A Taxonomy of Gay Animals
A flash fiction debut by Christopher Hyun
A Taxonomy of Gay Animals
The owl wore my tank top.
The hippo swam in rice pudding. The tree was actually broccoli. The fish were made of wood. I’m lying, except for the part about the owl wearing my tank top. It’s a gay thing, and I’ll explain why.
In my world, we have an animal code. It goes way beyond the generic gay bears and gay otters. There are gay fish, gay hippos, and gay raccoons.
Raccoons eat anything. They are at the same time highly affectionate and highly independent. They need their cuddles and they also need their space. They often have dark circles around their eyes. They’re good with their hands.
Like raccoons, owls are more active at night than during the day. Owls are always asking who. Who’s going to be there? Who’s paying? Who’s lost weight? Who’s more popular? And when you answer them, they act like they don’t care. They can turn their necks almost all the way around. They also eat mice.
A mouse is small and hairy with a high-pitched voice. He often has big ears.
I met an owl at the White Horse Bar in Oakland like five years ago. I had never been at the bar before, so I went in, and my eyes adjusted to the light, and there was that owl, by the pool table, looking at me, staring me down, as owls do. He made a bee-line toward me, and we ended up at the bar, drinking gin and tonic, when he finally asked me, “Who are you?” (Typical owl.) “Are you a mouse?”
I had to laugh. “Yeah, guys always assume that I’m a mouse. But to be honest, I’m more of a kangaroo.”
I went to his place. I tried to convince him that I was a kangaroo, but he kept eyeing me as if I were a mouse. I did all that I could to prevent him from eating me. In the middle of all of this, I lost my tank top. I even looked deep down in my pouch. But I went home in a Lyft, shirtless.
I bumped into him in the Castro recently. I was totally embarrassed, keeping my hands in my pockets. He was unfazed, wiggling his neck around. I grabbed my now-boyfriend’s hand, a dextrous raccoon. As we walked away, I whispered in my boyfriend’s ear, “Oh my god, that owl’s wearing my tank top.”
Where There Are No Kangaroos
Queers can feel a bit lost. Like when I tried to explain it all to my mom, it was difficult to find the right words. First I was like, “I’m still your son. I’m still the same boy . . . but I’m also a kangaroo. You understand, right?”
My mother is an immigrant from Korea, and a Korean creation myth is told where humans are made from the bones of animals, like bears and tigers. Foxes turn into people, often women, or maybe it’s that women are possessed by fox spirits.
But my mother grew up Protestant Christian. Around 1900, Christianity swept across Korea and along with it, these animals and their spirits were apparently swept off the edges of the peninsula.
She guffawed and told me, “There are no kangaroos in Korea.”
I took my phone out of my pocket and showed her a video of all the Korean kangaroos getting iced coffee in Itaewon. She snatched my phone to take a closer look. I knew iced coffee was her favorite drink. Little did she know that it is the elixir of the gays.
In many ways, my mother should be a gay icon. She’s matter-of-fact, dramatic, and at times dismissive. One time when I was in elementary school, I told my mom that I wanted her to be my friend. She burst into laughter, “Your friend? I can’t be your friend.” And then just left it at that. See? She’s an icon.
I remember as a kid watching her put on lipstick. I would put her skirt on my head and walk around pretending it was my hair. Once I found her secret stash of jewelry in her closet. Every morning she would pray in the basement, and I could hear her crying. This wasn’t just one time. She would cry every single morning at 6 am. She was literally Tammy Faye Baker sans dripping mascara.
So flash forward again to me explaining how I was her son as well as a kangaroo and that there are many kangaroos in Korea, too. (There are also bears, otters, raccoons, and fish, but I wasn’t going to go into that just yet.) She was still watching the video about the kangaroos of Itaewon. She got to the part of the video where they interviewed protesters. There was a pastor holding a sign, saying, “These kangaroos are from America. They’re not native to Korea.”
My mom pointed at the pastor. “See? Kangaroos are from America. You are Korean, so no more kangaroo. Get me some iced coffee.”
I tried to explain to her that that son of a bitch pastor is probably an owl. But she just didn’t get it.