J is for Jurisdiction

This is your jurisdiction. In California, we cannot marry. In Florida, we cannot adopt. Maybe in DC we could marry, and in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Iowa. In Iran it’s a crime. In America it’s frowned upon. This is your jurisdiction. We are not always welcome here.

In the classroom, we must be academics. At work we must be bees following the queen’s dance. In student government, we must be responsible role models, and at home we must be daughters and sons, mothers and fathers. This is their jurisdiction. It is not always our own.


We arrive in the city and we walk through the darkened streets to your doors. In the hot, stifling stale air of your gaping mouth, you take our money and ask to see our IDs. We must show ourselves to be ourselves.


On the dance floor, the music pounds into us until our ears cannot hear and we stand silent amid the flashing light around us. We do not speak. Words mean nothing now. Words are only words. Actions speak louder, and here there is only action. Movement, expression. We dance in small circles or we dance alone, but wherever we dance, we are each reflected in the mirrors around us.

These are not normal mirrors. They are magic mirrors. They do not reflect what others see, what society has shaped for us. They do not reflect what we see, the molds that we have failed to fill. They only reflect ourselves, who we are past the prejudices of the world that lies beyond these windowless walls.


The drag show begins. We’re all crowded in tiers in a small room with a stage at the front. From behind the draping red curtains come these women singing top forty singles to screams and echoes of their every word. They each cast a circle around the room, and when one kisses the man three feet in front of me and the song goes on, I realize they are only lip-syncing the lyrics.

In an instant they devolve into figureheads of entertainment. Tight dresses too gaudy to be graded on Project Runway. Breasts more pressed and taped than flesh. Lips impossibly voluptuous and curves more artificial than a celebrity’s.


I leap up stairs and I jump off the dance floor. Elsewhere I am confined by conventions, but here conventions are no more and I am free to fly as gracefully as can be; there are no eyes waiting for me to fall, no eyes tethering me to the ground I walk upon.

Yet my wings alone are not what holds me high. You catch me when I trip, and you catch me again even when I didn’t fall. Your arms become my embrace. My want is never to leave them.

At the fountain, they play my song. You’ve got the love. You’ve got the love to see me through.


We find them at the second drag show. We keep dancing while at the front, they buy indulgences to free them of the sins cast upon them by society. We pray to these idols of contradiction, these misconceptions and these confused masks. We are saved by these saviors of falsehood and frailty and in their honesty, we find our truth.


When the smoke pours forth, we cease to see, but we do not cease to be. We are no longer the image of our function in this world, but the input we supply to it, the x in the f, the A carried onto B.

Around us, the mirrors have disappeared, have been removed from our scope of existence. We are not reflections any longer. We are our own selves, our own existence. At last we are bathed in sweat that pours from our pores, these tears of expiation, ancient bloodletting that has freed us from the pressures of the populous and the illnesses of inborn identity.

Here we are free. To hold hands, to hold more than hands. To hug, to love and be loved. To kiss without reprimand or reproach. I swallow, and in this breath I am swallowed by the euphoria, freedom.


You are the stranger in our midst. We pass in an instant, our bodies pressed together in this dance of life until we each pass into the arms of another. I missed your name. I never asked it. We will never see each other again, but in this instant, you welcomed me and I welcomed you.

We are more than faces in a crowd. We are more than a crowd. We are one body and one movement, suspended in this sea of flooding sounds, a conduit and a channel for this spirit flowing through us. Each breath forms a beat, the pumping of this blood, this singular heart of ours, thrust into the throws of passion.


Closing time. We live. The party goes on.


A slow song. I dance with my head on your shoulder and your head on mine, our arms intertwined, our hands like travelers lost in time. Back to front, and front to back, and finally face to face, we are the clamshell, waiting to find the fold to our hinge, the door to our archway, the window for our glass. And we have found it at last.

This moment may be an instant of eternity, but even a fraction of forever can never be enough.


We are at long last cast from this bosom back into your jurisdiction, relinquished from this safe haven into the hell you have constructed for us, a hell in which we suffer and you serve us the fire and brimstone borne in your bones.

This is your jurisdiction, but we will never stop moving.

Sometimes I feel we’re like the dust in the spotlight, each of us following a path of chaos. Some of us will end up where we want to be and some of us won’t, but we’ll all end up wherever we’re going.

Never stop moving.


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