Code-switching is a linguistic phenomenon where a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation.
The speaker is often unaware of the mental hop-scotch that takes place on their tongue as they stitch together various identities into one patch-work language.
The first time I experienced code-switching was while coming out as gay in the church
As a kid, I was afraid of being alone
it’s so easy to see what makes you different as reasons for others to push you away
and as Christians we are taught to walk through life in obedience,
unity often mistaken for uniformity
and so I started compartmentalising my life.
breaking my speech up into dialects to mute the parts of me that made people uncomfortable.
Hiding the things I felt that people wouldn’t understand.
But you can only break yourself into pieces for so long before you ache to be whole again.
When I first started coming out,
you’d think I was speaking a different language
Their eyes widened, smiles were forced, and everything from the shoulders up became a bobble head
I was a foreign tourist asking for directions
and this poor soul in front of me only understood every other word out of my mouth.
A queer vernacular they could not digest
Although I was becoming whole again,
others thought I was falling to pieces.
They saw my queerness a brokenness to be healed
and fasted on my behalf,
hoping their prayers might intercede for me
their eyes no longer focused on the person in front of them,
but the fractured self they hoped would return.
treating this quilted heart a Frankenstein unworthy of love.
like I would have been better off a pile of rotting body parts.
and even though you look at me like I have gone mad,
like a devil has taken hold of my tongue as I
illogically weave between lexicons
I will continue to code-switch
Because your language doesn’t have a word for queer Christian
and I can not describe my experience using a framework that was built to exclude me