of desire and came for the urgency of speed. How full of arrogance, shame, anxiety, need, and joy you were, but mostly of love and the chase of it. Thinking of it now, I drench the keyboard and take a step back to remember the bad poetry you wrote to the teenage love and think nostalgically about the innocent obsession in Sixteen year old self, wine-drunk and desperate, how I wish the happier me I am to you, then. How I wish to go back and impart the lessons you are (I am) still learning: You do not know that knowing how to feel is more important than what you feel. Sixteen year old self, goober, sexless flower blossoming into a wanting being, sugarplum, the fact of your sexuality is not the culprit of your hurt, nor is the name you give to is. The culprit, the little drama queen is love and the lack thereof.
Child you don’t know how lucky you are to be feeling the world change around you, swelling fat, and bursting. You became adult in the age of The L Word, South of Nowhere, and Degrassi. Before the divorce, family TV nights were spent watching Modern Family or The Secret Life of the American Teenager. When you’d watch 7th Heaven you knew better than to idealize the perfect family, but instead appreciated the ethic of young love, the moralistic quality of the pixilated show. You witnessed queer teens bullied to the point of suicide, saw politics live-wrestle over same-sex marriage laws, saw the fight split the LGBT community that had grown united through the devastation of AIDS.
You watched Madonna make out with Brittany and Brittany shave her head in what would become an iconic queer hairstyle ten years later. You watched the first black president get elected only to watch him struggle to pass universal health care, while my friends threw punk shows and pot-locks to afford hormones and top surgery. You saw Trump refuse to acknowledge pride month while cities held well-attended Dyke Marches and Trans* Prades. You grew up at a time of contradictions, where behind the story told is the one that’s not. You grew up at a time of selective silence, but the world will change around you, change slowly and profoundly at once.
You grew up touching yourself to the question, Is sexuality something I do or something I am? Darling, it does not matter in the slightest if your love is for someone of the same gender or sex as you. Gay issues are important, queer history deserves to be undiscovered, and dyke marches may always make your heart smile, but that all shrivels like a worm in heat against the quest of love. Within the next seven years you will learn that you cannot not blame any terror, hurt, or growing pains with the fact of who you bed. The fact is, more of your problems pulse with the reality of love: the lack of reciprocity, the inequality of it, the communication of it, the heartaches of it.
The joke of sexuality is that these problems are not limited to the gays, and yes, seven years later the straights will still ponder this very sameness. The percentage of LGBT-specific suffering cannot be overlooked with universality, the complexity of queer love is not incidental, but the issue of love comes first. Child, I hope you learn this sooner rather than later. And when you do, I hope you crawl out from under the blanket of your own suppression and love and let love.
I know what you’re doing now, young Gabrielle. It’s early 2010. You are hiding beneath your bed tuning into South of Nowhere with only the subtitles on or skimming through the only lesbian erotica text available in your small-town bookstore (as I recall, vampire erotica- you’ll be happy to learn people are much more interested in Wonder Women in the last months than Twilight). You are looking for a desire that looks like yours in pieces of your culture. Somehow, as you age, bravery and miracle will take hold of you and the world will become more accepting of your love than it is now. Seven years later you will take the headphones out and write a letter to yourself who kisses girls while sitting in the middle seat of the airplane. You will run your fingers through your lover’s hair at Starbucks. You will redefine sex with your own two hands. And you will learn to see the sex you have as love making as opposed to gaysex.
Within the next seven years, you will crawl out from beneath the bed and dance when two beautiful and gracious drag queens when they pull you into the streets at your first pride parade. You will learn then that pride month may be ruled by money, but you will still dapple in it fondly because it is a designation that hopes to articulate the closeness with which you, and those you love, hold these categories: LGBTQ+. Categories that in 2017 still hold an evocative power. Categories and labels that despite the rainbow emojis and fluttering of “out” instagram celebs, and queer-focused Netflix shows, hold power as they monopolize and beauty the alphabet. Categories that while they will feel less necessary to you after you graduate into the real world, will still feel like home from time to time.
Gabby, not yet Gabrielle, my message from the future is two-fold. Fear not, child, your life will unfold in richer, more painful ways than your mind can fathom. You will fall in love with thin lips and the shape of a woman’s mouth curving over a beer bottle. You will have your heart broken by weathered hands and bad sex but you will always always always reconnect through and with your body.
But be wary, the most basic comforts of freedom may not always hold you steady. You will have to continue to fight for your rights against mad and menacing minds. But that will never be any less reason to love your life; never let the fight make you bitter, let it only make you stronger. Let it help you love harder.