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 It came as a surprise that the doors were locked. We were informed by note, hastily scrawled on crumpled A4 paper, stuck to cold pane, with hard and hairy blu-tack, to wait for instructions. While we stood for too long in winter drizzle, and watched as uni(n)formed men frenziedly rubbed disinfectant into desk top veneer as if their lives would be forfeit. Doors opened by remote control – room keys strewn carelessly, and a slack gesture towards them as they ran to safety. Slatted blinds shivered as they watched from behind glass portal. A feeling of free fall pulled at our stomachs and we knew, oh we knew what they were thinking. It was written in fear, trembling on every wrinkle and soaking their brows with a coward’s sweat. Shaken by implications, we took the keys, blinds snapping shut in a tragic post-mid-life crisis game of peek-a-boo. We moved to our meeting room that now seemed alien, cold, unwelcoming. A pointed stench of disinfectant - green slicks of astringent pine accumulating in between terrazzo tiles - made our eyes run. Atmosphere thick and muted, devoid of salacious banter, a scheduled movie night – “Cruising,” with Al Pacino since you ask - replaced by an impromptu discussion that tried but failed to answer an elephantine question - ‘is this what it’s going to be like for us, now?’ Bewildered and tearful, we picked our coats and bags as a strident alarm splintered a tangible gloom. A lack of movement from other rooms and an empty stairwell raised suspicions and we learned that this noise was just for us - an underhand, craven way to alert us that security was ready to usher the unclean. Other meetings in other rooms had been informed - via neatly printed leaflets - that this tocsin was a test to be ignored. In previous weeks, we had shared many a ribald joke, but now ‘insecurity,’ as they were renamed had decided, without mandate or provocation, that we were now an unacceptable risk and that humiliation was the only answer to moral panic. Waiting for us on reception was a large glass jar filled with bleach and a hand-written message instructing us to: “drop the keys in the jar and leeve.”