WHY I LOVE BOY BANDS
Because: I've got this thing about kicking shame
right out. Or maybe it has something to do
with gender—well, what doesn't?
Truth be told, my gender identity
might be boy band
if I were given the choice, which mostly I'm not.
Why won't the world let me have
five different faces? Let me be the individual
and the group, all at once. Let me be
every kind of boy imaginable.
Because: They manage to always belong
to each other, however choreographed
their creation. Love emerging
from circumstance, not choice:
in each other, they get a second shot
at the lottery of family. Sure, every family
is full of opportunities to learn to hate yourself.
But there are other possibilities too—soft
places, where you find yourself held
close to what you could become.
Because: Before I knew the meaning of words
like transgender and heteropatriarchy,
I knew every syllable of the Backstreet Boys' discography,
was part of a contingent that could sure as hell
show up in the streets; don't ever tell me
teenage girls can't change the world.
I've seen them give up sleep
and warmth for what they believe in,
assemble en masse in a scream
that could shatter crystal glasses.
Because: They were queer before I was,
or maybe they were the first time
I knew how queer I could be,
and what kind, and with whom. Boys
in matching outfits, always one
with painted nails and another
who could shoot hoops, two somewhere
whispering a joke that sent them
into giggles at a half-sentence.
The middle school chorus:
You know they're gay, right?
I knew I needed to know that boys could love boys
enough to give each other the last, best
thank yous in the liner notes. I had to learn
from somewhere how to demote God
to the middle of the paragraph.
Because: Sometimes I need to believe that as long
as there'll be music, they'll be coming back again.
Isn't that all any of us really want?
Something to rely on. To know they won't leave
you alone in your changing body,
your small town world. For all those bouquets of promises
to be kept. Especially the ones you made to yourself,
clunky headphones on, that album on repeat again,
singing to yourself, Don't wanna lose you now
or ever again. And you didn't.
Because I dream in harmony still,
somehow, despite it all.
© Esther McPhee; this poem, in an earlier form, first appeared in Matrix, issue 104.