Why is it great to be a queer icon? I would never say myself that I am an "icon," but I am definitely queer, to the bone. Nothing is going to change that, but because I am part of the queer community and feel loved and cherished here.
OK -– me, little old me –- I am a queer icon! (I am totally blushing right now -- OMG!) And I love it.
The main reason I love it is because when I am performing for my mostly queer and awesome straight ally audiences, I feel safe. Safety is something I need because I have never felt safe in my skin, in my mind, in my heart.
Whenever I enter a comedy club, my natural habitat and spiritual home when I am performing becomes suddenly hostile when I am not. There’s always a chance that the comic onstage is going to attack me, or someone like me. As a queer Asian American feminist, I am always at risk, as my existence, or whatever, is perceived to be some kind of fodder for bad jokes from hack comedians.
The homophobia, racism and sexism I hear and feel constantly is taken as trivial. I have been told time and time again, it’s just a joke. Who cares?
Well, I care, and it hurts me. It dehumanizes me and adds to the invisibility I already feel, which also doesn’t make sense. How can being singled out and abused make you feel like you aren’t even there? In the alchemy of bigotry, it does.
Safety is important to people like me, and my shows are where people can truly feel safe and visible and real and I am grateful I can do that. It’s better than magic. It’s relief. The burdens of race, sexuality and gender are lifted. It’s OK to be you and me when we are together.
Once, this beautiful gay boy told me that at his new school he felt bullied and alone and too scared to come out to anyone, fearing he was what everyone already suspected and taunted and teased him for. He put my picture on his binder, and held it in front of him as he walked down the frightening lonely halls and he knew that if anyone commented favorably on my presence there, that he was safe with them.
This way, he found other kids just like him, they became friends, and they felt brave together. I was able to make them safe, by not even being there. He thanked me and I cried.
I cried again when I heard that Michelle Shocked hates gays. I thought I was safe with her. “Anchorage” really got to me, as I took it to be a song about a gay girl and a straight girl who were once in love and then went their own ways (“Hey Chelle, we was wild then...”).
There are girls I dreamed about singing that song to, and now I can’t, and I never will.
Of course I am projecting, and maybe that song is not about that, but she still made me feel safe, and now she doesn’t.
That is a lot to lose. It’s OK. We got Ani Difranco, we got the Indigo Girls, we got Chely Wright!!! Replace your old Chelle Shocked with your new Chel -– Chely Wright!!!!!!!!!!
I don’t know what I am trying to say.
No, actually I do.
Listen, whoever you are, you are still safe with me. You will always be. Xo m