The following is an edited version of a short essay posted on Facebook by Trinidadian poet Shivanee Ramlochan, on the occasion of the second year of public Pride celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago.
Pride in the bedsheets crumpled with the weight of the lover who is your other self. Pride in the boardroom with lavender garters licked with frills beneath your sharp, sharp suit. Pride in the whip coiled like a sleeping snake next to your hymnal, nestled in the drawer for your best churchgoing panties. Pride in the parking lot on the fifth floor of the Port of Spain high-rise, after the expensive dinner, before the slow drive home, savouring what you have eaten, soft thanks in your throat for the man who passed between your lips and called you good, good food.
Proud to be out, placard waving, the bottom inherited from generations of buxom Black Rock aunties bubbling, a small rainbow flag iridesced onto your cheek, for quinting and for kissing. Proud to be in, curled up in bed, witnessing the revolution via livestream, holding your girlfriend’s hand, two towers of manga framing your pink laptop, its plastic case bejewelled in “Trans Lives Matter” and “Support Your Sisters, not Just Your Cisters”. Proud to be breathing queerasfuckly whether you star in protests or blog about them, whether you put your body on the line or your voice on the threaded tweet, declaiming.
Pride is beautiful. And it is political. And it is born of a bloody, mutinous theirstory, from the roots of a radical understanding that acceptance was not the only striveable goal, at least not acceptance from the come-to-Christer, from the corporation, from the oligarchy, from the evangelical, from the elite. And so whether your body was visible in the parade, or not, to exist queerly is its own breathtaking defiance of the statutes of raw hatred. You are alive. All the cells in you, incandescently gay. Irrepressibly lesbian. Outstandingly bisexual. Terrifically transgender. Indisputably intersex. Notwithstanding societal bullshit, non-binary. Queer as quantum joy.
See? That’s a parade. You are a parade. You choose to be here, as you are, on your own terms, in your own skin, existing. Breathing. Raised fist or clasped hand. Atheist or acolyte. Devout or ill-disciplined. You have outlived something old and gnarled and toxic, something that has wanted you or someone like you dead, converted or decommissioned, in our time stretching back to antiquity.
You deserve to be proud of yourself, you rare, riotous beauty. Go on, give yourself a huge, rafter-rattling cheer.
Shivanee Ramlochan’s 2017 poetry collection, Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, was shortlisted for the 2018 Felix Dennis Award for best first collection.