If They Knew

Article by: Amelia A. J. Foy and Keira D.
Submission from: Chrys Shipley

How can we love someone who, if they knew, wouldn’t love us for who we are?

This is a painful experience felt across the LGBTQ+ community. Important people in our lives, often significant family members or long-term friends, become people that we both love and resent as we identify as queer. Although no queer person is obliged to come out, it is often burdening to hold back this part of our identity, for the sake of keeping their love and our relationship with them. The following are a series of pieces by queer people working through these complicated emotions, the tug-of-war between expressing your queerness and keeping these people close.


to grandad, with love by Amelia A. J. Foy

[Image description: The below poem written on an envelope.]

remember when we played cards at the too-small round table in the kitchen
with the lino floral cover
before the printer was there and
you repainted the walls green

and do you know my favourite smell is the back-garden shed:
wood, paint, and hard-work
i remember how it stood against the back wall
before they cut down the willow tree on the other side of it

we built a snowman out there and used metal mesh to keep it upright
in the small patio garden
where i learnt to ride a bike in
one tight circle
and painted at the metal garden table when
the yelling inside got too bad

i imagine the egg cup of paint water
spilling out a rainbow of watercolour.

nan told me heaven was a place of my favourite things
i am sad i will never see you two meet again up there
i am sad i can never tell you why
God wouldn’t let me in.


Exhibit A by Keira D.

It’s strange to think that there are whole states,
rubber-banded butterfly wings pinned down to
my mind’s map,
that think my existence is a crime.
I suppose I am predator, glaring contemptuously
at vows like laces squeezing tighter and tighter,
constricting you from the basic choice of love.
If there are, without doubt, thousands of fire ants
waiting to rip my wedding cake out of my clammy, shaking hands,
then why do you scare me so much?
Your tongue drips acid, a scathing precaution, just in case
I dare to apply your insults to myself.
I keep my queerness hugged tight around me like armor,
a cocoon I only emerge from if I have been
coaxed with many promises and drops of sugar-water,
souring with every signed, sealed, delivered insult.
How do I draw the line between standing up for life and
standing down for safety?
I keep my head down, my arms outstretched, for all the men who have never felt too silent to speak.
For my family, my uncle and cousin, taking the government out of marriage because
our gift receipt expires far too soon, and oh boy, could we use that refund.
For the potter with soft hands and eyes, who knows so much about the unpredictability of sculpting, but will only accept one ceramic form.
For me, a specimen who let the crickets of self-imposed fear serenade her with denial until I let my scales melt away.
Shed my skin, reemerge as chameleon,

forever caught between shifting rainbows.

Mother’s Love by Chrys Shipley (they/them, @greenchile)
TW: suicidal ideation, self-harm

Have you forgotten the day I was born?
I woke you from a haze of drugs and pain
with my wails.         Have you forgotten
how those screams
broke the sound barrier a thousand
a thousand
times over?
Killing cold composure,
composing commotion

putting the biggest love story
in motion:
mother and child
mild and wild
one that cradles,
one that cries
one mother, you
one child, me

My love that left you speechless
when my jibberish
babbled like a
crooked brook,
my oos and boos and dita dita boom
assumed powerful shapes for you

It was your love and mine that made me cry
when you left
as if it would be months
    instead of hours
till I'd see you again.  Again
               have you forgotten this?
This love that made you stay up late and
hold me over your shoulder
patting my back to burp,   and when we were both
older do you remember
sleeping in my room for weeks
on scratchy pillows
and an army blanket just to keep me safe
because the bi-product of isolation and self-deprecation
created the cremation of happiness.

I, the haphazard, started the family disaster,
I mastered lying and not crying to prevent prying.
But you stayed there
next to me,   remember?
From October to December
I remember because that Halloween we watched Scream
instead of trick or treating cuz
leaving me alone would mean
demons demonstrate depression
if it reached succession—my obsession with suicidal sessions,
razor impressions pressed on my skin.

Do you remember how I skinned myself alive
so I could survive school,
your love let you play the fool,
fearing and falling from the dangerous
creature I’d become
you thought I was a new creature
but my only new feature
was my name
you wanted to be numb
to it all,
you’d see how I’d stall
from standing in the
wrong stall,
stainless steel and ceramic
sticky stains on the window
panes, in pain
those bathrooms were hands
pounding on my mind of clay
those crowding crying thoughts
that fought to stay at the top
even when dropped and drowned
by that pounding name.

Do you remember how you claimed
you’d keep me the same
to keep you sane and so
you stain your sentences with a pretence
of acceptance
and relentless resentment
contending against contentment
meant any time spent speaking
would compensate for that blatant hate you had for me
that blatant hate you had for me
and my name.

Do you remember my pauses
between clauses, wondering when
you’d remember I was no longer in
the closet
I was no longer closed off, trying to stay
soft and silent around the edges but toeing
the ledge, wondering when you’d finally
let me go ahead and spread my name
across the page, I wonder what age
my name will be proven not as
cold cage closed off from becoming and just
slumming in slimey grimey filth
but my name is center stage,
the passion so hot setting everything
aflame and nothing not even you
would tame me.

for you
my energy has limitations some days
some days my blanket has bound me to my bed,
my dread drying out all my tears and I can only hear the buzzing
and shouts around me.
Have you started seeing my arms
     my voice quake
and quiver?
     Seeing how my spine shivers
as soon as you deliver
that disrespectful-
that dreadful
that hateful
     that label: name
tell me it’s a is a myth or a fable,
tell me you’ll cradle
my unstable hands
and see me cry
and see me cry
out and try to find
the right words in my mind—
tied up by my knotted insecurities
trying to secure my ‘peculiarities’
with the tug of tired tethers
weathered by the blistering
bristling beat of

how much self taming,
    be timid
how much self blaming,
   be broken
how much self maiming
   be miserable
but you are
still blind
not minding
the ropes that wrap round
my scrag
the tethers sag under the weight
of my waiting
and the blisters that break out
on my wrists
that ill fitting
is your staple of me.
Are you waiting
to see
how long I’ll keep dreaming

I am now awake
I’m awake—
a cryer,
that’s tired of being a liar
lying on the floor, flinching at the flesh
fabricated as my dated costume
that I wore in your womb
but if I don’t rip it off soon
I’ll wear it in a tomb
how long I’ll flinch from that flitting flying name
that name that came crawling out of
your cracked lips, making
my fingertips tap, tap
then snap, snap
a rubber band round my wrist
when you persist on perceiving me
receiving me as my deceiving body
but you’re not seeing me
you’re weaving my identity
into dented, unrelented charade
this charade, makes you wonder
how long will it last as
if this was a rash decision that the precision of
two division gender rendered dissatisfaction
and my first reaction was objection,
and from my rejection, it led me to
why be one:
boy, or one: girl
why one
wild, one mild
why not none
why not two instead of too few
why not slide through a slew
of genders
why not rewrite, and be rendered
who won’t be a bender
to the binary

why not me?

This is the same me.
This me has the same history, the same likes, the same temptations.
But my gender isn't an all-inclusive invitation
to make an invasion of invasive questions and suggestions.
I'm open to discussion
but please
if your love is still there,
even if it scares you

say my name.