An Answer as to Why Queer Street Tarot
Before the reading begins, the cards are shuffled and dealt face down. They slide easily from my fingers to form a ruffling bridge, the sharp crack of them a kind of catharsis. The cards are oversized and do not fit the conventional playing card standard. The way they slide together is less to do with skill and more to do with how fast one can stuff them back together before they end up playing 78 card pickup.
I am reminded that the cards are only a tool and any images they conjure are my own and meant to help inspire thinking on my part. But the mysticism remains. I have to believe in something at this point. Believe in the cards, the magic, and the moment it may all come crashing down.
With a not overly dramatic flourish, the first card is revealed.
The Ace of Wands
Representing the self, the inner human spark, this card is heralded as a moment when a calling or purpose is recognized. In this moment there was a great hole in my belly, or so it seemed, and I remember feeling as if the world would swallow me whole. Sometimes certainty is a great burning flame that fills a person with purpose. Other times that purpose is crushed by a cold stone in the gut that takes everything good with it the moment it is born. In this moment I wondered if they could see it, the blush spreading across my skin and the eyes carefully averted so that the gay in them would not give me away.
The 4 of Pentacles
A card depicting a man clutching at the golden discs that represent his wealth, I feel greedy pulling pieces of myself apart like taffy wondering which parts will these people find the sweetest. There is a virtue in silence and if I keep my head down I will forget these pale yellow walls in four years. These deep green forests of lockers will eventually stop reminding me of clanging metal monuments if I just keep it together. Seated in these classes it is easy to feel trapped by bars only vaguely made of my own design. When society and your peers inspire fear inside you, is it not easier to keep silent rather than speak your truth?
I know they mean well, these teachers of mine, but they want to be let in and I can’t seem to unlock the door. The Hierophant is a tutor. He sits on a throne dressed in religious trappings; evincing another name that he is sometimes known by. The Pope. Someone to pass on their knowledge of the world and help others find solace in traditional values. I worry that I am not traditional enough for these open doors and worried smiles. How many nights did I lay in my room surrounded by the encroaching darkness and wonder if I was somehow beyond grace? How often was it that I woke with stones in my belly at the thought of another day in hiding?
Like the Bible story, the Tower was struck down at its height and scattered to the winds. My home life has been pretty great up to this point. I don’t feel the need to go into much detail with my mother about the banality of my school week so instead I build ornamented obelisks that tell her I’m doing alright. I’m having the time of my life. Building upward toward the open and merciless sky.
It is that night that she finds the proof in rainbow pride clues hidden covertly in jean pockets. My mother never checked pockets. Her theory being if we did not do this ourselves, whatever was in them was worth the trip through the spin cycle. It is hard to not believe in fate or things outside our control when she breaks from her routine and finds the damnable relics. Tokens from supportive friends that now point me out as the heretic, the witch, the damned, the queer.
Lightning flashed down from the delicate blue sky, or at least I think it did that night, and scattered the stones of my well constructed tower like the broken toys of a derelict childhood.
The 7 of Swords
Like a vagabond in the night come to steal your valuables the house sits wrecked, torn from its illusions and left to fend for itself; there is a rift between Mother and I. This card shows a person carrying swords away with them in the dead of night, looking back to see if anyone noticed their crime. What crimes could I have committed before God at the age of fourteen? She says it is her fault that I am this way. She regrets not seeing it sooner.
Did I want to change?
Was that an option?
I felt like some foreign virus in a country that didn’t want to deal with me. Face me. Look me in the eyes. The trouble with the 7 of Swords is that the card is so shrouded it can be hard to tell where the problem lies. Is it the character making off with the valuables or the society that has reduced them to such drastic options.
A mother figure. Spring is slow to arrive and for a long time the cold fingers of winter dig in like an over eager date not used to being told ‘no’. Relationships thaw out ,but stiffly, like they’ve spent the winter fighting just to stay alive and don’t know how to smile anymore. The Empress is a figure of new life and a chance at rebirth. I can recall now how wide her eyes became when I raised my voice for the first time. Declared myself a person worth loving. A person. I don’t know that the Empress remembered for a second who this person was. Maybe they had never met. I know that night I shook with things unsaid. There is a point when the seasons begin to change where the weather is that harsh contest of cold and heat and hasn’t decided which way it will grow. I could grow away from this.
The 8 of Pentacles
Stepping from the bus I could already smell the sickly curl of cigarettes on the air. The house sits before me and looks empty, a shell. I can feel her in one of its eyes watching my progress. For whatever reason the spring breeze makes my stomach curl and twist with it in some confusing dance. I just want a minute to think for myself but there was no time now. Put one foot in front of the other, get in that house. March.
Brilliant and serene, the Star is a sign of healing and clearing the confusion. I think we’re healing. Today she told me she loved me. Yesterday I decided I loved me. Maybe she’s been blinded in all of this. I’m not sure if her eyes had adjusted to the sight of me or she had simply forgotten how long she had shielded her eyes from the burning flame before her but today she told me loved me.
The 9 of Swords
It’s never the happy thoughts that keep us awake at night. Tangled in blankets like webs we want to slough from our skin I wonder if the creaking of floorboards and pacing feet are her way of letting the emotions out. The old wood and metal sighing and shrieking for her in the warm summer night. I remember the way she stood in the middle of the living room, the browns of the walls and the cream carpet making a blinding angel of light out of this woman.
She wondered out loud if she was saying this right.
There had been an impromptu trip to the cities, you see, and a movie shown in a theater. The documentary told the story of the aches and pains of raising a gay child in a world of religious convictions.
The movie was titled, For the Bible Tells Me So and to imagine this woman sitting in an uptown theater, the stomping grounds of all things LGBT, is…unreal.
She tells me of the many men seated around her, hands entwined in each other rather than religious doctrine. To picture this small woman sitting in a room surrounded by gay men shocks and leaves me in awe. But she did it.
I am shaken. This shakes me. But it shook her too. I think back on the situation now and it was that taste of gay culture and the shaping of our community, I believe, that shaped her understanding of the situation. Community is so crucial as a human being. Gay identity, most importantly.
At that moment the card depicting the restless sleeper surrounded by swords like physical reminders of their frustrations and pain stretches to hold us both at opposite ends. For the first time, I realize that there is a middle ground between her and I.
A figure swathed in cloth to fend off the night air holds a lantern filled with starlight coaxed from the heavens themselves. The lantern glitters in the blue black of night and shows a way forward a step at a time. If the world rises up and overwhelms you, it is best to just take a step back and observe the world. She’s finding something new to believe in.
Heart and soul are the commandments she lists now in her diatribes. She has to talk her way through it and it’s my turn to listen her rationalize the thoughts I first handled months, years, before. It isn’t easy for this woman to do. She’s five foot two inches of feisty convictions and struggling comprehension.
The 6 of Pentacles
I remember sitting at grandma’s table in the kitchen. We got it after she passed in 2004. Scars of memories score the tabletop in deep mahogany. In truth I didn’t expect this conversation to happen and I still remember the thrill of wariness and excitement ping-ponging through my gut as she laid it all out for me. I was her son.
Repeated like a mantra on rosary beads. If I was sure that this was who I was then we would work through this together. It felt good to not feel alone. The image of the Six of Pentacles lays over this moment, a card of balance and the meaning perfectly plain. Like the scales in the card balancing their weight there is an element here too of religious doctrine. You reap what you sow. What effort you put forth, you get back.
The card of two lovers entwined in romantic embrace, this card is also a card of compromise. We would begin building the Tower again but this time our material would be different. The stones would be crafted from honesty and care. The spackle mixed with softness and nostalgia.The Lovers is not necessarily a card of romance but a meeting of two minds and two world views. Balance is not always an easy thing to achieve.
The 8 of Cups
This card is a card of dream chasing and it does feel that way. As if I have turned around and am now chasing the thing I was only months ago so intent on running from. It is also a card of leaving behind the things that no longer serve you.. The eights often make the person sitting for a Tarot reading feel that these events are happening quickly but the 8 of Cups is the moment where each cup fills to the brink of overflow and then by some divine miracle stills once more.
Slowly the feeling at home thaws and gives way to questions. How long have I known? Why didn’t I tell her sooner? I make sure she sees my rolled eyes at that last one.
As scary as this card can be I know that being at the mercy of the Devil and the chains he binds you with are nothing to the idea that one can choose to stay in that frame of mind. Being able to free oneself from an attitude or way of thinking that in itself is dangerous or hurtful. It’s been an interesting few months, and the coming out process is never quite the same for everyone. What I hadn’t expected to see was a coming out of sorts from my mother. To call it anything else would be a disservice.
Coming out in support of someone you love can be just as terrifying and feel like the same colossal hurdle that most gay people face when they come out. In that moment I am more proud than I could have thought possible watching her take her first fumbling steps.
The shock had worn away from her face as she turned to me and said deadpan; “Well, I guess I can’t send you to an all boys school.” My reply is a simple, “Why not?”
The Wheel of Fortune
Spinning ever onward, the Wheel is all about the energy, thoughts, and actions one puts out into the world. Karma dictates that it should come back to you in some form or another. Seeing my mother throw her old convictions to the wind in order to support her son gave me the strength to face the rest of high school head on. The images of school as a mammoth hurdle to overcome filled with peers who would rather see someone suffer than not do not matter to me at this point. I’ve come out to my mother and nothing can be harder than that. My last year of high school I relish the awards section of the yearbook where I am named the one most true to themselves.
And for an eighteen year old high school senior, not much could be better. This process has taken years and never quite ends. Every day there are smaller coming out scenarios. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers. The wheel continues to turn and the process begun at the age of fourteen never really ends.