I am everyone’s gay BFF and I’ve earned unfettered access to all your ruby slippers
In my poppy-induced fever dreams I am the glittering example of homosexual
support I always knew I’d grow into. Turns out I have the heart
to be a tin man as well as the gumption to cover up murder to be the good witch.
If only I had the budget to licence Sixpence None The Richer
for my many makeover reveals! It’s true—I’d sometimes short-change myself
to serve someone else’s self-discovery and every night I would scrub away
my hopes and dreams with the ashes of past tomorrows. I thought I’d be
dead by now—I thought my time would never come. But I got the shoes!
And soon I’ll have a getaway balloon and a devoted following to back my alibi.
I wasn’t there, was I? I was off somewhere in the distance using
all my guiles to convince a racist country to love me. He said jump
and I said how high? He said speak and I said which tongue? But when he said
go back to where you came from I had to explain that particular story
doesn’t exist anymore—it’s a phantom limb waving from a haunted TV
without a remote or an off switch. See—I click my heels and nothing happens.
There’s no place like the scene of a racial reckoning. (And repeat, and repeat.)
Although they have immortalised my tormentor in exam questions and
recycled apologies turns out these limp wrists can carry an axe
with the conviction of a superhero. Turns out I know how to dress up
a villain’s untimely death as a musical number. My success is your success.
My enlightenment is your cue to dismantle the power structures that perpetuate
the need to be fully formed in order to be taken seriously. I am not incomplete
without a brain or a heart or courage or a home. I can be
missing all those accoutrements and still recognise that the world is unfair
or know full well what I can bring to their false shrines. You can trust me
to stand my ground—I’ve survived a tornado and have the shoes to prove it.
CHRIS TSE is the author of the poetry collections How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC, and is co-editor of a forthcoming anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers. He lives in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.