girl of hugs

y o u   a r e   q u e e r


liking girls
loving girls
kissing girls
holding hands with girls
fighting with girls
crushing on girls
hugging girls
breaking up with girls
leaving girls
fucking girls
sleeping beside girls
growing with girls
girls loving girls

your mother tells you
“if you cut your
hair like that
they will think you are
a lesbian”
she warns you
“it happened to my friend
women hit on her in bars”
you don’t want them to
you are a lesbian
as if the worst thing
you could be
is gay

fear is taught
by those trusted and loved
assuming you are like them
that you are naturally
disturbed by queerness
must be told not
to discriminate
though you were not horrified
only told there’s
something bad about
you must resist repulsion

they want you to know
that those others are
bad evil disgusting
you must tolerate
those gay others
you were taught this
you don’t learn love
you learn covered hate
you unlearn hate
inside you
to open to love
from outside you

different, gross, ugly
do they know?
could they see it
on you when
you kissed a girl
soft lips
warm skin
but it was only a dare

the moon becomes your mother
sheltering you, reminding you
of the light that is reflected upon you
from the generations of disconnected people
who love bodies like their own
hearts like your own
like you

she and the earth and the sun and the ocean
they pull and attract, spinning
over eons
in the darkness and shadows and blinding light
you are the moon
hiding in plain sight
(in)visible to the naked eye

only thirteen
looking at her
you tell yourself you just
really like fashion
it’s her style you like
you aren’t
you crush on all the boys
you make sure
everyone knows you are
boy crazy

“what would you do if
there was a lesbian in the
locker room?

hiding from yourself
lying to yourself
you didn’t want to be
don’t let yourself become that
do not accept it
you worry
tell yourself it’s not true
there’s no way you could be one of those

that word
spit from a thousand mouths
like disgust and anger
how could you be one of those
that word
drips with venom
and bites like a dagger
each time it’s stuck in your side
even now

“she’s my lesbian lover!”
their laughter bubbles up
and surrounds you like
a wall with no windows
your best friends
it’s a joke

why does it hurt so
is it the history of insults flung
or because you are not a woman
(are you a woman?)
you cannot know
both. maybe.

childhood sleepovers
pillows fluffed and slippers on
playing truth or dare
always hoping they dare you
to kiss one

makeovers done with glittering makeup
the intimacy of
her hand on your skin
her breath on your neck
her legs straddling yours
to get the right angle
to dust the pink powder over my skin

“it’s okay to be gay
as long as you don’t shove it
in my face”

only straight couples
in the hallways at school
in the movies on tv
in the books you read
in the songs you listen to
in the photos you see
in the jokes on twitter
in your friends
in your parents
you hear your mother has a friend
who is married to her wife
and you hold back tears as you ask
to meet her

every action political
mere existence radical
life debatable
identity controversial
tolerance celebratory
respect rare

expectations narratives and tropes
your story written out before
you can live it
“so brave”
they want to hear
your struggle
to commend you on
your strength
only after you come out

you won’t can’t don’t
allow yourself to consider
a crush
on a girl
that’s not an option
you will not let that happen

you see how they react
when they find out
a friend is gay
congratulations to themselves
they resisted their urge of revolt
they did not recoil in disgust
congratulations for they
did not hit you
they instead paused
and said something uniquely tolerant
what a good friend

you are straight
until proven guilty
of being queer

coming out is
saying that they were wrong
saying they thought you were straight
they never asked, though
never thought to ask
“do you like girls too?”

the world created to cater
you are inherently radical
you do not ask
to become a walking
you speak out
for those unable to

only a few come out
how can they know
one or two of them
“isn’t he so flamboyant?”
another year passes
rumors whispered
hand cupped to ear
“I heard she’s gay”
you don’t want them to think
you could be too
fascinated yet terrified
you show horrified curiosity

time pressing on
anxiety building
you fear the
slowly you notice
accept these small
things that make you
so very gay
surrounded by those like you
no fear of how people
could react
you make small

one day you tell your roommate
“this makes me look so butch”
you say it over
and over
tasting the word on
your tongue
until it feels safe

could you live forever
every day of your life
trying to hide yourself
from yourself
lying to yourself?

you guess
you always knew
you were
queer (different)
you didn’t like it
but you had to accept it
becoming honest with yourself
you become honest with others

to Come Out would be too
much giving the straight people
your allies
their satisfaction
consuming your experience
using it to further their performance
of support

the annoyance of being mislabeled
your unwillingness to come out
in subtle ways
in small moments
just making small comments
you don’t have a moment when
you knew you were gay
but you know when you
stopped trying
to be straight

they say those people
are so unusual
exotic and strange
listen to the names we call
so unlike anyone here
of course
your professor teaches
like we don’t know
what queerness is like

you feel yourself evaporating
body dissolving
the floor opens up into the earth
swallowing you whole
you descend as
the professor drones on
“let’s watch this video”

it hurts
so much you become numb
you are shaking
cold in the sweltering heat of summer
gripping your desk
wanting nothing more than to
run from the room
but you cannot miss information
it could be on the test

quickly your feet fly
to bring you home
collapse and heave
sob and cry
you are so alone

even here
they say it’s not here
you are supposed to be
safe here
they are not hateful here
but you still feel it

their fear of you
disgust of you
discomfort of you
even in this haven
they don’t think they are

you are not a woman
how do you tell
your parents’ parents
that you are not the gender
they think you are
when they cannot get their own
dog’s pronouns right

how can you hope for
compassion and respect
when people debate
your existence
your reality and validity

even your most loved
with nothing to say to you
that won’t hurt

“I don’t know how I
feel about that”

let down
you can’t expect more
no one believes in you
not existing
like a myth you are
a god

ask for more?
that’s too much
you are asking for too much
is your virtue

you cannot ask for
love compassion respect
the world does not know
what you are
let them catch up
be reasonable

you call yourself
but others look shocked
you cannot say that
but what are you
how can they categorize
how can they treat you
it’s not for you
you’re too young

you call yourself
but it’s not about sex
for you
they say you try to be
too unique
snowflakes must melt

you call yourself
but you can’t be
you’ll just cheat
on her

you question your
you dated boys
you kissed boys
did you love them
did you love him
can your orientation change
does boys and girls
mean bi
you love her now
was it not real before
you said the words

what do they think
of you now
those boys
the ones who held
your icy hands
took you on
forest walks with
hidden kisses
tossed you flying disks
and sloppy kisses

to come out
you won’t come out
they put you there
they assumed
you change your status:
in a Relationship

you cannot show her
what will her family
but you tell people
she is nice
lovely and bright
like sunshine
warming my skin

some of your friends
from younger days
and you have not
since spoken
drifting and growing apart
or did they choose
do they not approve

you discover
(girl) crushes
from your youth
all those girls
you wanted friendship
she was just so pretty
you wanted
to be her friend
you learned all about
just friends
you see it was another
lie you made
for yourself
to convince yourself
you were not

you do not worry
here in this corner
of a town of a county of a state of a nation
of a world
what they think of
your orientation
but your gender
is not one you will
tell anyone

desire urge pause regret shame
to tell everyone
your gender
your pronouns
what you are
what you are not
but you stop yourself
don’t. not yet.
it’s not the right time
they’re not ready
what will those people

public bathrooms
ever feared by queers
squeezed too tightly into
the boxes and
lines and boundaries
of gender
now locations of anxiety
you know which
are busy
you avoid those
choosing safer rooms
no gender specified

“is this the men’s room?”
the two girls say
loudly enough for you
and the other person
to hear
it echoes
rattles off the
tiled walls
you bow your head
avoid eye contact
was it you
or them
or both of you
why did they say it

mention a partner
your girlfriend
boldly without fear
or thinking
then silence as
they rush to gather the
appropriate response
your face filling with blood
flushing with blush
a mistake
you made

queerness is
being a category of
not suitable for children to see
not safe

easier to see yourself
and your partner
in porn
than in the media
you are

you are not lesbian
and neither is she
but together
they call you hot
in the same moment
another one glares

“I think you are gayer
than you think”
she assures
you are scared
delighted you join
a team where you
always are on the same

queerness is
of showing affection
being caught
being found
outed the threatening world

leaving home
you slowly find more
surrounding yourself
they teach you
there are many ways
to be gay

they chant
“femmes and queers
to the front!”
at the house shows
you are valued
they don’t ask
which one you are

against a fierce winter wind
her love warms you
shining upon your skin
her eyes glittering
deep amber ringed by the ocean
your scars aligned
mirrored pain from before
memory upon your elbows

moon tugs on oceans
love tugs on hearts
her kisses on your cheek pull
you in closer
down down down
into a deep blood black red heat
hot fire
passion oozing

-Frances Dierken, June 2016

In this work I express my experience with queerness in the heteronormative, heterosexist, homophobic, and transphobic Western Washington and Seattle area culture. I chose to write in a freeform, unstructured, uncapitalized, and generally unpunctuated style in order to represent my queerness as it is inherently counter-hegemonic and radical. This work has been both fear-inducing and cathartic. Encountering these lived experiences that I have only vaguely pondered on one end and individually considered on the other, I combine them into one piece. Connecting these once-scattered autobiographical thoughts into a single poem is a method not only for me to express myself, but also to consider broader implications of my own experience. 

Recently I submitted this piece for a friend’s queer anthology and I’ve been getting feedback that it’s been meaningful for them to read and that they’ve had similar experiences. So I just want to put this out there and available. I haven’t really posted poetry on this blog in literal years but here you go!