My villain origin story
I get mostly the same response when I tell people where I’m from: Oklahoma.
Now to get you to imagine…
I’m a loud effeminate gay that dresses in more pastels and neons than an acid trip.
And I don’t take kindly to others telling me how to act and what to do.
I’ve had my personality compared to the anti-hero and my husband occasionally jokes about me being a demon-twink.
(But that is mostly when we are shopping and I don’t get my way.)
Point blank, I’m a fairy, a poof, a homosexual, a faggot.
And by now you’re thinking “his home was middle America? The Bible Belt? Yikes.”
Yes. That’s the response I usually get.
As I’m writing this the news is swamped with questions on what could happen to the future of Lawrence v. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodges, since Roe v. Wade was just overturned.
I remember being in high school in 2004 when the Oklahoma House of Representatives, by a vote of 92 to 4, approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. And then later in the year when Oklahoma voters approved Oklahoma Question 711, a constitutional amendment which banned same-sex marriage.
I also remember living in Portland and encountering the epiphanous day of the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges while I was working at the county building, and the amount of celebration and joy we all felt. We could finally get married to the love of my life.
So how does home fit into that kind of picture?
It’s difficult. I want to be proud of where I grew up but even with the disgrace and shame from the culture I grew up with I do have fond memories of my childhood.
But that does not aid or even come close to resolve the terror and trauma I as a queer person experienced growing up in the culture.
The bullies roughed me up because I acted too much like the girls. The threats of violence and vile homophobic epitaphs screamed at me by strangers.
“You’re gonna have to move to somewhere like Cali or San Fran if you want to live like that.”
It’s disgusting that children should experience that from the age of five onward.
See not only are these things important to me as someone that is queer, but also because I’m a survivor of years of electroshock ex-gay therapy.
The amount of shame and self hatred that these religious institutions forcibly embed in us is worse than evil.
And seeing how my own humanity is protected by the law comparatively from Oklahoma to Oregon, is depressing.
As I am writing this, twenty of the states ban conversion therapy for minors, including Oregon. And 22 states have no state law or policy, including Oklahoma.
In fact the Movement Advancement Project tracks over fifty different LGBTQ related laws and policies and the categories of laws covered by their policy tally include: Relationship & Parental Recognition, Nondiscrimination, Religious Exemptions, LGBTQ Youth, Health Care, Criminal Justice, and Identity Documents.
Oregon falls in one of the highest tallys in the top fifteen. While Oklahoma has received a negative tally being actively harmful for LGBTQ rights with eight other states.
I urge you to visit lgbtmap.org to understand what we are dealing with.
I will never be safe and able to thrive where I grew up.
I wish I could sit here and tell you I am excited when I get on the plane to Oklahoma for a visit back to family. But with the state of the churches encroaching on our personal rights, freedom of expression, and bodily autonomy, I dread traveling to any place with such a draconian culture.
The culture shock alone is enough to kill you.
Home has become somewhere I’ve had to search for and build for myself over years. It’s become the nude beach where I can be one with nature and contemplate the deepest quandaries of my psyche. It has become my husband and our friends. And all the late nights and rowdy New Year’s Eve parties that left me hungover for weeks.
Home has become the gay bars where I cry at the overwhelming power, beauty, and courage of some of my favorite drag queens. And the momentous longing I get for the pride parade every year that I get to march in and celebrate the fact that god made me perfect.
Of course it’s also my apartment where I express myself in my recording studio and publishing house with my angry little kitten.
Home is what we make it.
But the issue at hand is that so many of us queer people are at a disadvantage without the resources to build a life for ourselves to not only thrive, but to merely survive.
I hope that you are able to find and build that safety and freedom for yourself.
We must scream our queer joy loudly and give our selves permission to not only take up space in this world, but celebrate that we exist.
Timothy Arliss OBrien is an interdisciplinary artist in music composition and writing. He has premiered with The Astoria Music Festival, Cascadia Composers, and ENAensemble’s Serial Opera Project. He has published several books of poetry, (The Art of Learning to Fly, Dear God I’m a Faggot, Happy LGBTQ Wrath Month), and has written for Look Up Records (Seattle), and Deep Overstock: The Bookseller’s Journal. He also hosts the podcast The Poet Heroic, and manages the digital magic space The Healers Coven.
He also showcases his psychedelic makeup skills as the phenomenal drag queen Tabitha Acidz.
Check out more at: www.timothyarlissobrien.com