Pretending to Be Gay

And other monstrous things hiding in the forest

by Corey Saucier

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This is why we are beautiful…

Not many people know this, but death is a gentle deity designed to be tamed. It is not a dark monster running ravenous and red-eyed in the night. It is not a beast covered in blood and gore screaming itself mad in the corner. I mean, it can be…. Death, at it’s worst, can be a chaotic brittle-boned thing that drapes itself in violence, powerlessness, and pain—something wild and unyielding as a car crash; or war; or a syringe with 2 milliliters too much…. But it can also be a beautiful black, blue-eyed raven, gently pruning its downy feathers by silvery moonlight until it is time to carry a dying lover to the other side. At its best, death can be something patient and kind; washed in the warm waters of self-sacrifice and generosity, like caring for the elderly as they are resigned to die—or loving a brave child overcome by cancer, or bearing witness to the thousands of thousands of men and women who have died due to AIDS.

This is why we are beautiful.

If you have ever been in the room when a person passes, there is something profound that transpires—something metaphysical and magical that changes the very density of the air around you, and forever alters everyone who is there to see it. It emboldens the heart in a way that is difficult to explain….

It’s like a cup being filled: Where you are filled with all of this love and fear and hope…. Your eyes are on the person that is dying. Your hands are holding their hands. Your prayers are filling the room, and the water is constantly filling the cup…. The light behind their eyes goes iridescent and golden; and then dims. Their last breath goes in—hard and deep; and then out—slow and measured, until there is nothing. And the water is constantly filling the cup…. And then they go. And you, the person that is left, is filled with all of this life and love and fear…and the cup is too full. And there is nowhere left for the magic to go; and so it spills over…. And you are filled to the brim; and spilling over; and your tears are flooding the floor…. And you can never be who you were before.

This is why we are beautiful.

In Harry Potter (and the Order of the Phoenix) there are these winged creatures called Thestrals. They are large black leather-winged skeletal “horses” that can only be seen by people who have witnessed death. They are frightening omens to magic users…but by the end of the story, they are found to be kind monsters. Monsters that show us that through death and destruction certain characters can gain extra gifts. Harry Potter is a very dark children’s story. But there is power in the dark….

This is why we are beautiful.

Thirty years ago gay men were dying of a mysterious blood-borne disease that no one could understand, and it forced our queer culture to evolve—to stand strong, to fight, and most importantly, to care for our loved ones as they died. This you will never understand unless you have done it—unless your cup has been overflowed with too much water—unless you can see the Thestrals walking in the forest—unless you have force-fed someone you love a medication with an unbearable taste because you must—unless you have fed them ice chips because they could no longer swallow water—unless you kissed them gently on the forehead from midnight until morning to help fight away the delirium, and unless you have told silly nonsense stories as the light of their life passed from this world into the next…. Unless you have done this, you will never know the power and grace it takes to be the one who survives…and gay men in America did this by the droves.

And this is why we are beautiful.

They call us “fags,” and “sexual deviants,” and “abominations,” and flamboyant fem flamers who only complain about our rights…but they forget that we also stood in packed hospitals as our lovers died terrible pale-lipped deaths. We took our friends home to hospice because their families rejected them, and we nursed them in our guest rooms until their medications no longer worked and there was no more breath for them to breathe. We were brave…and selfless…and beautiful…and Holy, like some blue-eyed black-winged creature screaming tears into the corner with our eyes squeezed shut so that we didn’t go mad—casting spells made of light and prayer—as savage as any monster. We gay men were bright unflinching examples of how to love the dying. And so many of us remain…. Walking the streets of gay ghettos in bright pink shirts with limp wrists and loud gay sayings. Yelling, “Yaaaasss!” at cocktail parties; pretending to be vapid and silly and vain…. But really we were the winged creatures in golden halos garbed in long-suffering and grace that carried our loved ones from one world to the other like angels, or fairies, or the ferocious Valkyrie.

And this is why we are beautiful….


Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently penning his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.