I really do consider myself to be a lucky human as far as friendships go. There have been many ups and downs over the course of my life and different relationships, naturally, but it is safe to say that the friends I have now are strong and lovely and incredible and for every single one of them I would drop everything and bike across the country on a unicycle in a hailstorm in the middle of the night carrying a 50-pound bag of chocolate chip cookies if that’s what they needed me to do. I am so fortunate to know so much love from such a diverse group of people.
This June was Pride month all across the globe and for this occasion I brought some of my buds along to the Vienna Pride Parade. We dressed up in funky colors, wore wigs, glued glitter to our faces, painted rainbows on our skin and had a blast! But it does good, in such situations, to remember that we truly are the lucky ones. Not only because we can freely express ourselves in our beautiful country of Austria and our smaller communities. We are also lucky because despite the hate and the opposition that so many of us face, we are still alive. We can still follow our dreams, we can still have a future and we can still feel happiness – yeah that last bit might sound a bit sappy, but I have my reasons for writing it.
Me with my well-deserved Chinese food
My friends gave me a present at the Pride festivities (they thought it was my birthday, though it was not, but it was so lovely of them to do it anyways). They gave me the comic book anthology Love is Love that was created in memory of the victims of last year’s mass shooting at the Orlando club Pulse. The book, brought to life by Mark Andreyko and IDW Publishing, features art by a myriad of talented individuals who contributed either a single-page or two-page piece of work, be it a comic strip, a drawing, a poem, etc. The collaboration of different styles and genres mixed with powerful statements and emotions has a variety of impacts. Some try to soothe the broken hearts of those who feel connected to the victims, some call into question where such hate might originate, and some advocate for moving into the future with courage.
My favorite contribution is a poem by Nyambi Nyambi (with artwork by Jason Shawn Alexander) called 2,000 Characters. The text talks about being a human with a brain and eyes and ears and limbs and how none of these things are just part of a person’s anatomy but how they have so much more potential. The potential to bring you closer to others but also the potential to isolate. And it talks about how all of the parts of being a human are connected through the heart. And how, again, the heart and the brain on the one hand can help you to see that “life will be sweet” but on the other hand can fill you with doubt and “[f]rustration & pain”. Nyambi writes that it can be so very frustrating to explain what you want to say or how you feel or who you are. It cannot really fully be done, not within 2000 characters and not even with an infinite amount of characters. Because, as he sums up, the essence of his poem is “I-am-human”. And that is the closest one might get to an explanation.
I enjoy this poem so much because compared to the lovely artwork that one can find so often online about how we are all equal because we’re all made up of the same parts, it shows that we’re also all different. That a certain label that is put on an individual does not even touch the surface of what and who that individual is. It shows that the victims in that night club are not only ‘members of the LGBT+ community’, not even that they are only ‘victims’. But that there was a whole life of connection and frustration and dreams and doubt and realities within each of these 49 souls. And I love that.
Remembering that a person isn’t a name or a label, even though it is part of them, and remembering how fortunate we are to still be and exist with and re-define such labels and parts of ourselves, that is what I take from this poem and from the comic book as a whole. Sure, it is my subjective interpretation and another reader might find another meaning. But the fact that Love is Love? That doesn’t change.