What Does ‘Queer’ Look Like?

On self-protection and queer form

Annie Thomas
Gay Mag
Published in
12 min readJul 23, 2019


Illustrations by Alicia Tatone

5.5. I guess we can start at a house party. That feels like where I started. Red lights. Twenty-somethings. Rural Tennessee in the early 2000s. I’m in a trailer. Black fields stretch out like a blight through open plastic windows.

My boyfriend, Smith, is twenty-three. We are on a house call. I’m fifteen. Which drugs is he selling? Molly or a derivative thereof. Or maybe Xanax. Or, if he is feeling low risk, a type of nausea-inducing upper, like Vyvanse. He’s transactioning in a back bedroom underneath a mirror mounted to the ceiling. I’m in the kitchen. Desperately, I want to go into the bedroom to lay underneath the mirror — as if I were sleeping — in order to see myself laid low as God sees me, but my boyfriend’s best friend, my night’s keeper, has his arm around me in the kitchen, pinning me in place. He has red hair and a sallow expression. He’s skinny and mean. He’s holding me close. He plays drums and has the arms for it. His favorite things to do is Vikings. His dream, like mine, and like my boyfriend’s, is to float forever. We are not floating. We are boxed in by plywood cabinets painted yellow. His name is Brody and his job, when people come up to us, is to protect me from their ignorance.

The people in the trailer have the slow-blinking expressions of the heavily drugged and in every room but the kitchen are moving together like ants around a dropped crumb. They are reality adjacent. They are reality pathetic. Like me, they hold secrets, and they hate themselves, and I love them.

In the kitchen, under a foggy bulb, I listen while men talk. A joint is lit. The men laugh. They slap each other on the back. They inhale. My keeper’s arm around my bare shoulders is very warm and very heavy. Smoke rises. When it’s suggested that the men head outside, Brody looks at me like he’s asking permission. It feels good to be asked permission.

2.2. Or should we start at a church camp, when I thought Jesus lived inside of me, in a hut, inside my heart, and if I needed him all I had to do was knock. The floors of the church camp were green carpeted, the walls green painted, and the meals served on green plastic trays. I was thirteen.