Thomas, in his own words:“Queerness is creativity; it’s curation. There’s an artistry and a poetry required to define yourself by your own terms. If you are told that everything you find to be beautiful or desirable is wrong, a path is forged to a certain freedom, to decide what you think is right, and true. I know that for so many of us this creates a constant anxiety, it can be really draining emotional work. But I know that for myself, it’s what saved me. The liberating revelation that my love and my life were to be entirely my own creation. It’s inspiring.
I didn’t always feel so empowered. I grew up going to Catholic school in the Midwest. When I told my parents I would be attending a demonstration for gay rights at the Kansas State House, my mother–she’s Italian–she grabbed the kitchen counter and burst into tears, repeating, “I just want to have grandchildren.” I was fourteen. Coming out, then, seemed impossible. It would be a part of myself that I would keep hidden, I figured.
I was lucky, though, because it was at my all-boys Catholic high school that I met my best friends: the Gay Lunch Table, we called ourselves. We were young and in this ostensibly repressive environment, but it never felt like that when we were together. We had our own lingo; we made each other laugh. If anyone ever tried to give us trouble, we made a game of it, coming up with unapologetically effeminate ways to make them uncomfortable. We felt tough, and not in spite of our homosexuality, but because of it.
I try to remember that every day. I’m older now, and less afraid of who I am. But it’s a good reminder: let your confidence be a shield. I read a lot of gay authors, try to follow gay artists, and there’s such a resilient beauty that runs through our history.There is both elegance and endurance. I find it very motivating. I feel the power of a family line, like I am from a long tradition of dreamers forced to reinterpret their world. So that’s what I try to remember, and what I try to put into my own work: queerness presents an opportunity to imagine a more beautiful world. Feel the power of that, wear it like armor, and embrace the grace of being gay. “