On Queer Rage, or Laura Jane Grace Forever

Keegan Lawler

At first, it is delight. A free parking space across from the venue. The short line to get in. The sun halfwaybehind the Olympic Mountains, that magic glow that makes spray paint and punk band stickers slapped onto fence posts gorgeous. Then, it is joy. The older person with the “Folk Punk Made Me Gay” patch on their battle jacket. The younger ones with combat boots and trans pride pins. It is rare, these days, for me to be in a room with so many of us. As the lights come down, it is excitement, bubbling in that same way as my first concert. The wonder somewhere in the child, somewhere in me, that the musician I like, that the one I’d driven an hour and a half to see despite just being the opener, was not just a picture and name on a streaming service, but a real person, dripping in sweat. The first notes from her acoustic guitar, as she takes her place center stage, like a strike of flint in my stomach. Finally, while I scream along to “True Trans Soul Rebel,” it is rage, pure and sweet, burning like gasoline on a too-dry pile. Given to sadness before anger, implosion before explosion, it is rare for rage to surface in me. But now it does not matter who has wronged me, or how sadness has soaked those memories, they light fast and hard and it spreads quickly from there. I am angry for the things that have happened to me, angry for the things that have happened to those I love, angry for the things that continue to happen to people I will never meet. By the end of “Black Me Out,” the crowd is screaming with her and though it hurts, I scream too. For this is righteous pain. Holy even. I am the participant and she is the guide I follow back into myself. Like forest fires taking out the dead trees for the new to grow, I feel my rage ripping off parasites and cauterizing the wounds underneath. When the lights come back up and the techs start to scramble across the stage, moving guitar pedals, cords, and microphones for the next act, I leave. It feels rude to go before the headliner, but I was never going to stay. The ritual is complete, and the knowledge is passed on. To stay would be to ruin the moment, to forsake the specter of queer rage that heals and protects against that which would seek to harm, that as long as there is a queer person screaming into a microphone, can be summoned, even in me.