cw: queer death
This song has been on repeat since I first heard it: The Queer Gospel, performed by Erin McKeown.
Love us as we are
See us and we’re holy
In this shall we shall ever be
Your love will take us far
Praise us and we’ll show you
From heaven to the glory holes
Glorious and freefrom The Queer Gospel performed by Erin McKeown
There seems to be a noticeable overlap between LGBTQIA2S+ people and sex work, although that might be confirmation bias based on my friend connections, my chosen family, and my social media feeds. I don’t think we can talk about freedom and love and care — especially in death — unless we are also talking about queer sex workers.
I believe that we deserve dignity as we die, although not all of us will get the gift of that dignity. I’m not speaking right now of the people that denigrate, hate, and diminish the humanity and personhood of others; they are not the people I want to work with, they are not the people that I love, and they are not the people I will sit with in their dying moments unless the universe takes me to that place (and in that case, I will assume that my gods and ancestors wanted me to do that thing at that time).
I believe that existing as a queer person means existing as a queer person in death as well.
I believe that treating someone’s body without regard to their wishes after death is sinful — a transgression against someone else’s body, someone else’s choice.
And I believe that the queer community sees death more often and without the same kind of leading-up period that people in their eighties, nineties, hundreds will usually get. There’s almost always a point in your life when you suddenly realize that you’re mortal and that you want to be sure that you’ve codified your wishes somewhere, even if it’s just to comfort and care for the ones you leave behind. As queer people, we are saturated in death almost constantly. We lose our siblings at an alarming rate. We are always grieving someone else, angry at another loss, raging at the injustice that the most vulnerable of us are always facing.
There is a strange combination of factors that have converged into my personal understanding of death.
I’m a queer person with queer chosen family, although I came out as queer about six or seven years ago. I have children who are queer. I’m in my forties, which has been a time of greater reflection and a completely different perspective on life than my thirties. I am chronically ill and immunocompromised. I love and serve and worship several deities that have something to do with the liminal walk between this life and whatever death is. I practice ancestor veneration, which in itself is an experience with death and what lies beyond it. I am training to do clergy work in my community, which is mostly made up of marginalized people: queer people, pagan people, black people, latinx people, people living in varying levels of devastating poverty. People without access to healthcare. People that don’t have enough to eat. People who have escaped by the skin of their teeth from evangelicalism. People that experience IPV and can’t escape it. People whose families of origin hate who they are.
My hope is that my life can be dedicated not just to awareness and comfort around the subject of death, but that I can be a part of support structures for the dying. To help their loved ones process grief. To help each of us to prepare for death even while we are young.
I don’t have anything to sell you. What I have is my hope and my open hands. I am working through doing legal paperwork to make sure that my dying experience is the one I want to have. I am in the middle of paperwork to legally change my name, and it’s more than a little terrifying — and I am privileged enough to be able to afford to do it. I am living in a world where we aren’t safe, and yet we exist. There is fierce hope and a drumbeat of justice demanding to be realized, even as we mourn.
Find me on Mastodon, on Facebook Messenger, on Keybase, by text (734-386-0537), by email (nixkelley at proton dot me), by commenting here. Reach out when you want to. You are loved.
featured image is a photo by Raphael Renter on Unsplash