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“BLESSED ARE THE SISSIES BLESSED ARE THE BOI DYKES BLESSED ARE THE PEOPLE OF COLOR MY BELOVED KITH AND KIN BLESSED ARE THE TRANS BLESSED ARE THE HIGH FEMMES BLESSED ARE THE SEX WORKERS BLESSED ARE THE AUTHENTIC BLESSED ARE THE DIS-IDENTIFIERS BLESSED ARE THE GENDER ILLUSIONISTS BLESSED ARE THE NON-NORMATIVE BLESSED ARE THE GENDERQUEERS BLESSED ARE THE KINKSTERS BLESSED ARE THE DISABLED BLESSED ARE THE HOT FAT GIRLS BLESSED ARE THE WEIRDO-QUEERS BLESSED IS THE SPECTRUM BLESSED IS CONSENT BLESSED IS RESPECT BLESSED ARE THE BELOVED WHO I DIDN’T DESCRIBE, I COULDN’T DESCRIBE, WILL LEARN TO DESCRIBE AND RESPECT AND LOVE AMEN”—Mark Aguhar, “Litanies to my heavenly brown body”
“LITANIES TO MY HEAVENLY BROWN BODY (CONTD): BLESSED ARE THE SISSIES BLESSED ARE THE BOI DYKES BLESSED ARE THE PEOPLE OF COLOR MY BELOVED KITH AND KIN BLESSED ARE THE TRANS BLESSED ARE THE HIGH FEMMES BLESSED ARE THE SEX WORKERS BLESSED ARE THE AUTHENTIC BLESSED ARE THE DIS-IDENTIFIERS BLESSED ARE THE GENDER ILLUSIONISTS BLESSED ARE THE NON-NORMATIVE BLESSED ARE THE GENDERQUEERS BLESSED ARE THE KINKSTERS BLESSED ARE THE DISABLED BLESSED ARE THE HOT FAT GIRLS BLESSED ARE THE WEIRDO-QUEERS BLESSED IS THE SPECTRUM BLESSED IS CONSENT BLESSED IS RESPECT BLESSED ARE THE BELOVED WHO I DIDN’T DESCRIBE, I COULDN’T DESCRIBE, WILL LEARN TO DESCRIBE AND RESPECT AND LOVE AMEN”—
Virtual Mourning: A Eulogy For Someone We Never Knew
When Mark died— or when it really sunk in and I truly believed that Mark had died— the first thought I had was that it threw my theory about queer virtuality right out the window.
Mark was a caustic and alluring presence on Tumblr. Tumblr is a blog platform comprised of various communities, many of which I’ve seen intersect over issues of gender politics, queer advocacy and the politics of marginalized identity. What it means, what it feels like to be fat, to be weird, to be queer, to be trans*, to be other, to be Othered. There are the fierce feminists who post images of crochet patterns reading “My Body Is A Battleground.” There is the legion of gay male-identified performance artists who post screen caps of shirtless Christopher Meloni and ironic Grindr encounters. There are queer people of color posting about what it’s like to be racialized, to be queer, to be fierce, to be Beyoncé and Mariah and Naomi. And then there was calloutqueen.
When I first found Mark, she terrified me. Here was someone who was relentless— who lived relentlessly, who was constantly questioning and interrogating and never allowing anyone she encountered to relax into their identity, into their privilege. Without ever speaking to me directly, calloutqueen called me out so many times on what I took for granted about gender, about beauty, about existence, about my comfortability with my position as a white cis-woman. She held me accountable for her pain— for the pain that anyone who is fighting for difference and agency inevitably has to feel.
She defied category. She railed against definition. She refused to stop being difficult, confusing, unapologetic for her own existence as marginalized, as next-level.
Mark frequently posted about her sadness, about her own exhaustion with the world’s limitations, about her sister’s recent suicide. She got it in a way that so few people do— to really experience the unbearable way that world cannot understand you— to feel the pain of loneliness, of boredom, of limitation. She was a beacon of a kind of consciousness that screamed out, fought breathlessly for the future— and exuded unapologetically a kind of darkness that was essential and real in its ugliness.
She was, for this pocket for the internet, an ambassador of a new code of beauty, and kindness, and understanding, and ruthless identity transformation. Mark was someone whose work you don’t realize is so important until they are gone.
A couple months ago, she posted a picture of a recent tattoo. A sigil, in honor of her sister: “to save me from drowning.” In a description of one of her works, Mark explained: “It’s that thing where you realize that your own attempts at passive aggressive manipulation and power don’t stand a chance against the structural forms of DOMINATION against your body.”
It feels terrifying and hopeless and stupid that I know that is what killed her. That no matter how sanctioned and sacred and full of love and inspiration the space you create for yourself online can be, that sometimes it does not change the crushing experience of an everyday reality that reifies an abject hatred and contempt for your existence.
I went to bed last night, defeated that we had lost a leader. I woke up this morning believing that out of the ashes of annihilation and despair, that Mark has left us with some hope.
As I write this, Tumblr is in mourning. My dashboard is a series of echoes of Mark’s work, her philosophies, her videos, and the people she affected. There are many eulogies like mine, most from people who knew Mark personally. And then there are the rest of us— those who never spoke to her, who only knew her through the presence she cultivated online— those of us who are asking, now, what is the appropriate expression of mourning for someone we never knew?
Last night, Colin Self presented a call to arms to the Tumblr-sphere. He posted a video of himself brushing his hair the way Mark used to, over and over again into an OCD level of smoothness, painting his lips a deep MAC red, pursing them like Mark did, lip-syncing breathlessly with Donna Lewis, “I Love You, Always Forever, near or far, closer together…” This morning, my dashboard is inundated with video after video that gayinterest has reblogged in tribute to Mark. People from all over tumblr painting their lips, brushing out their top-knots, lip-syncing to our anthems. We Found Love in A Hopeless Place. We Can Work It Out. More Than A Woman. Aretha’s Skylark (“Won’t you tell me where my love can be? … Won’t you lead me there?”).
We are taking up Mark’s work. We are using the echoes of her fierce presence, the archive of her virtuality that she has left behind, to create new work in her honor. We are using her same video platform in imitation, in tribute, in order to publicize Who She Was and Who She Is Becoming. We are using our queer internet videos to make her visible. We will ensure that she is seen.
I hope that her virtual archive doesn’t become a meme. That she is not as quickly forgotten as the popularity of her death has spread like wildfire over the internet. Who will keep up her virtual presence? What can ever replace calloutqueen? Which of us will break us out of the cycle of tribute and of imitation and lead us into the kind work that Mark would have wanted to create but didn’t have time to?
This is our project, now. This is our charge. Like everything else, it is terrifying, and daunting, and important.
And Mark has challenged us not to fuck it up.