“What is human? An ability to reason? To imagine? To love or grieve? If so, we are more human than any human ever will be.”
Letter from the editor
I’m bisexual. I had to come out several times in my life, as is the case with many bisexuals; it takes awhile for people to believe us. My younger brother came out as gay at twelve, and no one second guessed him. It hurt that some of my family second guessed me. How could they doubt what I so surely knew? But I’m lucky. That’s all in the past. I grew up in a very Catholic household, but still my parents, my older sister (who is straight) and my aunt (who is a nun), were all openly supportive of my brother and me being queer. And not just supportive, they actively fight for our rights to equality. Not everyone is this lucky–and that’s a tragedy. To know who you are, so full-heartedly, and then be doubted or told what you are is wrong in someway–is cruel. And is not something anyone should ever have to endure. So, whether you’re someone who’s out and proud, or still taking your time in the closet; whether you’re loved and supported by your biological family, or you have a chosen family instead–this issue is for you. You’re amazing. You’re beautiful. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, or the way you identify, or the way you love. Love is love.
Molly Likovich (she/her)
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Inquiry and Self Realization
by Kathy Mire
Don’t wait for me.
It’s a futile effort
to get something back
that you only thought you had.
I refuse to be tied down,
even if the restraints are my own.
I fight it. I’ve got to run; I’ve got to fly from
Can you run away from yourself?
Give me a new identity, a new persona, a part to play.
I come alive on stage,
but in my head–wage
a war with myself to define
who I am.
Who are you? It’s not a simple question.
It’s a loaded gun that gets tossed around.
My answers change
who’s pulling the trigger.
Why must it be so permanent?
Shouldn’t I grow? Shouldn’t I
change? Shouldn’t I explore? Shouldn’t I
Shouldn’t I learn? Shouldn’t I–
I have to push and press against the seal
of the envelope that binds me
to you–to them–
to the things that you and they say are
the real me.
that be? How can
you possibly know,
when I am constantly at odds with myself?
Don’t wait for me,
because it is something I will probably never define
in a way that you or they will understand.
I am the journey.
I am the roaring sea.
I am the breeze that lifts the birds as they ride my currents.
I am the ground that reaches up to meet my feet.
I am me.
I am you.
I am them.
I will be whatever I want to be,
whenever I want to be,
however I want to be–
Kathy Mire is a Louisiana teacher with a background in Psychology who is always seeking new opportunities to be a student herself. Her hobbies include: hiking, dancing, journaling, and intuitive tarot. She is a proud ally to the queer community.
“If that’s not love, then what is?”
–The Naked Brothers Band
by Maisie Dickson
I never have particularly told anyone about my sexuality, nor have I ever been concerned with someone knowing it.
I honestly never cared that much about dating, sex, the whole relationship shebang, but I always felt this invisible pressure to care about it. Society places an enormous value on romantic relationships and sex. Sometimes I find that inescapable.
People will often say that asexuality isn’t real. That we’ll find someone that will make us feel the things your supposed to feel and that you’ll become normal. They think we’re just picky or going through a ‘phase’. And with every comment I get, when I explain my sexuality to someone, the more wary I am to share it again.
Not many people know I’m demisexual. I do not concisely hide it from people, nor do I shout it from the rooftops. I’m proud of who I am, and I believe that me not actively wanting to share my orientation is partially because I’m a private person when it comes to sharing my soul. Because people don’t understand, or they immediately assume I’m just confused. So, whenever I try to explain how I feel I just say.
“I can admire a beautifully decorated cake without wanting to devour it.”
That usually gets my point across.
When I think about the first time that I found a label for what I truly felt seen and identified with it, was during a discussion about characters with one of my artist friends; when she explained that her character was demisexual and when she explained what that meant–I felt seen.
From that point on I used that label and I felt free. I know, dear reader, that this all might seem a bit over the top and labels shouldn’t matter, but having a word that can clearly define the confusion you’ve felt for an eternity, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to use it whenever it you could? Some of us however choose not to label what we feel and that its okay, we are valid regardless.
As I dove into learning about the LBGTQIAP+ community I started to notice a lot of discrimination around other identities; people claiming that we weren’t queer enough, or that we’re on the line of being straight and that shouldn’t be in the community. I was baffled, but not surprised.
There are a lot of people claiming that mine, and others, sexuality isn’t valid because we could be seen as the same as being straight. Or that it doesn’t exist because what we feel could be part of a relationship.
If these people know what it’s like to not be validated or seen by society, why then, would they do that to their own community??
I don’t know the answer, dear reader, but I employ you to think about what PRIDE means to you. For me PRIDE is to acknowledge this part of myself that is different and valid. To support others regardless of how they identify.
Maisie Dickson is a demisexual creator who lives in regional Australia & when not reading, writing or illustrating you can find her escaping into a book with tea in hand.
“I’m who I am, and I think that’s worth fighting for.”
–The Prom Musical
by Austin Webberly
We have fought for our rights
and we have fought for our freedom,
but with every step forward it seems as if
we are being forced to take three steps back.
We are not afraid to show our pride
in the face of bigotry and bullshit,
for we have found a voice and a light
in the darkness of your hatred.
We will never stop fighting for what is
rightfully ours, even if that means
we fight until the sun swallows us,
which will be less pain that not being able to
marry the loves of our lives.
Austin Webberly is a gay, own voices poet who is currently studying to be a high school English teacher at the University of Michigan — Dearborn, while also trying to balance writing alongside reading, and spending time with his beloved princess–he means dog.
“Hope will never be silent.”
Katy Likovich is a 4th grade teacher in LA. She has a BA from Salisbury University in Theatre and a Masters in Education from UCLA. She has had poetry and photography published in Echoes & Visions. She is an ally to the queer community–she happens to have two very queer younger siblings that she thinks are pretty great.
“Cause shade never made anybody less gay.”
Red White and Royal Blue
by Bridget Barnsley
Bridget Barnsley is a proud ally of the queer community and is always happy to see the progression of positive representation of queer stories in the media. She is a fiction writer from Connecticut and just finished her first year of college where she plans on double majoring in creative writing and film. She wrote, directed, acted, and edited the Harry Potter web series Ravenclaw Rules. She loves superheroes, comedy, and expressing her opinions. She is an active member of the BookTube community.
“Love isn’t a sin.”
An Ode to Confusion
by Claire Elazzaoui
You’re just confused–the uncreative often rehashed, post-coming-out motto of disappointed loved ones. Making sure that you do not get to define this moment, anymore than you get to define yourself. This isn’t a revelation. It isn’t practicing for hours in front of the mirror. Crumpled drafts under your desk, mapping out an escape plan. Digging your fingernails into your palms and taking a deep breath before you
reveal. No. It’s a slip-up from normalcy. One that might be lightly mentioned in passing. But once it is over: taking the wrong path is only acceptable if something led you astray.
Listen. This is not going to be about how, no, you are absolutely certain. How could they even doubt you? Not about how your first fictional crush was Jasmine from Aladdin. How as a child it felt like being forced to play a game, the rules of which you did not understand. How for as far as back as you can remember identity went hand in hand with inadequacy. Don’t get me wrong–we are entitled to these stories being told. Entitled to having them be read and shared. Entitled to relish in the feeling of finally being able to relate. But we should be wary that they remain a walkway and do not become a frame. Respect of the present should not demand the disclosure of the past. Some butterflies used to be caterpillars, so what?
So what ? What if I am confused–smiling back to the first time(s)–confused I was about shared girlhood, holding hands and whispered secrets about marbles and cartoons and I’ll marry you when we grow up. Back then, and for a little while, confused meant: amazed and curious. Playful and bewildered. (Later on we learn that it also means danger and maybe I should stop looking into this). Confusion is exploration’s little sister. Where there are no maps, certainty is hard to come by, and queerness certainly is (by design) an uncharted territory.
Queer, as a slur, means “what the hell is that?” It means “this does not fit in any of the ready-to-use labels or explanations existing in my brain or culture” This insult, in that respect (and not unlike many others), has a creative potential, along with its obvious destructive power. It acknowledges queerness as a fertile magma of confusion, one that should be contained for fear that it might wreak havoc in the neatly folded display of mainstream identities. From a patriarchal, cis-heteronormative perspective, the threatening aspect of queerness lies precisely in its boundary; crossing, shape-shifting nature. That’s why every time the q-word is uttered by the dominant culture–it is spat out, coated in contempt. Shame is a label of its own. Yet, however belittling it may be when that tag is imposed on us, it is also tremendously empowering to reclaim confusion–and everything that surrounds it. Let the bold blur of our own beings expose the inane rigidity of the present system. Expose that when they say you’re confused, what they mean is confusing. Let the weakness of their mirrors shatter before the strength of our colors. Let us be moonlike: an endless succession of phases, mighty and meaningful enough to wield tidal waves.
Claire is a French political science student, who is interested in issues regarding queerness, feminism, anti-racism and mental health awareness. She likes: getting lost in cities, vegetarian food, poetry, fierce women, heroic fantasy novels, writing. She dislikes: bigotry, saying goodbye, deadlines, and cultural elitism. Her essay is own voices.
“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”
–Marsha P. Johnson
Susan Marie Doyle, Patron of the Arts, for helping fund this issue of The Elephant Ladder. Thanks to her, our artists were able to receive compensation for their work
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