a love story about chosen family
This pride I went to zero pride events. No dances, no parties, & certainly no parades¹. Instead, I took my queer sobriety and life-exhaustion, and spilled it into night-writing, chatting with beloved friends giddy at a good 3am discourse session. Instead, I made spam musubi with Japanese Canadian elders at Powell’s Street Festival² & cried wondering if communities that deserve to work together so much will ever recognize the hurt we sometimes do to one another. Wondering when we are ready to heal each other with our respective gifts. Wondering about worth, queer intergenerational loss, and belonging. Instead, I wrote this letter to you.
This is a lovesong and lullabystory for the brilliant Black, Indigenous, Muslim, Latinx, mixed, people of colour dreamers and reality-makers in my life. For Sick and Disabled Femmes who do more for each other than what the able-bodied and neurotypical could ever imagine. For survivors holding our tongues, shaking in the silence, punished for our murmurings. For the futches finding traces of familiar skin in shifting clouds. For the Gaysians who love wrestling and sports and Binding of Isaac. For the ones slowly finding themselves between stifling tower-walls, between short-term contracts, between shorter hours of reprieve. For the ones demanding for more than scraps. For the queer and trans Chinese women written out of family histories. For the yīnyáng rén and the lālāduì. For the loving ones healing their communities day in and day out. For spirits erased and discarded in places where longing is most sought. For the bodies aching to rest. Finally. finally. For you. for me.
I know it isn’t simple. The way we might long for glimmers of ourselves—and really, what others cannot give us—in each other. There is a system of thought that dictates how these longings might be called “obsessions,” “projections,” “delusions”, etc. But they forget how together we are cumulonimbus swallowing weathervanes, unfathomable to the nets cast upon our oceans. When you are from mountains and coastal ranges and remember, in the distance, a blanketing sea and the glitter of summer in each of its breaths.
Mhm, it is possible to imagine “sea” and “summer” without the ships, cruises, jets, yachts. One day.
I have lost the ability to speak to my family. Not just in one way but in a thousand. I know there is family beyond family, recoverable, but the longing that family always gives us is as big and vast as the mountain ranges in our dreams. Each corner of stone, there, is crisper than the heaviest camera. Steaming dragon’s tongue, charcoal campfire weather. I wonder how I will ever make it up to you. The kind of secrets I keep about myself in my tightly crossed fingers. The kind of promises to demons who swish the fabrics lining our skies whenever we stir in our sleep.
One day there will be.
Darlingsweet, they want us to be minor. They want us to be the minor keys when we are the entire orchestra and the stage beneath it. We are so many flavours of wrong, fiery inappropriate, and they want us to be sad and somber and stammering. Tough luck when you’re with me. Tough luck when we are bound to each other by a history they are destroying the earth trying to bury. Well, you don’t have to. You don’t have to come along if you’re not ready. The kind of coercion that brings us to this point in conversation—well, it would be awful to repeat.
No more police at pride parades, no more drones.
Can you hear that? Just over the hill of apartment complexes there is a sparrow darting about like a badminton birdie, flirting with the leaves. I guess I wonder if I could be like that sparrow all the time, not too far away from home but easily amused with my surroundings. Enough to love you like this. Just like this.
No more abuse, no more pillaging of land.
Sometimes I worry I’ve repeated history too many times. That I’ve hurt you too many times. But I am sitting here hurting, and never finding a single reason to blame you. Well, sometimes I am angry. Sometimes I am furious. Being so close, it’s easy to be a tiny tiny teeny teeny bit angry. Maybe even a wee bit bitter. But I am not blaming you, never you, and I guess I can try to imagine you aren’t blaming me, either.
No more overdoses. Not a single more.
Interwoven histories. I’m thinking about that. I’m thinking about the bombs that fell³. I am thinking about the rape of the city⁴ in which I was born, the one astrology websites don’t recognize. I am thinking about how we benefit from occupation. I am thinking about how I occupy your homelands. About how your ancestors might have refused to occupy mine. I am thinking about the fruits that travelled across the world and the million different ways of mian. The eighty-eight steps to mi. The unknowing ways we have taken. The soft ways we have given.
No more scarcity.
Jianmian. To meet. To meet each other where we are.
No more genocide.
Also: noodles. Delicious.
Ni chi fan le ma?
I am obsessed with seeing us—beautiful in silk and tulle and linen—getting married. Imagining beauty at our weddings. I want to see us carrying feasts to each other when we are eighty, some of us still picky (never not picky), others ravenous, hardly able to contain excitement. And others of us cooking, dishes, cleaning. Shared and interwoven and peppery. Marriage is, in this society, a legal concept. But for many, it is a spiritual and religious ceremony. While growing up I thought only beautiful people could get married.
Hai mei you.
I knew I wasn’t beautiful. But what is marriage but family beyond family? More than recoverable. How did they manage to ruin spirit, to ruin ceremonies of trust and belonging and life, too?
More than recoverable.
For all our anger, for all our skepticism. But what if we promised each other a fierce ocean of blameless secret married and unabiding love. Family while we are together.
Lai chi fan ba.
Family while we are apart.
¹ After repeated requests from Black Lives Matter Vancouver and other community organizations, Vancouver Pride Society did not remove armed and uniformed police offers from their annual parade. In lieu of participating in Pride, Black Lives Matter Vancouver organized a March on Pride in June.
² The annual Powell’s Street Festival is a Japanese Canadian community festival taking place on the unceded, traditional, and ancestral homelands of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish peoples in Oppenheimer Park, Downtown Eastside. Powell’s street was home to a community of Japanese settlers before being forcibly displaced and incarcerated seventy-five years ago during the Second World War. Each year, the festival overlaps with major Pride events, including the pride parade.
³ August 6th, the second day of the Powell’s Street Festival this year, is the anniversary for the bombing of Hiroshima.
⁴ I was born in Nanjing, Jiangsu, where the Nanjing Massacre of December 13th, 1937 took place. The province of Ontario is currently considering passing Bill 79, Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day Act. The National Association of Japanese Canadians, citing concerns for community division, has opposed the bill.