Do you remember when you first heard the great queer creation myth? Of course you do; we all do. I heard it for the first time when I was fifteen, just after I’d been recruited to the Lesbian Conspiracy and given my starter pack (ten varieties of herbal tea, socket wrenches, copy of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, leather jacket, rescue kitten). There was a vegan potluck for all the new inductees at a loft apartment over an auto shop. Our mentors sat us down and lit some sage and passed out eggless carrot muffins, and then they told us the story.
I don’t think about it much anymore and I’m sure you don’t either. But we’re in a weird time right now, a time when a hoggish greed-driven airheaded racist blowhard is trying to bully his way into command of the world’s largest military by spewing a stream of the purest bullshit every time someone shoves a microphone under his nose.
Come November, a whole bunch of white male Americans are going to do their best to drag the world down a big, greasy, Trump-shaped hole, and it’ll be largely up to women, people of colour, queers, and minorities to pull on the other end of the rope. (If you’re one of the people who will be trying to put out that trash fire, please accept my humble thanks, and that of the world. Be sure to get lots of sleep and plenty of protein. We’re going to need you at peak fighting form.)
In the meantime, though, why not get a bit nostalgic, and remember why we’re needed?
In the beginning, so we say, the magical sparkly sky-unicorn created the universe. Then it sat around and twiddled its hooves for a few billion years until humankind evolved. Then it popped out of a burning bush and was all, “Tsup guys? Let’s go have brunch.”
Over that brunch, and the many brunches that followed, the magical sparkly sky-unicorn revealed the secrets of creation. It taught humankind how to take small pointy rocks and bash them into smaller and pointier rocks. It explained why it was generally a bad idea to light one’s own head on fire. It made a great big chart out of sticks and mud to diagram all of the situations in which it was, and was not, advisable to wear pants.
Once it was done with the kindergarten lessons, the unicorn started in on the serious stuff.
“You have to understand about truth,” it said. “Because truth is the thing that creates a shared universe. Liars live in a world of shadows cast by their own selfish wishes. They see only what they want to see, and hear nothing but echoes. If you want to know the world in all its colour and splendour, if you want to live with others without always being afraid, then you must seek the truth with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength.”
And the people answered him, saying, “Okay, gotcha. But how do we know what the truth is?”
And the unicorn said “Well, um. It’s kinda complicated. But you should start by carefully observing the world around you.”
And the people said, “Okay, good. So the truth is that the world is ginormous and stars are itty-bitty, and the sun is a burning spot the size of a walnut stuck in the big blue bowl overhead.”
And the unicorn said, “No. No. Look, I told you it was complicated. You have to go deeper than the surface of things. The truth encompasses reality beyond what you can sense.”
And the people said, “Realities beyond what we can sense, got it. So we’ll find a man who says that angels talk to him in his sleep, and we’ll dress him up in a robe and a funny hat and believe whatever he tells us to believe.”
And the unicorn said, “Are you serious? Really? No. Just no. Look, hang on a second.”
And there was a brief pause while the unicorn had a stiff drink.
Presently, the unicorn tried again. “Look. Truth isn’t just observation or faith. You have to take facts and then sift them. You have to look at things with an open but critical mind, until you find the great principles that underlie everything.”
And the people, who by now were getting impatient, said, “O-kay. So the truth is whatever scientists say it is.”
And the magical unicorn said, “Well, um, better but still no. Because scientists should always be working to refine and improve their knowledge. Also, you’re a few thousand years away from developing a body of sound science. Right now, you people still use crocodile poop for birth control, so-oo-oo-oo…”
And the people said, “Well, then, we give up.”
And the magical unicorn said, “No, don’t do that.”
And the magical unicorn stomped around the clearing for a while, deep in thought, and then stomped around backwards, just because it could.
At last, the magical unicorn said, “All righty, here’s an idea. I can’t tell you exactly what truth is, so I’ll show you instead.
“I’m going to create people who’ll be born with a truth inside them, a truth linked to their soul at the root. It’ll be a truth about their own inmost nature, about who they are and what they want and what they’ll become, one that they can’t deny or change without breaking themselves in two.
“But here’s the clever bit. They won’t be able to learn their truth from their mother or schoolmaster or physician or priest. They won’t learn it from what they see, or what they’re taught, or what they’re told. They’ll have to seek it within themselves, seek it in spite of every discouragement, in spite of fear and contempt, hatred and horror. Seek it until they find, within the dark and secret places of their own soul, that piece of truth shining.
“Now, mind you, they won’t be special people otherwise. Some of them will probably be kind of crap, because that’s how humanity works.
“But they’ll still be a good thing for the world. Because each of them will have the same keystone in the story of their lives, a memory of how they fought through fear and ignorance to find a truth that they could no longer deny. And, in living, they shall be a sign to my people that ye shall get off your fucking butts and do likewise.
“And I shall give a name unto them, and I shall call them Queers. Except some of them will be transgendered or nonbinary persons who do not identify as queer, which is also totally cool. And what the hell, they’ll use rainbows for decoration a lot. No reason. I just like rainbows. Frickin’ unicorn all up in this bitch, y’all.”