poet. writer. imposter.
I’m often asked why I don’t write more about being queer. I find this to be an odd question. As far as I’m concerned, all of my poetry is queer poetry. From my perspective, it can be nothing else. All of my thoughts and observations are queer ones. In only the second overtly queer poem I’ve written, I recount an event that happened when the full-on HIV panic of the mid-80s took hold.
Picture the scene: A group of students arrive for the weekly GaySoc meeting…
Learning Shame and Anger in the Midst of a Moral Panic. The doors were locked and we were informed by a hastily scrawled not (paper crumpled) and stuck to the pane, with hard and hairy blu-tack, to wait for instructions. We stood for too long in the winter drizzle, watching as uniformed men wiped the reception desk, frenziedly rubbing disinfectant into the veneer as if their lives would be forfeit. They placed the keys on the table and opened the door remotely from the safety of the office. Watching from behind beige blinds. With the feeling free falling lift pulling at our stomachs we saw what they were thinking. It was written in fear, trembling on every wrinkle and soaking the brow with a coward’s sweat. Shaken we took the keys and the blinds snapped shut; in a callow game of peek-a-boo. The meeting room seemed alien, cold, unwelcoming. The astringent pine stench of disinfectant (green slicks accumulating in between tiles) made our eyes run. The meeting was muted, devoid of the usual salacious gags, the scheduled movie night – “Cruising,” with Al Pacino since you ask - and rambunctious hilarity, replaced by an impromptu discussion that tried - but failed - to answer the bewildered question ‘is this what life is going to be like, now?’ As the end of the meeting approached, the fire alarm sounded. We picked our coats and bags and left. The alarm was just for us; an underhand and craven way to alert us that security were ready to usher us from the building. The other meetings had been informed that the alarm was a test and should be ignored. Neatly printed leaflets in every room but ours. In previous weeks, we had shared many a ribald joke but they had decided, without mandate or provocation, that we were now an unacceptable risk and that humiliation was the only answer to the moral panic choking the country. Waiting for us on the reception desk was a large glass jar filled with bleach and a message instructing us to: “drop the keys in the jar and leeve.”