Sonia Ruiz

Week six of college, Corona in hand, I lied through my teeth: “I’m starting to think less about being gay.” Maybe it wasn’t a lie because I didn’t know I was lying. Either way, I didn’t know that I was just getting started. Now, I spend most hours thinking about how I’m queer. It’s casual commentary, a lens through which I view my every action and a weight I carry. Feeling beautiful is heavy, a workout.

I don’t push myself at the gym because it feels silly. I push myself all day and in my dreams. I push out what I’ve been taught and what others think of me. I push out the slurs, the indifference and the thoughts they may be thinking about me. I pull in, dreaming about having wet dreams again and letting myself indulge in the lust this time.

I walk through the airport, and I throw back my shoulders. I wonder if they think I am strutting; I wonder what my gait tells them about me. I wonder if I would look fierce with earrings or if they will debate: “Is he an abomination or a mistake?” Maybe they will think I am confused, or maybe they will be kind enough to not care. It is hard to tell what people think when they joke about you, when they tell you they love you, when they tell you to be proud, when pride is their corporate responsibility, and of course when they appropriate pride, when they say they don’t care, yet they care enough to critique pride and when pride is only one tiny part of one month of one year.

It is a strange thing to wish people did not care about you, or what you do to your body. Maybe it is strange to me because I am a cisgender male and no one is passing laws about what I can do to my body, only judgements.

My body is limp sometimes, so my arms and legs swing, and the momentum keeps me going, but then, when I stop, I collapse. My feet are like bricks at the ends of long fulcrums and with my mouth ajar I start to drool. Sometimes, just sometimes, I need rest between sets — a moment to stop holding my own inhibitions and what the world might think at bay. A moment where I concede that one day I will not shape this world so that it is made for people like me and remember that it is not my task in the first place.

I wonder how I have the energy to orbit whiteness and heteronormativity all the time. To always face inward from the outside while a certain gravity holds me in place. Jupiter is my favorite planet: large, stormy, confident, beautiful and radiant. But even she orbits the sun in a solar system that spins along the edge of the milky way. Revolving requires strength, but I must also find the strength to break out of orbit. This is the lesson I had to learn; there must always be strength for buts and ands: surviving and thriving, healing and learning.

I am sitting around the firepit in my friend’s yard. It is 60 degrees in Florida, so we are all bundled up with blankets and sitting as close to the pit as possible. My friend’s mother starts dispensing her sage advice. I smile and nod and laugh as appropriate, thinking about how I must learn these lessons for myself. “The girl who gets to marry you is going to be real lucky” she told me, and I thanked her, appropriately, for the compliment.

Corona in hand, I had felt confident. I drank the beer, relishing in it and in triumph. Here I was with friends and out. I was confident because I had surmounted. I had come out on my FOOT trip, and I had come out to my friends. It would not be until the end of that year that I would learn that I was confident and strong. A few weeks after that beer, I came out to my mother and had to comfort her as she cried and told me I was wrong about my sexuality. I felt strong after navigating my first love and relationships without anyone’s advice because I couldn’t yet talk about it. I felt strong after tackling my anxiety and pretending to be straight at home.

Strength is about being patient and kind and persistent and tolerant and loving and hardworking in so many different scenarios so many different times. It’s about what it takes to keep being and doing.

Frankie | .