I was in my 20s, and I was angry. Angry that my then-girlfriend got involuntarily recalled into George W. Bush’s Operation Iraqi Freedom. Angry that she was forced to fight and potentially die in a war that neither of us supported. And angry that even with all that, she couldn’t get married because she was gay.
I was so angry when I saw the footage on CNN of how police were corralling protesters like cattle in orange work-zone fences that I got in my car and drove 2,000 miles to New York to protest Bush and the 2004 Republican Convention, alongside hundreds and thousands of people.
I was so angry in 2005 when Rick Perry chose to hold his anti-gay and anti-abortion bill-signing ceremony at Calvary Cathedral International in Fort Worth, completely ignoring the separation of church state. And I was even angrier when, as I was protesting outside the church, a white heterosexual male told me to quieten down and “let’s get Perry to tackle my issue first, and then we’ll work toward yours.”
I was so angry that in 2006, when my graduate professor AnaLouise Keating introduced the class to Gloria Anzaldúa’s ideas of nepantla, the spaces in-between, and nepantleras, those who travel between and bridge worlds together, I tuned her out before she could even speak.
Why would anyone want to build bridges when the whole world was falling apart? It was us-against-them. And I was with us.
I was angry in 2008 when I met Candace — a woman that even my vivid imagination couldn’t dream up. Love doesn’t necessarily tame anger, and I was still angry when I married her in 2016.
I was angry that my parents were right — that the pendulum always swings backward with just as much force (if not more velocity) than it had going forward.
Angry that we’re still — in 2017! — having to shout to the world that #BlackLivesMatter, #BrownLivesMatter, #TransLivesMatter and #WaterIsLife.
Angry that even members in our own queer community can still be racist assholes and drop the “N” word like it’s the 1950s. (And angry that I can’t drop kick them every time I hear it.)
So when, during the April 21 episiode of DVTV in Spayse, Tammye Nash asked, “How do we even begin to coexist with the other side?
How do we do that?” I couldn’t help but internally add the caveat: Especially when I, and the world, are still so angry.
But attempting to coexist doesn’t mean we have to erase, deflate or douse the flames of our anger with some Pollyanna kumbaya bullshit. What it does mean is that we have to become conscious and cognizant of where we place our anger and onto whom and — most importantly — how we chose to funnel that anger.
And that’s what Dr. Keating was trying to teach me in her U.S. Women of Colors class. She wasn’t asking me to give up my anger; she was trying to show me that where I only saw one way, there were multiple ways. She wanted to show me that I could funnel my anger into hate and blame, or I could funnel it into trying to understand and make connections.
She was trying to show me how to be a bridge for my community instead of a being a ladder for myself.
If love can build a bridge, then anger can steel its place in the resistance.
And we need bridgers, just as much as we need radical revolutionaries and pacifists. We need both/ands instead of being forced to choose either/or.
We need those who work with the system and those who want to dismantle it because the answer (as it always is) is somewhere in the middle.
But in order to see that answer, we need to be able to stand in the center, surrounded equally by all sides. In order to understand, to connect, to coexist, we need a bridge.
But the bridge we offer isn’t our back; it’s our work. It’s our words. It’s our art. It’s our ear. It’s our understanding. It’s our love.
And love, especially when you fall in it, opens portals inside you that allow you to see the world in dimensions no one ever told you existed. Where anger opened my heart to extreme empathy, Candace’s love opened my eyes to extreme possibilities — the biggest one being myself.
As we gear up to celebrate Candace’s birthday on Sunday, I am reminded that sometimes the most important bridges we need to build are the one’s we build with ourselves. She taught me that. It was a revelation and an evolution I would have never been able to come to if not for her, for love, and yes, even for my anger.
Happy Birthday Candace; I love you.
Brandi Amara Skyy is a drag artist who writes and plays in magic. You can find out more about her and many projects at brandiamaraskyy.com
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 28, 2017.