God Hates Fags
By Kristin LaurelWho shall set a law to lovers? Love is a greater law into itself.
– Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, A.D. 524Like October poplars that are first to drop their leaves, I often find myself unprotected, exposed. The one I love is more reserved, like the Bur Oak that clings to its leaves, perhaps there is a gentle sacredness in not giving everything away.
We hold hands on the narrow path while squirrels scuttle to bury their hoarded treasure. I read once, that they find only ten percent of the nuts they hide; the rest go to seed and give rise to trees. I stop to pick up an acorn, press it between my thumb and forefinger. It smells of musky earth, a trace of permanence.
Two joggers approach— we quickly drop hands. A few red maples glare, against a pale-blue sky. And I am ashamed. It’s the same when I cut a hug— short, hide my tears when I greet her at the airport, or cover up our held hands with the bucket of popcorn at the theatre. We look around again. No people. It’s safe.
My God, it is strange how perfectly our clasped hands fit, how this is the closest thing to God’s love I’ve known, how other’s see this as wrong.
Sometimes, it feels like I was abducted from the nice white straight world and came back queer-colored and green. She says, “In public turn up the friendship and turn down the love,” but I say, “Why should we contain love?”
She treads lightly, doesn’t disrupt the forest floor. I drag my feet and kick up leaves, tearing them like tissue paper. I let my shoes sling mud—
This morning, on Good Morning America, they showed members of Westboro Baptist Church, picketing at a dead vet’s funeral, holding their signs: Thank God For Dead Soldiers God Hates Fags Jews Killed Jesus
Listen. I’m not here to preach. I’ve been no saint. I remember how, in college, I shared an apartment with Tammy whose father was a pastor; how distraught, she confided in me: “I want to get married, go to church and have kids,” she said, “But I’m attracted to women.” I moved out as fast as I could.
And I remember how once, in 5th grade, at Hesperia Christian, I called a kid a faggot. Even though I didn’t know what the word meant, Mrs. Thompson made me put my hands on the wall and spanked my ass
with a holy paddle.
I have a few friends still “praying for my soul.” And let them pray; I need all the help I can get. My godmother is coming around but I haven’t spoken to my father since I fell in love; he drinks too much, and calls me a dyke. Yet, I’ve had it easy. I wasn’t court-martialed by the US military. I wasn’t put on the stand to defend my career and myself as a human being for associating with gays like my friend Maria was, a decade ago. I wasn’t disowned by my Christian family, like Donnie, my mom’s cousin, who died alone of AIDS, back in the 80s.
Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for. The people I now call family support me and the one I love. And yes, I’ve been in love with a man, and a woman, so in case you are curious, let me tell you, love is love. Sex is sex. “But,” people ask, “what about the kids?” Children have a way of seeing things for what they are. I hold my daughter’s hand sometimes when we’re watching TV. I hold my youngest son’s hand, my mother’s, my sister’s, my grandpa’s— my oldest son won’t let me hold his, but he’s nearly sixteen. My kids love me, and they love my partner. And yet I know what my mother fears. It has nothing to do with what goes on
in my home. Maybe we all need to shut off the news, and get close to a person with a label we have nothing in common with. Are we really a nation divided? Don’t most of us all care about the same things at the core, our kids, our spouses, our aging parents? Maybe we all need to just take a walk in the woods.
In the safety of the car we head home, holding hands. Tomorrow, she will leave, and we will be separated by Minnesota prairie and North Carolina mountaintops. I still have my little acorn. I twirl it around in my other hand. It is face-less, and race-less; an oval shaped head, wearing a hat, enclosing a single seed. As a child, I wanted to plant an acorn, but I was told, “You’ll be dead before it ever grows up to be anything.”
I’m going to give it to her before she goes, have her plant it in some fresh, red clayed, Appalachian soil.
Editor’s note: Kristin Laurel is a divorced mother of three teenagers, employed as a nurse, who unexpectedly fell in love with a woman three years ago. She graduated this January from a poetry apprenticeship at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and has recently been published in Calyx, Main Street Rag, Hospital drive, Talking Stick, Prose Poem Project, Grey Sparrow Review and other journals. “God Hates Fags” is from her first collection of poetry, Giving Them all Away.