I have spent most of my life trying to recede into the shadows, to slowly fade out of others’ vision. Here’s my primer on taking up less space:
- Be shorter, thinner, smaller.
- Be quiet. Speak only when spoken to.
- Be agreeable. Smile. Make the right nonverbal signals so as not to draw attention to their absence.
- Be expected. Wear / don’t wear makeup as dictated by others’ perception of your gender, be predictable, act neurotypical.
- Don’t have needs. Never ask for help. Don’t speak up when something isn’t working.
- Don’t have emotions. Keep your trauma to yourself.
- Be less—less trouble, less yourself, less human, less divine.
Anneli Rufus wrote about it like this: “And this is how I learned to barely breathe. Because the less you breathe, the less you break. The less you do, the less you can do wrong.”
There are a lot of things in my life and in our world that affirm my desire to take up less space. And then there is queerness.
I don’t think I’ll need to tell most people reading this that being queer takes up space. Sometimes a lot of space. When holding hands with your partner draws stares, you are taking up space. When entire denominations of the church are spending years trying to figure out what to do about you and the fact that you keep showing up, you’re taking up space. Spending an hour on the phone with the IRS trying to figure out how to file taxes when your marriage is legal in your state but not your country, that takes up space.
If I objectively consider it, I’m sure that God didn’t create anything not to take up space. That’s literally what matter is, stuff taking up space. But it goes against every instinct I can access, and it’s uncomfortable, and scary, and so very difficult.
My queerness calls me to take up space in the world, even more space than it takes up for me. It calls me to eat when I’m hungry, and speak up when I have something to say. It calls me to share my burdens with others, even when that feels more like being a burden on others. It calls me to sit up straight and leave my arms by my sides when I’m on the bus, not because that has value in itself but because not doing so subtly reinforces my semi-conscious mission to disappear. It calls me to the church, because going to church, any church, as a queer person feels like taking up too much space.
I realize that for many people, this will seem like a non-calling. I believe that we are each called to do and be things that constructively challenge us. For some people, that is a calling to literally save lives or change the world. Taking up space in the world is a calling for me, from my particualar brand of queerness, not a calling for queer people everywhere.
I’ve enjoyed working on this piece—I love the subtle art of refining, reordering, of making sense out of nonsense (and by nonsense, I mean anything that comes out of my head the first time). Yet I don’t have an actual blog or any social media, because I am terrified of being seen as someone who thinks that their thoughts are worth listening to. I see the irony in saying, well, any of this, in a place where people might see. And as I weigh the decision to post it (or not), I’m listening to what my queerness has taught me, feeling out the edges of the space around me, tentatively considering taking up a little space.
(*Answer: They have (well, had) no idea, do whatever you want and document it. Thanks. Super helpful.)
All my love and respect to the authors and copyright holders of Heathers: The Musical, the source of the title of this post.