Written by Montez Louria
Art by Anete Lusina
As the clock changed from 11:59pm to 12:00am, the month changed as well. I smile. June, PRIDE month and my mom’s birth month, crept up on me. I look at the clock, thinking heavily about the performative brand-stamped rainbows that will decorate everything for only 30 days. I think about the origins of pride, the POC women that paved the way, and the riot that started it all. More importantly, my mind moves to myself, the queerness I’ve become more comfortable acknowledging and my distant relatives who lived proudly, secretly. A lesbian (my grandmother’s aunt) and my mother’s favorite uncle, Louis Fitzgerald.
My mother didn’t know him as a gay man but she knew him as a smooth-talking, white Cadillac-driving, afro-picking uncle. A gold tooth cladded man who served as a protector for my mother.My grandmother’s heart outside her body, as she called him. That is until she discovered him to be gay. This is an open letter to you. I know you’ll never physically read it but I hope your spirit will absorb my words.
Dear Uncle Louis,
Hi. I am your great niece. We never met or were ever even in close proximity, but I feel you and I think about you often. Mom started talking about you again. She reminisced on the arguments you had with Sammie, the neighborhood drunk. Sammie hated you but loved you like a son. Do you remember when Sammie died? Mom says you cried a lot.
Anyways, I am writing to you to say you thank you. Eventually, you said who cares and admitted your truth, even if that meant letting your sister go. You left your family behind to live happily. I don’t want to call you courageous because we shouldn’t live in a world where you need to be courageous to live. I don’t want to say brave because I want to avoid cliches, so thanks for the inspiration. For being a predecessor and being part of a family that wouldn’t accept you for who you are. Your essence will not die, and neither will the aesthetic you left with us. Your humor, confidence, compassion, and soul will always live vicariously through me. I am an extension of you because I will live my truth, without permission. Accepting queerness, rejecting old family ideologies, all of that is because of you. I learn from the stories of you that what happens behind the closed door of my bedroom doesn’t matter. What matters is how you show up for the people outside of your bedroom door. Mom didn’t have the best childhood but whenever you appear in a story, her smile radiates and her heart bursts. Thank you for protecting mom from the monster across the hall.
As June ended, I didn’t celebrate in vain or take anything for granted. You deserved so much more than what you got. So much more than a lonely death and an unmarked grave. I hope you are in heaven flashing your gold teeth and rings, waving a pride flag, proudly. I celebrate pride for you and because of you.
Oh! Mom wants you to forgive her for the time she saw you on the street. You both made eye contact, but she didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say. But if she could go back in time, she would tell you that she was sorry that she didn’t keep in contact with you. She is sorry that she let that opportunity slip away. We love you.
Montee, your great niece.