Imagine that you’ve wandered through a foreign land most of your life. You’ve been there so long that you’ve set down roots without even noticing. You can get a job, and find a place to live. You try to hide the language of your heart at work, or when meeting new people, until you’re sure they won’t call you strange, or dirty. You find friends who think your accent is quaint.
But you’ll always have that accent. You can’t get rid of it. It’s not that you’re unable to, but… sometimes, passing through a bookstore, or at a concert, you hear someone who speaks your language. Someone whose hair or clothes or mannerisms feel like home. And when you see the markings of your heart all over their pins and t-shirts and colored hair… you desperately want to make sure they know you speak it, too. So you keep the accent. Just in case.
And then, as you’re wandering through that land, you hear not just one person, or two, but an entire ocean of people speaking the Yes Language, the Belonging Language. The dialect of Queer. The aching desire is overwhelming, and you know you’ll follow them wherever they go.
That’s how I ended up at ClexaCon 2018, a convention celebrating LGBTQ+ women and characters in media. I was drawn–pulled–in by the voices of queer people and allies echoing off the walls of the Tropicana Convention Center. A tsunami of colored hair, diverse bodies, and sense of safety that I never thought I would see in my own hometown. I had to remind myself to breathe.
I put on courage like a suit, and hoped that it didn’t look as ill-fitting on me as it felt. I talked with novelists, business owners, comic writers, artists, and podcasters. I introduced myself to an editor, who unknowingly jump-started my writing career. I watched women talk about being bisexual, about owning a business, about how queer Black women are portrayed in media. I talked to Lauren Shippen, one of my favorite podcasters, and followed people I had never met into excited discussions about culture and love and kindness and hardship. I never had to translate anything, because we already had the same syntax.
And when it was all over–when the panelists went home, the final goodbyes were said, and the convention center was empty again–I went home.
The apartment was quiet, and empty. But my mind was already buzzing. I knew I would have to return to a life of translations, and, “Why would you cut your hair so short?” and “Do you mean girlfriend or girlfriend?”
But that’s okay. The translations are beautiful in their own way. My accent is quaint, and my loved ones hear me for who I am.
Besides, there’s another ClexaCon this year.