It isn’t the legal definition of privacy that has ever bothered me as a black queer femme man, it has always just been the public practice of it with regards to me and my community. From a time that I can remember, very little of anything has remained exclusively mine. I’m that little kid that went around showing everyone the green mucus on their handkerchief. I knew that it wasn't something fun, I’ve grasped the seriousness of the (t)issue at hand but showing even this muck from out of myself to everyone has made me feel regular on occasion. (Though, just between us gurls, I’m not always certain that reaching for the regular has helped with all of the other days.)
In a manner of speaking, I was that green glob of mucus on people’s handkerchieves, that gaping wound they were trying to hide, that secret they didn't ever want getting out. There was something within myself that had to be exorcised, expunged and erased. At the age of six, a very grey-haired matriarch with a talking African Grey in my neighbourhood told me, “If you flap your wrists any more, young man, you’ll take off before him [pointing to the parrot]. We might need to get you a pair of splinters and quickly.” At the time, I didn't understand the meaning of those words, I’d been visiting her to stare at the parrot, suddenly I understood that something about me was upsetting her. She was to be the first soloist in a growing chorus that has accompanied my every gesture, gait and goings-on my entire life, constantly reminding me that my presence isn’t wanted.
Very quickly, I grasped if I didn't want to upset anyone, or feel smaller by their reactions, then I had to buff out these extra bits of myself. I got that my presence made public the private desires of everyone else around me. I am a sexual act. And might not ever be seen beyond these entanglements. I began to hide: draping myself in sarees, lip-syncing to the female parts of hit songs, walking with the sway of a village belle heading to the water pump and so on but only on the occasions that I was home alone. (I grew up in the 90s, we were left on our own much more than kids nowadays. And I’ll always be grateful for that.) Though in these moments, to quote the cliche, I did feel closest to myself and it had nothing to do with the sexual act. These were the times before the stirrings.
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