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A Queer Revelation

By River JoyPublished 3 months ago Updated 2 months ago 2 min read
Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

once when i was very young

i found the word gay

get caught in my throat like fire

preventing what should have been

a playful insult

it wasn't even the bad one

i still couldn't say it

born after the AIDs crisis

did you know AIDS was originally GRID?

Gay Related Immunodeficiency

but before it was cool

for celebrities and politicians to be allies

before our voices mattered

years later, but not too many

i couldn't sleep, and whispered

for the first time

i'm gay

barely loud enough to hear myself


shove it down

your life is tough enough

alive, awake during don't ask don't tell

you mean to tell me those

who are laying their lives

down for this country

cannot be who they are

-not out but young and passionate and scared

i saw a gay classmate

rage through the halls

when they wouldn't allow him to give blood

the teachers whispered

he's always a problem

always a problem

but he was fighting for his right

his acceptance

i stayed silent


shaken awake by a friend at a sleep over

phone shoved in my face

it's legal

it's legal

i cried deep sobs into her pillow


college someone wrote

f*gs will die

scrawled on a bathroom stall door

i stood in solidarity for the first time


i embraced my community

they embraced me

they gave me words

so many words

i am not a girl

i am not a boy

i am neither and both


the first time i wore a binder

i sent mirror selfies to

every single person i talked to

on a regular basis

look! i look like me.

is this gender euphoria

if my body looked like this

i'd wear dresses and suits and button down shirts

and all sorts of things


alive during the Pulse nightclub shooting

the tenseness of Pride in the city

that year was palpable.


alive for the bills that will kill trans youth

that will leave more lgbtq+ youth homeless


alive to see my identity boiled down

to who i fuck

and what bathroom i walk into


alive to have as much queer rage

as i do queer pride

alive to learn the value of that word

the one that burned in my throat

at such a young age

alive to learn about the sacrifices of my elders

alive to know at least

there are statistics on our deaths now

alive to hope that the lessons i learn

and continue to learn

through my journey of self discovery

will be lessons that dive deeper into society

instead of the misguided lesson

to use queer identity

as insult


About the Creator

River Joy

I make things with paint and words and light. I was once described as an asshole with Mr. Rogers vibes.


[email protected]

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock3 months ago

    I loved reading this, River. Hearing you read it brought tears to my eyes. Our son wanted to be the third generation to adopt (his birth mother was adopted into our family & we adopted him), to marry his boyfriend who he had just been allowed to escort to prom after lobbying hard to do so, & eventually to be an organ donor. When he died the Monday following prom in a car accident (returning home from delivering a prom dress as part of a service project he & a friend had started), they couldn't accept any of his organs because he had not been celibate. (My wife hadn't known for certain, but I'd accidentally walked in on him & his first boyfriend once upon a time.)

  • Omggg, I had no idea that AIDS was initially known as GRID!! That's so sad! Anyway, your poem was so powerful! Sending you lots of love and hugs ❤️

  • J. Delaney-Howe3 months ago

    River this is phenomenal. Got me in my feels.

  • Cathy holmes3 months ago

    Powerful piece. Well said.

  • Mother Combs3 months ago

    so emotionally powerful. <3

  • Rene Peters3 months ago

    This is so powerful and, for me, quite relatable. I love it!

  • Kenny Penn3 months ago

    Such a powerful message, River. The growth and self acceptance you’ve written is really inspiring. I’m glad you are Alive to write pieces like this

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