I plan the days I put on nail polish on my calendar, looking for the optimal space between the days I have to go into work. It’s not worth the time and effort to put on nail polish if I can only get one or two days out of it, max, before I bring out the perfumey remover, and even then, I’ll usually miss a spot on the edge, leaving behind the sins of my queer life to be gawked at or scorned.
I work in a church as a youth director. It’s an ELCA church that is part of a Reconciling In Christ synod though it itself is not RIC. And even if it was, would I be trusted with the children, even the children of white liberals? I doubt it—in part because I was trained to be an assistant Kumon—an after-school program—back East and when I moved to the Bay Area I called every Kumon in the East Bay and e-mail out my impressive resume (what after school program wouldn’t want someone who taught English and math on a college level, already trained in the Kumon method, has experience with working with kids for practically their entire adult life, and is willing to do so for barely above minimum wage?). But I was a man, or at least, present as one over the phone and with my name, and the East Bay liberals love the idea of gay people providing they are not responsible for instructing their spoiled children. Oddly enough, my husband faces the same problem as a music teacher, parents often expressing disappointment when their child is assigned my husband to teach their child beginning piano. “Oh, I thought we would have a female teacher,” they say. Yeah, but none of the female teachers at this center can play a Chopin ballade or even have a degree in piano performance. But I guess credentials don’t matter in the big bad Bay Area where leather daddies abound, hiding beneath suits and ties during the day, power bottoming at night.
My husband works at the same church as the director of music. When we started out at this church, it wasn’t long before an elderly woman took issue with the fact that we were gay and married, and worst of all—sin of sins—I was willingly let near the children. I don’t know what sick fantasizes played out in her mind, and I don’t really care. She threatened to leave the church if something wasn’t done and when something wasn’t done, true to her word she left. The pastor came to my defense, but in a conversation, told me he was happy I wasn’t one of those “out there” gays. He told me that if I was an “out there” gay, I probably wouldn’t have a place on the staff.
I learned I can’t make a living even in the Bay Area as a genderqueer 30something with a master’s degree in religion. No, I learned that I had to pass by day, pass as a man, as one of the good white gays who is married and supports the military, says the pledge of allegiance and one day a year—Pride—wear a rainbow shirt purchased at Target.
I’ve learned that while I work at a church, it will never be church for me, at least not in its current incarnation. Church for me happens at night—in a kiss, on the dance floor, in the company of drag queens, my chipped nail polish, smudged eyeliner and all.