Walter Alois Weber's
Blue Bird of Paradise
I’ve always been what you might call a strange bird. My feathers carry colors you wouldn’t expect to see, and I chirp in poetry instead of song, and I also sometimes speak in metaphors that fall apart. When that happens, it comes down to this: I’m a weirdo. I have strange tastes, strange interests, strange ways of being. I love my solitude, so I’m likely to spend a weekend entrenched in my own strange ways, emerging on a Monday morning to recall that I don’t quite fit into this world.
When I was growing up, being a weirdo made life challenging. Even for a kid who liked being alone, finding myself perched on the outside looking in made me wonder if something was wrong with me. This time for solo introspection had its perks – I was able to step away from the expectations of others and learn what it really meant to be me. In a lot of ways I appreciated my perch on the outside, where I learned how to do things like take myself out on dates and use my own written words for company, so I didn’t have to be around other people to have fun. I appreciated my solitude, but in some ways, I still didn’t quite understand it.
Let’s be real – it’s not just being a queer woman of color that makes this bird as strange as she is. But I think connecting my identity to my weirdness gave me a complex of sorts, an expectation that I’d never really fit anywhere, because there are things about me that are different. And following the legacy of writers, artists and other earth-shakers who were considered “different” in similar ways gives me a special kind of pride in those qualities that make me uniquely me.
Enter, stage right: other birds with colors like mine. After getting used to the idea that I’d never find a flock to accompany my flight, I’ve found artistic spaces where I’m welcomed, not in spite of my differences, but because of them. Where being a queer woman of color is something to lift up, to celebrate.
Two events in May really gave me a moment to be proud of my strange voice. At CUAV’s The Color of My Spirit, queer and trans artists dance, sang, and spoke of our stories of survival and resistance, and I swear, by the end of the night, my heart swelled with so much pride, it was ready to burst right out of my chest. And at Harlem’s Poetic Rebellion, I was so honored to be part of such an amazing night of performances by powerful queer black artists that I…well, that I flubbed my own reading. But being the weirdo that I am, I’ve had to recover from plenty of flubs before, so that’s what I did. I read on, too full of gratitude to keep my head down.
It’s not often that I feel a true sense of belonging. Sure, by the end of the day, I’m still happy to settle into my nest, wrapped in the comfort of my own wings. But for a little while, it’s nice to take flight with a flock of birds as strange as I am.
There are more chances for strange bird sightings, coming soon. Upcoming events include special National Queer Arts Festival editions of That’s What She Said! and Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance, on June 26th and June 30th. And on July 7th, I’ll be reading at Hella Soulful, part of Oakland’s Beast Crawl. Check back soon for details about these events!