FREE AS MY HAIR
CÉSAR DE LA FUENTE
“And in the morning I’m short of my identity, I scream mom and dad why can’t I be who I want to be?”
I knew that I was different. I had a crush on a guy, but I was so repressed that I thought maybe if I prayed enough it would go away. I didn’t listen to Lady Gaga because it wouldn’t let it go away, not that I was even allowed to listen to her anyway. But then everything changed. I bought the album. That head in the motorcycle of the Born This Way cover, I stared at it for a long time. And then I played it. Everything was different from the moment I heard the first lyric: “I’m gonna marry the night”. I felt proud of myself for finally buying that CD. For stopping the fight against that little part of myself, against having a secret safe space.
I remember listening to the Hair song after a long day of bullying and crying, and thinking: “Why is this happening to me?”. The only time I could be true to myself was when I listened to Lady Gaga’s songs. They portrayed the pressure I was feeling that I couldn’t show with my parents, friends or anyone by day. But at night, alone in my bedroom, besides my impermissibly purchased Born this Way Album, that was when I felt and understood my fears, my motivations, my prayers. It was my only safe space.
That safe space was the only time I felt free to dance like I was wearing heels and lipstick. I wanted to scream that I was different, that I liked boys too, and it was something that I wanted to be proud of. Being a queer guy from a small town, in a catholic school and a conservative environment, that was not an option. But then I heard those lyrics that gave the empowerment to be unapologetically free, different and just be myself. Listening to Lady Gaga was my first rebel act as a queer guy.
That was the time that I wanted to go against everything said to me and just trust my gut. And one night, in that now not-so-lonely bedroom, besides my-own-permission bought Born this Way Album, I said to myself:
“I’m ready. I’m gonna come out.”
“I’ve had enough, this is my prayer, that I’ll die livin’ just as free as my hair.”
When talking about LGBT people, especially LGBT youth, we tend to ‘invisibilize’ the process they went through before coming out of the closet’. It is a complex and complicated time where there can be no physical safe space, especially in small towns, and the feeling of loneliness can grow. But, in recent years, other safe spaces have become more present and spoken about, from social media to music icons.
Music icons have a strong influence on youth. Some of them use their platform to give an inclusive, even rebellious, message. They give a voice, and they can become a safe space. Listening to music icons as safe spaces can be inconspicuous: just put in your headphones, put any of their music, listen to them in your bedroom, and dance. There is LGBT+ youth whose only hope and empowering words heard by them come from a lyric.
But, let’s talk about what a safe space means. In Cultivating the Art of Safe Space, Mary Ann Hunter describes it as having four main elements, the first one being that safe spaces describe places that provide safety from danger. We can argue that this element does not have to be physical, it can be emotional. The time that a queer guy or girl listens to a music icon that uses empowerment and freedom lyrics, is the time where they feel safe from their heteronormative environment which represents a danger to their identity and safety. This is reflected in Lady Gaga’s Bad Kids song: “Don’t be insecure if your heart is pure, you’re still good to me if you’re a bad kid”.