By Jeremy Schulz
After my father’s sudden and unexpected death in 1995, my world was shattered. Not only was an integral part of our family gone, death had welcomed him during the week he did not have life insurance – and so my mother filed for bankruptcy, and her and my brother Jason, and me and our dog and cat lived out of an RV for a while in Florida where we had relocated to 6 months earlier for my dad’s job change.
When we got to New Mexico, we lived with my grandma, I shared a bed with my mom and brother, and the wounds of my heart and my soul, the blood of innocence dripped from my breaking being, fell to mix in the dirt and dust of the southwest. I am white and queer and gay. And, mama didn’t raise a gringa. New Mexico is called the “Land of Enchantment”, and before I knew what it meant, I had been initiated into the cult that is Queer Survival, with immense strength flowing from the land and the community into my spirit and my body.
If you have heard from or of me, you will know that this is where I would typically speak about violence – the violence that only another human can inflict whose bruises and breaks heal on the outside, while festering on the inside. Instead I’d like to tell you about Star Wars. A six year old Jeremy – as mighty as may grow to be – could not face the world alone, and Goddexx sent me an angel – Leia Organa, Senator, Princess, and heir to the throne of Alderaan. Imagine what it must have been like to watch as her home, her family, her community, her planet were annihilated before her eyes as Darth Vader held her and Grand Moff Tarkin gave the command. If you will for a moment, read the following dialogue aloud. Let the image of a dark cybernetic monster gripping the shoulders of a young woman gowned in white as two of the galaxy’s most powerful men try to break her.
Princess Leia Organa: Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.
Governor Tarkin: Charming to the last. You don’t know how hard I found it, signing the order to terminate your life.
Princess Leia Organa: I’m surprised that you had the courage to take the responsibility yourself.
Governor Tarkin: Princess Leia, before your execution, I’d like you to join me for a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.
Princess Leia Organa: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
Governor Tarkin: Not after we demonstrate the capabilities of this station.
Tarkin demonstrates to Leia that he means business – Alderaan, the beautiful blues and greens of the planet, comes into view.
Princess Leia Organa: No! Alderaan is peaceful! We have no weapons, you can’t possibly…
Governor Tarkin: You would prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system! *Tarkin steps close, prompting Leia to press back against Vader* I grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: Where is the rebel base?
Staring from space at her home planet, Leia experiences – la facultad – in a moment worlds are birthed and broken. Princess Leia Organa: …Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.
Governor Tarkin: There. You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.
Princess Leia Organa: WHAT?
Governor Tarkin: You’re far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration – but don’t worry; we will deal with your rebel friends soon enough.
In refusing to betray the Rebellion, Leia lost it all. The life and world she once knew was gone. That day, Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan died in a way. And she was reborn. You see, Alderaan would have been the target regardless. Alderaan, while being peaceful and having no weapons, was the center of free speech and creative expression in the known galaxy. Following the Emperors rise to power, Alderaan continued to allow the people to demonstrate, to protest, and they did so because the galaxy remembered what had happened to the Jedi, those guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Bail Organa and Queen Breha Organa (Leia’s adopted parents) knew why the Jedi were massacred and why hope had seemed to fade from the galaxy. The Jedi were targeted, as Alderaan was, for being two things: powerful and a problem. How could these mystics, these freedom loving change makers, have the audacity to exist in a galaxy under the rule of the Galactic Empire? How dare they imagine that things could be different, that things ought to be different. They must be punished, and so they were.
We begin Star Wars: A New Hope with the knowledge that once there were thousands of Jedi, of countless species and genders and identities, who held an innate connection to the Force – the mystical life stream that flows within all. And we are told that they are no more, that Luke Skywalker is the last hope. Luke gets a lightsaber; Leia gets to imagine a future without everyone who shaped her.
I began this with a picture depicting the Sith, the Grey, and the Jedi codes. If you are a Star Wars fan, these may be a part of your theology or at least familiar to you. The Jedi say “There is no emotion there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no death, there is the Force.” I once claimed to be a Jedi – I mean, who wouldn’t want to be? And then we learn, at least I did, why as Ahsoka Tano says, “I am no Jedi”. I was led to believe that to be one with the Force, one must be a Jedi, or they are a Sith, a dark side Force user. Their code reads: “Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength. Through strength I gain power. Through power I gain victory. Through victory my chains are broken, the Force shall set me free.”
I have never felt wicked or vile or evil or dark-sided, until the church told me so. Until people who didn’t know me told me that what I was doing was impossible, that it was wrong, that it violated the natural order of things, that there would be calamity, that I was not strong enough to live. So when I read the Sith Code, I hear things that resonate with me deeply. Passion, strength, power, victory, liberation. These are evil? This is hate? This is darkness? Certainly not, the darkness is not inherently bad. It is the darkness where stars shine and the moon cleanses our spirits and dreams. It is the darkness that blankets the world so that the queers, the faggots, the whores, can dance, and laugh, and love, and live, because when we survive in the daylight, we invite murder into our lives. We invite despair – being mocked, being broken, being beaten, being raped, being murdered. And so we have grown in the darkness, we have found our passion, and we burn brightly in the shadows – to the chagrin of the Jedi.
I am not a Sith, and I am not a Jedi. And we have been taught that those are where you land in the grand scheme of things. How dare you rock the boat? How dare you suggest that darkness and light are abstract symbols whose power is wielded to oppress, to subjugate, to erase, to annihilate?
“There is no dark side, nor a light side, there is only the Force. I will do what I must to keep the balance. There is no good without evil, but evil must not be allowed to flourish. There is passion yet peace, there is serenity, yet emotion. There is chaos, yet order.” This is the code of the Grey, those who walk between worlds, who know that black and white are not static realities, that the cosmos is in constant flux, and that everything built must one day break. Balance.
Before Grand Moff Tarkin gave the order of genocide, he says,” The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.”
Today I write to tell you that fear is not a tool wielded solely by Emperor Palpatine, Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, or the Galactic Empire. Fear is a weapon that is wielded by institutions and by those within these spaces who tell us – no, this is the wrong way to do things, you are not big enough, you are not strong enough, you will never be one of us you abomination, you loveless offspring, you who are different, you who are unique, you who march arm in arm because you cannot bear to hear another name of a life brutally taken from this world. There are powers and principalities within this world that will shame you, oh they will. They will listen to you cry out as blood seeps from your soul and they will say, how dare you raise your voice at me. You will feel as though the world is watching you die, and you will not hear from these people as they gather in committees to talk about the stains your bloodied corpse will leave in the halls once they are done with you. You will be made to fear.
Drowning in the anguish, your world will begin to fade, and the noise and yelling will all blend together while you pray to the Divine, “Why must this be my fate?”
There are two things that will happen (though maybe more, I don’t want to be dualistic). First, you might die. We are all going to die. The Wisdom literature we read and we consume and we write and we bring to life, it all tells us this reality. We shall die. This body you occupy, it will grow cold, and bloated, and the excrement will seep out, and the world will spin. And also, you might awaken suddenly, being pulled from the waters of despair, and looking around you will see a community – clothing and bodies saturated as they refused to watch you drown. They will reach down, so far down into the depths, breaking through the infernal gates where we are told “all hope abandon ye who enter”, and you shall see that God is community, and that community will refuse to watch you succumb to fear and loss. You shall steadily rise to your knees, lungs drawing deeply from the air of life and love, and before you will be a banquet and music and a party, because the community that loves you so dearly will force you to know that you are special and worthy of life and celebration. You will find that the world is still scary, that institutions and some people within them remain with their hearts of stone, and you will realize that while your blood had grown cold – ice forming in your veins from your desperate struggle – that love shall be in your heart.
And you shall live. And you shall flourish. And some people will not like you – and that is okay, because you remember as you began to sink below that some of those people saw you grasping for the ledge, and with devilish smirk, they smashed their steel toed boot down to get in one last blow, for their pride is of greater value than your life. You will be uninvited from spaces, but you won’t even notice with the number of doors that will swing open upon your rebirth. Friends, loved ones, you are strong. You are courageous. You are wise. Your heart is massive. Your soul shines brightly. You – will survive. And with that survival, you shall lead others to survival.
When you survive, when I survive, when we survive, we claim power. Loves, we hold so much more power than we are taught to believe. I have chosen to use my power and the power of this community to say, no longer will we remain silent. Survival is intersectional, and so when we denounce the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Trayvon Martin and the countless others taken through fear and hate, we must denounce the brutal murder of Michelle Ramos Vargas, the 30th Transgender person murdered in the US in 2020 – 6th in Puerto Rico, because we know that thirty is too many, and that thirty is inaccurate. We know that Trans lives are taken, that Black and Latina Trans Women are being hunted down, that when autopsies are conducted that the dead have no voice to say PINK or BLUE or MAGENTA, and so their stories are buried with them.
I have made my voice known, and I have held myself accountable for what I have said and what I have done and what I shall do. I faced fear and shame, and that doesn’t mean I am unafraid or unashamed – it means that after 31 years of living through hell, I’m done letting others dictate what I can and cannot do. I am no Jedi – I am Jeremy, and that my friends, that is Prophetic action.
Dustin Parker, McAlester, OK
Alexa Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
Yampi Méndez Arocho, Moca, Puerto Rico
Monica Diamond, Charlotte, NC
Lexi, New York, NY
Johanna Metzger, Baltimore, MD
Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Puerto Rico
Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Puerto Rico
Nina Pop, Sikeston, MO
Helle Jae O’Regan, San Antonio, TX
Tony McDade, Tallahassee, FL
Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Philadelphia, PA
Riah Milton, Liberty Township, OH
Jayne Thompson, Mesa County, CO
Selena Reyes Hernandez, Chicago, IL
Brayla Stone, Sherwood, AR
Merci Mack, Dallas, TX
Shaki Peters, Amite City, LA
Bree “Nuk” Black, Pompano Beach, FL
Summer Taylor, Seattle, WA
Draya McCarty, Baton Rouge, LA
Tatiana Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Marilyn Cazares, Brawley, CA
Tiffany Harris, The Bronx, NY
Queasha D. Hardy, Baton Rouge, LA
Brian “Egypt” Powers, Akron, OH
Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, Portland, OR
Jeremy wears many wigs. A self professed Queer Survivor Theologian and Mystic, they explore the ways that survivors encounter the Sacred outside of traditions and denominational boundaries. Following experiences of hostility from those professing to wear the mantle of spiritual guide within white Christian America, Jeremy turned largely to pop culture and the power of story for inspiration and spiritual guidance. Finding great wisdom from Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, Final Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons, comics and graphic novels, and animation (to name a few), Jeremy struggled to find where the Queer Survivor fits into seminary and the spiritual world. This prompted the questions: When those claiming religious authority turn their backs on the Queers, where do they go to find spirituality? How is faith and spirit expressed for the sexual and gender minority when they are told that God hates them? How can we change the ways society considers worship to include drag shows, ballroom music making, illustrating, activism, and the countless other forms of Queer expression?