They told him he did not need to identify the body; they could do so through dental records, to save him the pain. He declined, despite vocal protestations. To shirk such responsibility would make him a creature more pathetic and cowardly than even the killers themselves. Perhaps if the method had been different, if the officers had not with averted eyes and stilted words explained the way Daren had died and the state in which his body was found, Tanim might have avoided the morgue. He could imagine a gunshot wound easily enough, or the curved bruise of a noose, but this? No. He needed to witness for himself the slurs carved into his lover’s charred skin – faggot, freak, queer – and hear from the coroner directly that Daren had been alive through it all. It was the very least he could do when he was unable to do anything of value. Living with the inescapable images of the broken, burned body seemed a meager tribute, but it was something.
There are a lot of queer meetups in the Puget Sound, but most of them are in big cities like Seattle and Olympia. I want to create a casual queer group that meets in the Kitsap/Gig Harbor area for the folks around here who don’t want to or can’t drive that far**. I envision this meetup as being very casual and maybe focusing on sharing queer media (books, movies, TV shows, music, etc), doing fun activities, and being a general safe space for local queer folk. Also, if we meet at my house, you can rub my cat’s amazing tummy.
This will be a group for anyone on the queer spectrum (no gatekeeping allowed!) and their partners/family/whomever. The socially awkward and/or neurodivergent are especially welcome, as are people of all faiths, nationalities, etc.
You can find us by searching “Gig Harbor/Kitsap Queer Club” on Facebook; the group is closed but if you send a request to join, I’ll add you ASAP. We may grow big enough to warrant a Meetup.com group or something beyond Facebook, but I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We’re at 9 members already, though!
**Tacoma folks, you are more than welcome too; I’ll try to make up the bridge toll in snacks or something. :)
“That will be all,” Lady Rosenquist dismissed her maid and the woman scurried away with her coat, no doubt relieved to have avoided her lady’s misdirected anger. Lady Rosenquist should not have returned to the manor for many hours yet; the abrupt cancellation of her luncheon date left her irritable and idle. Normally neither she nor any of the family would be home at this time of day, and her presence caused the servants to find chores to complete in any room other than the one she occupied.
As Lady Rosenquist paced from room to room, she caught the faint sound of piano music drifting down the main stairway from the second floor. Being, if not a good mother, then at least a highly observant one, she recognized the skill of the pianist immediately as her eldest son. She found this quite interesting, considering he tended to play when in a morose or introverted mood – and considering he, too, was supposed to be absent most of the day. The lady of the house never passed up an opportunity to spy on the son who caused her so much trouble. She made directly for the stairs.
In order to enter the music room behind where Tanim sat at the piano, Lady Rosenquist first had to pass through one of the secondary drawing rooms. However, as she stepped silently through the far doorway, she found the room already occupied. A young woman sat stiffly on the edge of a chair, her dark hair unbound and her corset half laced. Lady Rosenquist recognized her easily as a prostitute by the cheapness of her clothing and her obvious discomfort at her lavish surroundings. When she noticed the older woman standing in the doorway, a look of fear flashed over the girl’s plain face. She moved to stand and curtsey, then obviously remembered the state of her dress and froze in mortification. If Lady Rosenquist had had any respect for such a working girl, she might have felt pity for this one; Tanim had obviously forgotten her presence and left her to wonder if she should stay or leave. It was likely he had not even bothered to pay her yet.
“Hello, my dear,” Lady Rosenquist glided over to the girl, flashing her a smile not at all intended to convey welcome or good humor. The girl stared up at her like a trapped rabbit, clearly convinced she would soon be arrested. It amused Lady Rosenquist, therefore, to remove the large ruby pendant hanging around her neck and hold it out to the wide-eyed young woman. “I am going to ask you a question,” she explained carefully, “and if you are honest with me, this shall be your payment. However, if you are not honest…” She let the unspoken threat hang between them and watched the girl swallow hard. “I see you understand. Good. Now, tell me – did my son consummate the union for which he hired your services?”
The girl hesitated, as if trying to figure out the trap beneath the seemingly obvious question, then nodded. “Y-yes, madame,” she squeaked. Lady Rosenquist stared into the girl’s eyes but saw no hint of falsehood. Scowling, she closed the pendant in a fist and turned abruptly, muttering, “get out of here.” Behind her, she heard the prostitute scramble for the door. At least the girl was smart enough to count her blessings and leave with her hide intact, instead of demanding payment for her illicit pastime.
In the next room, the piano music continued without pause. Lady Rosenquist moved into the doorway and watched her son’s hands move back and forth across the ivory keys as he hunched over the piano. She had been sure her son was meeting today with the man she suspected of being his paramour; that he had apparently actually slept with the mousy young whore, instead of simply buying her time for an alibi, did little to convince her that her suspicions were incorrect. This merely convinced her that she would need to enlist the eyes and ears of more than just the household servants. She was determined to obtain the kind of evidence needed to have her son and his lover arrested.
Amid snakes and bullets, crystals and rose petals, She watches. Her dark eyes are circled with white skull makeup; She wears Her death with easy arrogance. I fear that gaze. I fear Her, even as I light Her candle and cry Her titles. Hail Inanna, Queen of Heaven! Hail Inanna, the Morning and the Evening Star! Hail Inanna, She Who Descended and Arose Again! I fear Her as I fear Her sisters Kali and Sekhmet, Ishtar and Morrigan, Scylla and Charybdis. I fear Her wrath, Her pride, Her fickle love and frightening affection – and yet She calls to me. From Her corner altar draped in red, She waits with infinite patience as I alternately approach and shy back from Her path. It leads down deep, dark roads, and I fear above all what I will have to surrender to walk its length. But She tells me such satisfying stories, tales in which a woman can tear down mountains and sit naked and proud on the throne of death, and She whispers such sweet promises that taste like the salt-sown ashes of our enemies. She reminds me that things were not always this way, the bones of justice ground beneath the boots of our oppressors, and it does not have to remain this way. She reminds me of the goddesses who danced on the battlefield, laughing, howling, rejoicing in the thrill of bloody triumph, and that they remain with us. From Her altar, through Her death’s mask, Inanna watches and waits.
When I started my Tumblr blog Still-a-Valid-Ace, I did so on a whim with no thought to where it might go in the future; to be honest, I assumed I’d grow bored and delete it after a week. I just wanted a place to post my own experiences regarding asexuality and gatekeeping, maybe rant a little, and generally shout into the void of the internet. Surprisingly, though, traffic picked up pretty quickly and I suddenly had people submitting questions, problems, and pleas for advice. Without knowing a single thing about me, users seemed to expect trustworthy, valid responses that might make or break their identity or relationships. It was a lot of pressure for someone who, as I said, thought she would just be yelling into the void. I felt honored, though, and took this new responsibility very seriously. Thus, I waded into the online waters of asexual activism–
–and into a river full of rapids, waterfalls, and hidden rocks. YIKES. Asexuals have come under some serious fire recently as the the cool new minority to hate on within the queer community. Not that the other popular targets, like bisexual and transgender folks, don’t still get their share of hate; it’s just that asexuals seem to be the hot topic right now. You can’t even skim the asexual tag on Tumblr without running into rabidly acephobic posts by people who dedicate entire blogs to hating us. I receive hateful messages and reblogs from these accounts on a frequent basis, especially when I say anything about cisgender+heteroromantic aces or the right for aces to use the word “queer”. I’ve been called homophobic for supporting religious asexuals; I’ve been called a cishet oppressor for supporting all asexuals, regardless of their other identities; I am routinely accused of being a “straight” who wants to kill LGBT people. I agree that cishet isn’t a slur in and of itself, but I have seen it used dozens of times to deny and negate my actual identity. And it hurts. I am actively hurt by the very same people who claim to be protecting queer asexuals like me.
Do I daydream about all the ways I’d love to respond to these people? Of course. Do I type up pithy answers and attach sarcastic gifs, only to delete the entire thing? Of course. Do I get so filled with rage and sorrow that all I want to do is vomit curse words onto the screen or send my own hateful, hurtful messages back? Oh yes. Always. I want so badly to fight on my enemies’ level, to make the “discourse” personal so I can verbally eviscerate the trolls. But I don’t. I don’t, even when the alternative is to remain silent, or to reply with a diplomacy that feels like surrender. I don’t, because that won’t win me anything but grief, and my fellow aces nothing but fuel for the trolls. You see, one of the most difficult aspects of any activism is this: you become a spokesperson for your cause and a target for the haters. It doesn’t matter if you post five hundred thoughtful, balanced, in-depth discussions about a topic; if in just one post you act too angry, too forceful, or too callous, that’s the one you’ll get called out for. Any emotion you portray will be blown out of proportion and used against not only yourself, but your community as well. Look how angry asexuals are, they’ll say. They’re so whiny, so entitled, so ignorant! They hate gay people! They’re just special snowflakes! Your every word becomes a landmine just waiting to smear you across the internet. People assume that if you take on the role of activist, you also take on the role of subject matter expert, public information officer, and referee. Despite being passionate about the subject, you’re expected to be completely unbiased and lacking any agenda. When the topic is something that affects you personally, this is impossible. Impossible, but expected. If you can’t be objective, you’re vilified.
Despite all of this, though, I maintain my blog. I delete hate messages, ignore reblogs from anti-ace accounts, and try patiently and kindly to explain my views to those who seem genuinely confused or curious. I do this because I love my followers, my fellow aces, and my whole queer family. I truly do, with a ferocity I never imagined. If I get down in the muck with the trolls, I can’t be a safe person anymore. If I let hate leak onto my blog, it can’t be a safe space anymore. Because I actively choose to remain a source of comfort, support, advice, and protection, I can’t fight fire with fire. My activism has to be professional, no matter how much I’d love to make things personal. At the end of the day, the safety of every one of my followers means infinitely more to me than my own wishes to take an eye for an eye. If I can bring any bit of hope or understanding to even one asexual out there, no matter who or what else they are, then all the hate spam is worth it.
And She is here as well, sometimes, in my daydreams: the Mother Cat, whom I am blessed to call Mother as well. This is Her room, Her quiet place of retreat to comfort, to mourn, to regain strength. I imagine She holds Her arms out to me and I sink into them like a young child (here we are all young, for we will forever be Her kittens). She holds me close as I cry for all the terrible injustices in the world. For Her children who suffer at the hands of my species; who live and die in factory farms, who are killed for sport and profit, who are discarded like inanimate objects. For the earth we continue to ruin in our greed, leaving behind a wasteland in which nothing beautiful can live. I know Bast cannot make these things go away – no deity, no matter how powerful or determined, can undo the whole extent of man’s wrongs. But Her comfort and shared sorrow feed the little flame of Hers in my chest and give me enough strength to go back out into the world and fight. When I imagine how many of Her children are suffering right this moment, hurting and dying without ever knowing the kindness of a human bond, the truth crushes me. But She helps me instead to remember those of Her children whom I have touched, each little ember that grew into a flame and has a chance, now, for a life of love. She reminds me of what I have given, what I still have to give, and of how many are in need. In this room, She lends me the strength to face another day, to make whatever difference in this world I can.
“Ah, the ice prince returneth,”
Daren doesn’t reply as he turns to lock the door behind himself. He can feel the weight of Tanim’s gaze as the man watches his every movement, calculating each second in which he neither speaks nor raises his eyes. “Silence,” Tanim’s voice feigns lightness to veil bitterness, but doesn’t succeed. “Of course.” Daren hears the soft ring of crystal on polished stone as Tanim sets down his drink. When he speaks again, his voice is much closer; Daren can smell the alcohol on his breath. “Do you want me at all? In any way? Do you even love me, in whatever fucked up way you can?”
“Stop before you make a fool of yourself,” Daren cautions wearily, moving sideways to put Tanim in his periphery. Undaunted, Tanim mirrors the movement so they face one another. “No,” he replies, half refusal, half entreaty. “No. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of hoping you’ll throw me a scrap of what passes for affection from you.” His voice rises, edged with desperation and fueled by drink. “I’m tired of wondering what keeps you here, and whether the next time you leave will be the last time I ever see you. You give me nothing to hold onto, nothing to make me think I even exist to you most of the time, but then you…” he gestures helplessly, “you flip and suddenly I’m worth something, or at least there’s something I can offer that you actually want. But I can’t predict it and I can’t rely on it, and in between I ache for what I can’t ask for from you, even though there are nights when you give it freely.”
“Tanim, don’t–” Daren’s words are cut off as Tanim interrupts, closing the distance between them, “I don’t forget, you know. I can’t just divorce the person you are every other second of the day from the person you are for just a moment when you admit you want me. Don’t you want me? I’m not crazy. I didn’t make those moments up.” He takes hold of Daren’s wrist with both hands, not painfully but with an intensity he wouldn’t normally dare. His eyes are at once too dull and too bright. “Some part of you wants me. I know it. You know it. Why do you deny it? Why do you deny me?”
“Tanim, stop,” Daren tries to pull his arm away but Tanim’s grip only tightens. Then his hands are locked around both of Daren’s arms, and as he pulls his lover closer his words rush out with a fervor bordering on hysteria. “Some part of you isn’t dead or frozen, I know it, and I know I can reach it if you’d just let me, if you’d just let me in I can–”
Daren doesn’t need to say anything this time; the knife says it for him, pressed point first into the center of Tanim’s chest. He uses its thin, honed edge to force the man back, a wet red stain blossoming through the cloth of Tanim’s shirt. Tanim’s arms fall away as he looks down to the tiny blade buried an inch into his flesh, his expression moving with inebriated delay through confusion, surprise, and understanding. Either the pain or the shock, or perhaps both, serve to clear his head a bit and when he looks back up, his eyes are focused and filled with fear. “Darling,” he lifts one hand as if to touch Daren, a gesture of guilt and regret, but lets it fall just as quickly, “I didn’t- you know I would never-”
“Get out,” Daren’s voice holds none of the trembling emotion of Tanim’s; his words are as cold and precise as the blade in his hand. “Don’t come back until you’re sober.” For a moment Tanim seems to consider arguing, or perhaps pleading for forgiveness, but the dark wall of Daren’s eyes warns him to obey. So instead he takes a step back, leaving the knife between them as if hanging in space, blood dripping from its point to stain the white carpet, and leaves without another word.
Only once the door is closed and Tanim’s footsteps have receded does Daren lower his arm.