This Queer Body

Fair warning for this one: I talk about my body a lot. If you know me and would feel weird seeing me do let’s say a fairly explicit sex scene in a movie, you may want to skip this (which makes me sad because I love this piece)

Something about writing in the bathtub makes me feel more in touch with my queerness. Surrounded by lemon-scented foam, luxuriating in nakedness, seeing and admiring my body the way I might a lover’s. This is an experience fundamentally unavailable to the straight world. To look down and fully see your glorious, sensual self; to stir in your own hot centre the carnal appetite your form is capable of awakening. In fact, as far as I can figure, it is a fundamental truth of almost all queer orientations. I must confess I am still too ignorant of the relationship many of our ace siblings have with carnal appetites in general, but that caveat aside, it is a line that divides us from the straight world. Perhaps it’s why ‘love yourself’ is a mantra reflected across queer history. Though I am and will always be a stranger to the experience, it seems to me that straight love relies on otherness – The first thing a straight person is looking for by definition, is difference, is the very thing (in their mind) that separates them fundamentally from “the opposite sex” – as if there’s such a thing as an opposite in any of that.

The soap has disappeared now, and everything is visible. The stale manicure I got before Christmas, reduced like Turkey Dinner to leftovers, flecks and shapes of sparkly red on three of my toenails. The hair on my legs, floated by the water into an aura of fine curls. My ghost cat tattoo, smiling unseen at me from under her sheet. Truly iconic calves, inherited As Is from my father and not, I assure you, the product of any intentional effort on my part. Thicc thighs, which have yet to save any lives, but there’s time for that. Next, inevitably, my sex, which right now looks like nothing so much as a shell-less sea creature, fragile and exposed among the reef of pubes, half below and half above the surface of the water. But being what I am, I know the depth and veracity of pleasures it can give and can receive; I know how powerful the intimacy is that lives in touching someone gently enough to feel the perfect texture of that particular skin. Above that, the crease where my body is bent, sitting up against warm white ceramic, which immediately rises again to the furry hill of my belly. The part of me I hated the most when I was young, the part of me I was convinced was disgusting because I was a queer boy in the 00s when the only male body anyone was supposed to lust for was whatever the hell six-pack abs are supposed to represent. But god dammit I know full well what it is to lie my head on a belly like this and feel the hardness of the world ooze into warm and viscous liquid, like sugar glass melting in the sun. Fine, blond fuzz caressing my cheek; the inexorable warmth in that vital core rising into me to ensure the sugar keeps melting.

My chest, to me, is the place where my voice lives. Not far under the surface, protected by the armour of my ribs, my inner alchemy transfigures air to speech. My neck and shoulders, whose strength I rely on every day. Not not only the muscles, but the way they hold fast to all my pain and trauma; their patience gestating my feelings until I can birth them out of myself. My face, which I would happily follow around a party with my eyes while I’m dancing with my friends, waiting for an opportunity to see it close-up, to find out exactly how it breaks into a smile when a cute stranger ‘accidentally’ dances into it’s owner on his way back to the bar. The hair that multiple hairdressers have told me their clients would ‘kill to have,’ the way a little line tufts up along the part since my wife’s amateur haircutting took an experimental turn (and the way I love it even more for that.)

Down my arms (where most of my beloved ink lives), shaped not by deadlifts or by curls, but by two decades of giving the best, most thorough and invested hugs that a lot of people have had in a long time so I’m told. These hands; with which, of course, I write. But really what I think of when I look at them is how they seem to be the place where gentleness is made in my body; the place where I locate it when I need to. When I think of my gentleness, the first image to mind is of my hands, gentle on someone else the way my grandpa taught me without ever telling me. Finally, there are all the parts I cannot see. The broadness of my back, the power of my spine, the impeccable curve of my best feature – my ass, which both looks fucking amazing and where lives (for me) the particular transcendence of pleasure you can only surrender to.

I mourn for the straight world that works so hard to keep people from the fundamental power of this utterly embodied love. I celebrate for those who have managed to find it anyway. And I vow to use this glorious form to express it as much as I can.

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