Soon I will be 60. I am an in-betweener , a non-binary identifying person.
This is both a superpower and kryptonite …negotiating the real world while keeping distant. I have missed the boat on the conversation where we are able to define and celebrate our facets. My cloak of invisibility, though frayed and shapeless, still offers protection.
First I thought I was a boy. Then I thought I was a failed girl. Then I became titles…athlete, artist, musician, then a lesbian ….ugh i still can’t even write THAT word without cringing. Masculine female is somewhat accurate and I embrace my femaleness much more since I have stopped menstruating, interestingly enough. Sometimes I just associated my identity with those who questioned me the least. Alcohol also was very important. It kept things balanced . Until it didn’t.
Back when I was 21, not only was I cutting the tender flesh below my ribs but was cracking a leather belt across my own back hard enough to break the skin. It was a way to pay for it. To pay for being a reject. To pay for being repulsive. In school we watched a PBS production of Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In it, the fornicating priest flogs himself as penance. Maybe that stuck in my head. As the thing to do. People didn’t talk about cutting and self harm back then, how did we know?
When I finally came out to my Irish catholic conservative folks, my father was only concerned should I “turn on” my mother or my sisters. Even though his sons had tormented his daughters in our tiny home in the middle of nowhere, for years. People are funny.
But my parents were very good to me after that and though I was sorting things out in often destructive ways for a good while, they always opened their home and their hearts and I did feel truly loved by them.
Coming out queer in the US in the eighties we had to show a united front as there was a great deal of confrontation meeting the community’s visibility. Visibility was mandatory but dangerous. The term ”Queer” was, and still is to me, a comforting blanket.
Over the years I would return to Dublin to visit my aunts and uncles. Of course we would be very long at their local and eventually someone would ask me about my girlfriend. In the most loving way possible it would be suggested that being just friends could be enough and please would we not consider that.
I did get my life together and lived honestly and openly. I tried to be “the good gay” in places where I was in a minority such as the Job or maybe even church if I was going. To be an agent of change and an example of the natural but alternative way of living that was the right of all people. Everyone probably goes through a phase like that in the course of discovering how to live in the world.
My sister’s eldest Child, also non binary, sent a photo of themselves walking across their college campus during a snowstorm wearing antlers. Just going to class. I love that. I wish that was me when I was their age.
In 2018 my Irish mama passed away. In the years I had been caring for her, my life had gotten smaller and smaller and she became my sole (soul) focus. My partner of many years had also fallen away, finally becoming just too physically and emotionally distanced.
The first and greatest gift Mam had given me was my dual citizenship.
I sold my house and all belongings and moved to the west of Ireland the beginning of 2019. Clean slate entirely, I felt open to embrace any experience not harmful to myself or others. Would I be in a relationship again? With what type of person? So far I feel just as queer as ever but have no interest in sharing this life that was so hard to find.
I have only told two people since moving here that I am queer. This is the safest I have ever felt and I dont know if its because of where I am, or because I am not out. Or maybe I am out, but I just am not constantly being reminded of it. I haven’t had a drink in nearly 25 years. When I first moved here i washed dishes in the local pub. It was the first anniversary of my mother’s death and I had decided to have a shot of whisky after my shift. I had it all planned. When I washed the last dish and finished mopping the floor I headed out to the front of the pub. But i just kept walking out the door and up the road to home.
Story submitted by Brónach Uisce.