Some of the most precious relationships I’ve ever had were with my queer friends.
My queer friends taught me the true meaning of a ride or die friendship. They taught me what loyalty looked like. My queer friends showed me that friends can be like your family, because your family can act more like your friends. My queer friends are unabashedly vulnerable, and sexually positive. Boy did they teach me a thing or two about men.
I miss some of my friends. Some of them died due to complications related to AIDS. Although they may be gone on to the other side, they are not forgotten. Each friend provided me with inspiration and valuable pearls of wisdom during different seasons of my life. Some nuggets were practical, while others were visionary.
My queer friends showed me the power of love, and how the lack of it during formative years can be devastating.
They helped me to see that the world isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. The world is complex, unfair, mean, fascinating, and at times, unjust. My queer friends taught me how to navigate it all and do it in 6-inch stilettos, a mini-dress, and a fly ass wig!
My queer friends were the bomb!
My First Queer Friends
My first queer friends came with my ex brother-in-law who was a male registered nurse by day and “Nippy”, the beautiful drag queen on weekends. I was only 17 years old when I met him via my ex-husband, but meeting him and his friends changed my life.
Nippy lived in a house with a bunch of queer folk. They shared everything, sometimes they even unknowingly shared their lovers. They listened to music, danced, and they cooked big meals. They fought with each other and they fought with their lovers. They got drunk, did drugs, turned tricks, and could clean a house better than any woman I knew. Some of Nippy’s friends were HIV positive, and some didn’t know their status. They didn’t want to know their status.
Many of Nippy’s friends are long gone now.
Nippy and his friends took me in, an old runaway from foster care, and loved me back to life. They showed me their love had no limits. Years later, I’d learn that this early introduction to queerness would lay the ground work for my future in queer and HIV advocacy. My ex-brother in-law and I are still friends. He’s now HIV positive.
My Most Empowering Queer Friends
Tony was a beautiful black Trans woman (MtF). I never saw her undone. Her makeup was impeccable, her wigs were the bomb, her taste in clothes was smokin, and she had a tongue that could cut like a machete. She was sassy and brash. She taught me a sense of style, how to pick out wigs that fit my face and skin tone, and how to be strong in the midst of storms. Tony was HIV positive and had a violent, extremely turbulent relationship with her boyfriend.
He used her. I hated him. I loved her. She was a good person. She would get depressed about her HIV status sometimes, and about how her boyfriend treated her. He would cheat on her, with women. He broke her. She loved him.
Cas The Doll
Cas was a hoot. He was a beautiful/handsome black androgynous cross between David Bowie, Prince, and Diana Ross. Cas was “The Doll,” and would not tolerate being called anything otherwise. The Doll was self-sufficient, and worked as a attendant at a state mental health institution. His patients called him “Ma.” He had impeccable taste, and was always dressed to the nines. Cas was an only child with a super supportive mother and father. The Doll had AIDS and had been at the brink of death once.
He raved about his doctor who saved his life and he faithfully adhered to his treatment plan. The Doll wanted to live. Doll was fun, always supported fellow HIV positive and queer family members, and was a tireless rural HIV advocate. Doll had man problems. He always seemed to be drawn to violent men who used him.
The Doll taught me all people aren’t good people, no matter what their mouths say. He taught me how petty some sissies can be (his term not mine). The Doll taught me that finding a good man for him was as difficult as it was for me. We all wanted to be loved by someone else. At times, that’s not an option. Doll taught me to love myself.
John — The Consignment Store King
John was absolutely hilarious. He is gay, HIV positive, lives alone, but has plenty of company. His home was immaculate, always. He loved to cook and would bring me good food at work. We would get together on weekends and go to thrift stores and yard sales to find treasures. John taught me how to make a way out of no way. He taught me how to shop wisely and take my time to see the value in all things, including other folks’ junk.
John could be a little “messy” at times, but he was always real. I loved that about him. He too had a tongue that would cut like a knife, and would give it to you with both barrels if you tried it with him. John would come sit on my porch for hours and tell jokes. We went to barbershops and salons in the region delivering condoms and encouraging black folks to get tested.
We would tag team cursing out homophobic men. That was fun! It’s safer to do it in small town America. Everybody knows everybody.
He was a little older than me, and always gave me country nuggets of wisdom about people, relationships, men, and living. He saved me from a stalker once.
Bonds That Tie
My introduction to the queer community came 26 years before I really became a part of this community. They were my friends, parents, caretakers, and role models.
My queer friends have been some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my entire life. What they brought to the friendship table was all that mattered to me.
My queer friends never slept with my boyfriend (or husband) like my best friend did. Nor have they left me hanging on a thin string like some of heterosexual friends have.
They knew what broken was when they saw it, because many of them came from the same place. They were excellent at loving me back to life.
I love my queer friends. They are the best friends a person can have.