Here For Love

we look for safe spaces and find this instead
words once tossed as a stuttering defense thrown back
to the unfortunates entering a labyrinth of identities
they need comfort, the promise to be understood
they get exclusion wrapped around a pretty smile
this is not pride, this is hatred, this is forgetting about our own humanity
under long lost claims to a haven that was meant to be shared
please—I thought we were here for love

they’re on a trip
a beach in the summer, their nails gritty
with the wear of volleyball in the sun-bleached sand
they pile seaweed and salt on a boy and a girl
as they hold hands, just getting used to the way
their voices sound, the hormonal differences in their bloodstream,
the way it feels to say new names for each other that fit
like their birth names never could
“freaks!” call the gay boys from the sidelines
they don’t even mean it
they mean to hurt the bullies that taunted them, but they’re too angry
to tell the difference

he sits in his bedroom
writing messages to the kids who blog about happiness
who post about silver linings and sunbeams and morning glories
he asks them if they’ve ever been disowned but every one of them
has felt the sting of not belonging
they wake up every day and choose to clench their hands around the moment
they realized they weren’t wanted

he tries on new pronouns like he used to put on jewelry
peeling off the old and searing on the new
but he goes to school with dishonor hanging over his head,
with his peers from the Gay Straight Alliance telling him
he was always such a pretty girl and that there are some things you just can’t do for attention
that being a lesbian was one thing but this is blasphemy and he just
wants to be a boy for one
more
week

they don’t want to graduate
they don’t want to hear their birth name called across the stage,
the applause for a fake identity that even their boyfriend uses
he’s been out and proud for as long as anyone can remember
“I thought you were just gay
like me”

she complains to her boyfriend that she’s not gonna cheat
that having a wider pool of attraction doesn’t mean
she can’t keep herself away
but all he sees is room for more
an exoticism added to his girlfriend
It’s why he’s proud to call himself an ally

this is not acceptance
this is writing over the identities that need understanding, not a glimmer of romanticism
remember—we are the kids who fit in because we are different
remember how we used to wander the halls without the comfort of our name tags, please—
I thought we were here for love

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