Cusp

Chris Owens
Human Parts
Published in
3 min readAug 11, 2023

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noun

ˈkəsp

a: a point of transition (as from one historical period to the next) : TURNING POINT

also : EDGE, VERGE

There is an episode of Charmed where a little girl was in danger because she was protecting fairies from trolls. The trolls lived in the in-between spaces (windows, doorways, and the most in-between space of all — midnight). In between spaces can be scary. It’s the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Life on the edge, often precariously on the ledge. On the cusp. between the known and the unknown.

I’ve felt in between or on the cusp my whole life, in one way or another. I am the only child of my mother and father’s relationship, but they each have children from other marriages. All of my siblings are half brothers and sisters, (whom I love with my whole heart).

As a musician, I have spent most of my time as a pianist providing accompaniment to vocalists and choirs. While they’re in the limelight, I’m barely illuminated at the shadow’s edge of the spotlight. As an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, I’ve spent a lot of time between the Deaf and hearing communities, facilitating communication, conversation, and connection.

The cusp that I’m on that I find most intriguing, though, is the cusp between the mostly analog gay community of the late 20th century and the digital-first gay community in the early 21st century. Picture a fresh-faced, not-yet-out man at the tender age of 21, sitting at a gate at Lambert Field in St. Louis as an older gentlemen sidles up next to him to ask, “Are you a friend of Dorothy?” Naively I replied, “No, but I have an aunt named Dorothy, but everyone calls her Dot.”

And then the same man at 30, sitting at his blueberry iMac simultaneously logged into gay.com and the CincinnatiM4M chat room on AOL. And now, 19 years later, he pulls out his pocket computer, taps the screen, and sees a grid, or even a map, of other gay guys that shows how far they are, down to the feet. “Nic is 68 ft. away.”

My gay older brother (left) and me (right).

We are the last generation of gays to use coded language and signaling to seek each other out and the first to use technology to do the same. We’ve recited “Left is right and right is wrong,” and we’ve deciphered the GWM DTF BDSM FF BB NSA tags in dating apps.

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Chris Owens
Human Parts

Chris is a signed language interpreter, product manager, musician, and writer living in Columbus, Ohio with his partner Dan and their collie, Cooper.