On February 19th, Art Academy of Cincinnati hosted a night of poetry reading full of dedicated, strong-willed, and politically activated poets. Below is the poem read by AAC student, Mandy Clements.
First, let me clear some things up.
I’ve heard there is lore about me.
People have come up with stories about how I, a queer woman, have children.
I’m a lesbian, I have always been a lesbian.
I just didn’t always know it.
But of course, I always knew.
When I was 10 and introduced to the school band, I wanted to play drums.
I wasn’t allowed, drums were for boys.
There was a girl in my class, with big curly dark hair who wore AC/DC shirts who played the drums
I think her name was Christina.
What is the deal with parents of the 80’s and the name Chris?
Christ without the t.
My brother is Chris,
My wife is Christin,
There are Chrissys and Christas and Chrystals and Kristis and Christians and Christophers.
Tofer Grace tried to get away from the name,
Tofer is just an absence of Chris and isn’t that the same as being a Chris? At least in this case?
Growing up I wished my name was Kris or Dawn, my brother’s names.
They thought I was going to be a boy but when I was gendered at birth, I lost the privilege of having those names. I became a Mandy. Stuck with this stupid Barry Manilow nick name. All because I’m a girl. And because I’m a girl who was raised in a conservative family, I was supposed to like boys. And because I’m a girl and have to earn the right to be treated with civility, I did as I was told.
But I like girls.
When I was 14, I watched MTV while babysitting the neighbor’s kids and learned the word bisexual. I immediately clung to that label. I could like girls and boys! Who knew?
I told my boyfriend that I wanted to break up because I liked girls and I needed to learn more about that.
He convinced me not to.
It wasn’t hard. My life was shit and he was nice.
All the while I crushed on Ronnie and Rae (both girls) and my bff was my gbf, he just hadn’t come out yet, I was
unknowingly living out classic gay culture.
When my dad kicked me out of the house at 18, the boyfriend became my husband so I wouldn’t become homeless.
Remember, my family is very conservative.
While I never condoned any of my parents’ cult-like mentality, I still deeply wanted their approval.
So there I was. Married to a man.
Watching lesbian porn on the sly.
Hopping from one part-time job to another unhappy with minimum wage expectations.
School wasn’t an option for me. This was long before my ADHD diagnosis and I was convinced I was too stupid
and too flawed to even attempt going to college.
What do you do when you are married and have no marketable skills? You have babies.
So I became a mom, and let me tell you, I am a damn fine mom. I researched everything. I gave birth to 4 (4!)
boys. I breast fed, I made their baby food, I had my youngest at home with a midwife, I homeschooled and raised chickens so my city kids would know where food came from.
I lost myself completely.
To be fair, I never had a firm grasp of who I was so losing myself was easy.
Then I was 33.
The magical forever-age of Christ.
33 is a universal age of enlightenment.
I was done having babies.
Most of my kids were in school.
And it wasn’t so easy to be lost.
When I found myself, I cried.
I am so gay.
I mean of course I was.
I never wore my wedding ring.
My favorite song has always been “What’s Up” by 4 Non-Blonds.
I was deeply in love with my best friend (and a couple other women through the years).
This isn’t a new hair style for me.
When I was 15 I dressed up as a rainbow for Halloween.
My friends said they knew.
My husband said he knew.
How was I to reconcile the life I had been living with who I am?
How was I supposed to look at the man who knew and fucked me anyway?
And even though divorce makes Jesus cry, I left my husband.
Well, actually, I made him leave.
I broke up with Jesus while I was at it.
His expectations and his followers had only ever brought me pain.
In the name of Jesus, my mother broke up with me.
For some reason divorcing your kids does not make Jesus cry.
I’ve only been building this life as a queer mom and college student for a few years.
The Mandy-lore makes me happy, though.