This piece is featured in Issue No. 8 CUTIE BIPOC ISSUE


The Human Line
Where We Are

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  Such is the sage advice taught for millennia—a saying with meaning so very personal, so very beautiful and so very apropos to feeling that life is something worthy and delightfully just, pure, and joyful.  But, to be pedantic, living life in a place sometimes lacks this beauty; no matter how generous we may feel.  Being in place is a thing of chance, fortunate encounters, and is usually out of our control, no matter how much we may think we are making the right decisions, how much we may try to control our encounters, and no matter how much we stay conservative with attempts to “blend in.”

The heteronormative assumption is one of the big issues of BIPOC existence.  Existing in plain sight is how we are usurped into a multi-cultural society.  It is, in fact, infectiously binding.  When entering into this part of society—where everyone shares the same need to commiserate and address the BIPOC existence—we start to hold our secrets more tightly: our identities are purposely separated into “real” and “not really,” and our support of one another is separated into “real” and “not really.”  Perhaps our ability to blend in has never been so apt or so great than in our navigation of our own ancestral culture.

Never introducing the “other half of me,” is literally telling tall tales and lies all the time.  It is funny, because it actually becomes “the thing”—the elephant—in the room.  It doesn’t matter if my BIPOC family lives in the same city—Toronto—we still engage in this way.  We literally negotiate around the façade of my heteronormative life.  They expect me to be involved in some sort of expected “relationship escalator,” going towards marriage, children, and wealth.  Our only safety net becomes our shared struggle against the white, patriarchal society in which we are cocooned.  Acknowledging how together we are worthy, how we can live in a bigger society where we are discriminated against almost every day.  Choosing how to fight our battles regulates our strengths and allows us to pool our experiences and advice to each other and helps us to help each other.  A way to stay strong.  Perhaps when life is handing out lemons, we choose our desired lemons so the lemonade is better.

Being forthright about my queer identity is actually a part of my façade when living and working outside my ancestral family.  This world is something that allows queerness in people when the queerness is an acceptable thing of the package—a sort of asset in the hay.  Being conversant about sexuality is like a password to the world, giving me a value beyond my appearance as a minority.  The terms of engagement become something.  The dominant culture allows me to fight side-by-side with them.  Our common struggle for acceptance and equality.

Queerness actually has a hand-hold.  It is entrenched in North America’s Charter—that word-for-word—we are protected against real and true discrimination.  Our voices are loud and strong.  Our strength is coming from our life experience of living queerly.  We speak in real, serious, and official, as well as in, casual terms.  We show, we prove, we are, different—but most importantly—we are real.  Our existence actually contributes to life, culture, and wealth.  The contribution is becoming more and more as our music, our style, our fashion, our literature, and our space-taking happens.  We live in everyone’s neighbourhood.  We have children.  We purchase cars and we are seen on vacation, travelling around the world.  We are on television.  In movies.  People laugh, with us.  People can address us in ways directly, as well as in conversation with their friends, peers, co-workers, feeling sure that what they see, know, and understand is something real.  Their feelings happened for real.  Their thoughts happened for real.  Their reactions are allowed…..  The fear and the need to speak of the emotional reaction is understood.  People recognize that we are dressing the way we dress not because it is like a fad, it is our culture.

My queerness allows me to approach people and things that would normally want nothing to do with me.  I still avoid being militant—though I recognize that feminism and gay rights first broke via militant demonstration against the heteronormative patriarchy.  It is divisive when our BIPOC allies stand together.  We cannot speak for each other.  Our words, our voices, and our meanings cannot be spoken in one phrase together.  We are alone.  We are lonely.  We cannot be together.  The moment we start to hold hands and collaborate together, we lose our identity and substance.  We disappear into a hetero-patriarchal-white blur.

Is it understandable that my words have double meaning for me?  That the English I speak comes in both definition and translation?  That having one foot in two different places—at least—forces me to choose my battles?  Makes me a better artist?  Allows me to choose my words?   That my desires and my work take a different spin.  My world exists in a different way than what the majority feels and experiences.  I can influence others because of my difference.  That being exposed to the things in my world allows me to make connections through time and space.

The value of people and things are always in flux.  Creativity is a trait recognizable in our work when we realize that creativity happens when different, contrasting things are made relatable to each other.  When we have trouble accepting the value in the things we can see, we automatically marginalize it.  This type of discrimination is valued.  It is called “critical discernment.”  It affects all the things we do in a day.

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Sylvia Frey

Sylvia is a writer and visual artist living and working in Toronto. She also flirts, makes love, and falls in love in Toronto too. These things keep her here, and for some reason, won’t let her go.