As a celebration of the season, I want to share author Randy Connor’s (Blossom Of Bone) reading of an ancient Sumerian myth. It heralds the birth of the Queer Ones:
Inanna, queen of heaven and earth hangs rotting on a meat hook. Erishkigel, queen of the underworld, tricks her sister to come for a visit then goddess-bitch slaps her to death.
The god of wisdom, however, shows compassion for our heroine.
He scrapes the dirt from beneath his fingernails and gives birth to two faeries. These magical creatures are neither male nor female. These queer beings possess the power to pass through the borders of hell unnoticed.
They are so beautiful they charm the Frost Queen into getting drunk and giving them the Waters of Life. Erishkigel passes out and the queer ones revive the Faery Queen with this sacred water. They all flee the underworld and spring is born.
Like all drag queens from hell they never give up a happy ending. Hung over and raging, the Holy Cunt curses us faeries: “You will never find passion unless it is in secrets and darkness. You will be feared and reviled! You will die alone in the gutters of your own betrayal!”
Inanna softens the wicked blow. She casts a spell into the future to remind us of our Faery spirit and believe that one day our love will once again shine.
My own mythic journey to the underworld began 10 years ago. Health Canada gifted a group of Victoria artists a small grant to explore the connection between HIV and internalized homophobia.
On the first day of spring — Mar 21, 1996 — we planned to perform “Happy Virus Day,” a spontaneous guerilla theatre piece. At 10am my doctor called to say the routine HIV test had returned positive.
In a trance-like state, I comforted the doctor, hung up, told my lover and friends and carried on with the day.
For the show, I donned a nylon stocking over my head, grabbed a microphone and video camera and hit the streets with my fellow performers. As the dancers confused passersby, I approached the unsuspecting audience and politely asked them if they personally knew anyone living with the virus. They all said no. I stuck out my hand and shook theirs. “My name is Robert. You do now.”
Months later, I vaguely remember crouching in a corner, staring at a wall for three days.
I don’t identify as being HIV-positive. Instead, I host a virus.
I expected it to be a good houseguest. For 10 years I have humbly set the metaphoric rules and guidelines for our entangled relationship, but now I am ready to ask it to pack its bags, evolve out of its parasitic state and move on.
While I nourished and nurtured this medicine-saturated body, I have had the luxury of time to determine what hangs rotting at the centre of my own psycho-cellular labyrinth.
HIV has cured me of being a lazy gay martyr. Living with a life threatening illness is hard work. Like an attention-starved child who acts out even if it means getting slapped, I unwittingly contracted this virus to learn the hard lesson of belonging.
I know I live on the sacrifice of my brothers’ and sisters’ deaths. I think of them as AIDS ancestors, deserving of my honour and respect. On this anniversary I ask myself: What am I willing to die for? I realize it’s the same as what they all did died for — a cure.
Last month I made my biannual pilgrimage to the Radical Faeries. I forgot my passport and birth certificate but slipped through customs by saying to the officers: “I need a little miracle today.” Asked where I was going I simply replied, “To a men’s spirituality gathering.”
For 27 years, Radical Faeries have gathered together to sit in a circle each morning and tell their heart’s stories. Communal meals transform into gender-fucking drag extravaganzas. While voices sing in the forest, naked bodies dance to the haunting tunes of a pan flute. Fat or thin, old or young, we play together by growing up together.
We massage one another in mountain-view hot tubs, flog one another in the stream-fed sauna or simply rest and relax amongst our queer brothers. On a great night, the performance art can destroy any last bastions of internalized conservatism. Some day I’ll tell you the one about the nude performance piece involving a bottle of Coke, a female condom and a straw.
The Faeries are one of a handful of communities where gay men treat one another graciously. Even the drag queens take good care of each other. It is here many of us learned to profoundly claim: “I belong.”
Queer magic runs deep. This winter I decided to heal the virus in me. On the night of the Masked Ball, I finally caught the eye of the earthiest, sexiest man in camp. I removed my mask and asked him if he wanted to play. We walked hand in hand to the love lounge.
Like two instinctive, passion-driven animals we got raw together. He asked me if I would let him fall in love with me for one night. I asked him if he would embrace the unwanted parts of my world and help me make love to HIV.
We agreed to these terms of healing. By surrendering our hearts and bodies to each other we sacrificed our hiding. We honoured our dead by affirming the life flowing through us.
This big sexy man melted into my arms and cried. I held him lightly and laughed with a quiet joy. In this rare moment, I imagined something of balance and order springing out of our passion, entering the World Body and dissolving the borders between light and darkness. Our sex becomes a shining mystery.
Sharing our stories can inspire and encourage a tougher love of life. They remind us that we all deserve our miracles.