The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Time. What is it about time that, despite our attempts to commit it to linear metricity, somehow lets it continue to elude us? We know the feeling well – the way sometimes the seconds can seem to flash by, or else they can crawl, each one stretching into what feels like an age. Like an old man stubbornly taking up the entire pavement, weeks can plod along in that endless cycle of eat, sleep, work, repeat, cut with weekend snippets of lie-ins and drunken takeaways. Until one day the shops are playing carols again and you stop, confused, in the middle of a busy street – sure it was only just New Year’s Eve, and ask: Have I even changed at all?

But life’s just like that I guess – as surely as things stay the same, they change. In one moment, everything’s different. A friendship made, a falling out, a first kiss. It’s by these milestones that we mark the passage of life. And that’s why, when you’re queer, time moves differently. All those years questioning, rethinking and relearning, can in some ways seem like lost years, while you re-experience those milestones, but they’re also some of the most important, a chance to find out who you are without restrictions. Rather than constantly sprinting down the path of career-marriage-children-retirement, life can be wandered through, explored and understood. Away from the incessant tickboxes of patriarchal-heteronormativity, away from the snide looks at weddings and whispers of ‘biological clock,’ queer time is slow and lazy, it is an endless Sunday afternoon.

But, somehow, there’s a urgency too, one that always comes when you live in a world that attaches your security to strings of conditions. Away from the safety of the beaten track, there’s a constant niggle in the back of your mind that someone, someday, could take this all away. It’s no surprise when you look at our history. Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, the fifty victims in Orlando – the ten thousand word Wikipedia article dedicated to violence against LGBTQ+ people doesn’t even begin to cover it. The message is resoundingly clear – stand up, be proud, and it won’t be long before they knock you right back down again.

They’ll tell you the dates they ‘gave’ us the rights or recognition we have today, skating over the way we had to fight tooth and nail for every single last one. Every piece of legislation and representation was a struggle. Now these are treated as nothing more than points on a textbook timeline of our history. For God’s sake, homosexual sex has only been fully legal in the States since 2003 (thirteen years!), equal marriage is barely a toddler, if that, in most of the West, and it’s only in the past decade that transgender issues have even begun to register on the mainstream radar. And yet people talk about our struggles like they’re ancient history. With the vast majority of our liberation squeezed into the last few decades, the perception of our history is distorted. That’s the eternal exhaustion of oppression, that, however far we’ve come, we still have so far to go and it feels as though surely, surely, we must be nearly there yet?

Hell, I’ve only been out three years, but it seems like a lifetime already – I tell friends who are in the midst of working out their sexuality that I’m their “gay grandma,” and it feels that way too. I’ve witnessed my own character development from ‘over-keen Buffy fan’ to standing front and centre of a Pride bloc, but I also feel that I’ve endured decades worth of bullshit. That every snide comment or ignorant joke aged me somehow. That for every pair of hands that believed my sexuality made my body something to be taken, there went another few years of my life.

Listen, I’m young and naive and idealistic, and I never meant this article to be so negative when I wrote it, because I never have, or will, view my sexuality in that way. I’ve sat in a huge group of my queer friends, and each has said they wouldn’t trade it for anything, that the alternative path that being queer has led them down is an amazing one. There’s an incredible beauty in it, that all those years of telling us we’re freaks, we’ve abandoned your way to forge our own, our own endless Sunday afternoon. When an hourglass spends centuries crushed in a fist, the sand’s gonna flow a little differently.

Related Links