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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2019

All Issues
JUNE 2019 Issue

MARKED SAFE/ For Stonewall 50th

I want to thank the maestro, Tim Gunn,
Heidi Klum, also every episode of Project Runway and Runway All-Stars,
Every Gay and Lesbian contestant that ever sewed, stitched sequins to dresses
or pantaloons,
every Queer who ever threw a tantrum, walked out and came back to win.
Thank you to the Jersey and Atlanta Housewives and spin-offs
To all their Queer Queen besties
I want to thank RuPaul and every Queen on every episode of Drag Race
Also, that dollar store cashier I ran into with my mother in small town Massachusetts
who actually thought I was RuPaul and kept calling me, “Miss Honey.”
Thank you Oprah, her close friend designer Nate Berkus.
I extend apologies to the lover he lost when the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka.
I also want to thank Wal-Mart and the M to F trans person who worked
behind the register when my mother worked there as a greeter.
When eventually they were fired for wearing women’s clothes,
to my shock, my mother said, “That’s unjust and I think its discrimination.”
I want to thank that person wherever they are.
I want to thank that mixed race lesbian Josie on Top Chef
or some other cooking show.
I want to thank every LGBTQIA person on every show that my mother
watched religiously, because each and every one of them
in one way or another
prepared my mother at 84 years old for the Queer art catalogue I was a part of
that I brought home to show her called Cast of Characters.
Holding my breath, I handed it to her, asked her to guess of all the images
which was mine.
She saw the word queer first, “Why do they call yourselves that? That’s
like saying you’re Niggers.”
I tried to explain the concept of reclaiming language used against us.
My mother refused to listen.
She thumbed through the images, eyes wide with wonder.
She knows I don’t usually show her stuff for many reasons.
She gave her opinion on each image.
“Ooooh this one with flowers,” she pointed. “I like this.”
The next was an image of a man with cock and balls out,
“I don’t like this one,” she said.
She persisted onto the next image.
“Pregnant butch,” she said out loud and giggled.
“A pregnant butch,” she said again as if fascinated by the idea.
“I don’t see yours, oh but here it is!
She fastened on a blue and red watercolor of figures gathered in grief
titled, 6 times.
“Its, the family of Stephon Clark,” I explained. “That Black kid from Sacramento
police shot in the back 6-8 times, unarmed in his backyard.
They said he was a burglar.”
“I wanted to paint the pictures of his family grieving because they had no voice
and were made invisible.”
My mother got quiet, mouthed something like aha
Her eyes narrowed and full, like when I visit and we watch shows
about slavery together/like in Roots when Chicken George has to leave his
son at the crossroads to gain freedom.
My mother wants to cry but doesn’t.
She commands me to show the Catalogue to my father.
Later, she asks to take a picture because she wants to show my near
90 year old Aunt.

On another front, In New York this year we are celebrating,
The 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
My Queer friends complain about all the festivities as
“The monster that ate NY,”
But I say I’m excited by it all
If only because I can go home to my family-
(Because of all of those queens and Kings before me,)
Marked safe.


Pamela Sneed

Pamela Sneed is a New York-based poet, writer, performer and visual artist. She is author of Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom than Slavery, KONG and Other Works, Sweet Dreams and a chaplet, Gift by Belladonna. She has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Time Out and Bomb. She appears in Nikki Giovanni's, “The One Hundred Best African American Poems.” A new chaplet, Black Panther, was recently published by Belladonna.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2019

All Issues