I survived Patrick Henry College with a pastel iPod shuffle and a pair of earbuds that I rescued from the lost and found bin, after waiting the requisite week to make sure no one else wanted them. Was that one of the more unhygienic choices of my life? Yes, but it was also transgressive in another way — it was the first time my music was both portable and private. For the first time, I could listen to whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was to feel all the feels, without judgment from someone else.
Growing up in a fundamentalist family, I learned five emotions: joy, contentment, godly sorrow, righteous indignation, and fear. By the time I got to school, I was somewhat emotionally stunted. Just as I did not have the words to express my sexuality until I got to college, I also had not learned the proper emotions. Through music, I learned to feel and desire things beyond the narrow scope of my childhood limitations. I learned to feel romantic love, giddy happiness, heartbreak, anger, and attraction.
As a child, I thought of “diversity” as a bad word. As I left my segment of the fundamentalist movement, I learned that not only did they fear everyone who was different from themselves, but they also feared the diverse emotions of a nuanced human soul. I had learned to assign one note to those I feared. But now I’ve joined the ranks of those I was once taught to fear, and I allow myself my own range of emotions, in a quiet rebellion.
I do much of that through music. And when I began coming out to myself a couple of years ago, I did that with the help of a soundtrack of queer artists. They helped me put words to deep longings and old hurts. One of my favorite bands is Tegan and Sara (yes, I am aware that I am a walking queer cliche), and I was ecstatic when I heard they were releasing a new album in the next few weeks. I particularly love the single “Closer,” in all its flirtatious danceability.
I think sometimes in all our arguments back and forth about gay marriage and the “homosexual lifestyle,” people forget that LGBTQ people enjoy playful moonlit tumbles on trampolines and making out in magical fantasy tents festooned with streamers just as much as the next hetero. In other words, we don’t always fit neatly into the categories that others have created for us, such as “staid married couple grows oregano in their window container garden,” or “glittery slutty homo seeks same.”
Our emotions and our love lives can be messy and beautiful and heartbreaking and full of flirtation and frustration and longing and caught breaths and skipped hearts, and we really want you to listen to us, but maybe it would be better if we just made you a mix tape.