Welcome to our twelfth annual Queer issue. This year we celebrate Pride Month with seven pieces depicting Queer characters confronting decisive moments. Some find themselves at turning points, while others reckon with past choices or cope with the fallout of decisions made by those around them. In their divergent settings and circumstances, these characters confront their individual crises with ingenuity and alacrity, pivoting within their shifting contexts.
In South African writer Olivia M. Coetzee’s “In the Shadows,” a trans woman observes street traffic from her window while reflecting on the many people intersecting in her own life. Her thoughts reveal a social circle as populated and bustling as the scene outside; yet her preoccupation with a childhood friend’s descent into addiction and his subsequent disappearance intrudes into even her most pleasant reveries.
Another lively community forms the backdrop for the autobiographical “Yun-Fan: Singing the Variety of Queer Life.” Yun-Fan, a Taiwanese butch lesbian who identifies as a woman and uses male pronouns, provides an instructive look into Queer life in an earlier era. One of a collection of oral histories of older lesbians solicited and compiled by the Taiwan Tongzhi LGBTQ+ Hotline Association, Yun-fan’s account depicts not only the restrictions he fought to escape, but the freedom he found when he entered the Queer community in middle age.
Colombian poet Raúl Gómez Jattin also considers lives and loves past in his elegiac “Cereté, Córdoba.” A Queer man of Syrian descent writing in ways that broke with his country’s poetic tradition, he spent much of his life between psychiatric hospitals and the streets but still published seven volumes of poetry. Here he recalls the endless sun and welcome shade of his hometown, and notes, “I loved Love twice there / And one time Love said yes / And another time it said no.”
In Li Kotomi’s similarly mournful “Solo Dance,” the reserved schoolgirl Yingmei finds herself drawn to the magnetic Danchen but is too shy to act on her attraction. When Danchen dies in an accident, Yingmei grows even more solitary. As she spirals into depression, her concerned parents assume she is reacting to the massive Chi-Chi earthquake; no one guesses the real source of her upheaval.
Another sort of tumult informs Nina Bouraoui’s “A Night in Timimoun,” set in the liminal space of a hotel. The unnamed narrator impulsively leaves her sleeping husband and children and flees Algiers for the desert resort town of the title. In this strange and disorienting place, she becomes obsessed with another solitary female traveler. The headlong monologue reveals the narrator’s roiling emotions as she confronts her actions and desires.
In a second tale of travel, “Theo,” Fahmi Mustaffa’s young Malaysian visits Amsterdam for the first time. Invited to the house of an expat widower and fellow Malaysian, Theo finds solace in the familiar food and language, but feels less at home when his host suggests a walk to an unexpected destination.
And Panamanian writer Javier Stanziola’s “Gustavo” rewrites a young man’s understanding of his fractured family. When JJ refuses to talk on the phone to the stepfather who abandoned their family, the older man sends a letter from his new life in London. “It had nothing to do with you or your brother,” Gustavo explains, then elaborates: “In fact, it had nothing to do with your mother.” What follows is a revelation.
These characters pursue solutions that differ as widely as their situations, but they share the determination to move through these critical moments to a place of comfort and understanding. As always, we hope you enjoy the multiplicity of Queer experiences and perspectives offered here.
© 2021 by Susan Harris. All rights reserved.