Math can explain life. I mean this in more ways than one. Sure, it can help explain things like space and time (which is probably magic) and the earth’s beginnings, but let’s be real—I dropped my math and physics major and let that dream fall to the ground faster than 9.8 meters per second per second. Fuck-up is just one of my many identities. But what I did learn while sitting in classes full of the greatest unknowns is that math—contrary to what numberphobic people think—is a language that can explain much more than the shortest amount of fence needed to surround your three-sided hypothetical pig pen on the bank of a river.

When I was sitting in math classes, words and phrases like inequality, solving for the unknown, and proofs were all concepts that my mind would take in and then apply to other areas of interest, like being queer. For example, I’ve noticed in queer literature the increase of a particular phrase “intersectional analysis.” Queer Studies is often described as one big intersectional analysis and I agree wholeheartedly. Queerness, by default, brings up discussions of race, class, gender, culture, sexuality, ability. It is very possible, if not inevitable, that two or more of these identities will intersect at some point in our lives. The question for me was why, when two things come together, is there so much hurt involved? I don’t have an answer, but I think in analyzing this question it helps to keep in mind that with intersecting identities comes intersecting oppressions.

**‘‘The question for me was why, **

**is there so much hurt involved?’’**

Using good ol’ graph paper is one method that helps me to visualize feelings.

*Figure 1.**Two lines trying to get as far away from each other as possible due to positive and negative slopes. Alas, these two lines do intersect at the point “(me,me).”*

According to this graph, in theory, it is quite possible to be both queer and Armenian. But applying this mathematics to the practical, how does that really work? Does the space-time continuum allow for this? Or is there some sort of magnetic field that repels these identities from one another so that they beg to meet, but when they do, they end up scattered even further than before?

For a while, these identities have been separate, parallel, non-intersecting lines. For a while, it felt easier that way. But I want to put an end to the infinite. I want to know that queer Armenians exist. I want to know that somewhere in this universe or another, there is a queer Armenian making dolma with both his grandmother and his partner or that a transgender Armenian person is living full-time as female while working full-time in Armenia. Pure mathematics says yes. Applied mathematics says not right now, maybe later you little Pisces dreamer.

**‘‘But I want to put an end to the infinite.
**

**I want to know that queer Armenians exist.’’**

Alok-Vaid Menon, who performs by the name of “DarkMatter” with Janani Balasubramanian, posted a personal essay on the subject of identity and what it means to try to hold on to more than one.

What white queers don’t understand is that the entire mandate of racist assimilation in this country [the U.S.] is about us being forced to give up our culture, tradition, and families. Assimilation has always been about us hating ourselves and feeling insecure in our bodies, families, and cultures. White folks do not understand how so many of us are not willing to leave our cultures for our queerness—how so many of us carry more complex identities than just our genders and sexualities.

Like Alok noted, so many of us have complex identities, and I’m tired of complexity being equated to difficulty. Complexity, in math and in life, tends to make people nervous. Start throwing in x’s and y’s and z’s in an equation with a cosine and everybody is not having it. When complexity is mistaken for difficulty, we end up feeling like shit. We think things like “Understanding my complexity is too difficult,” or even worse, “loving my complexity is too difficult.” Math in seven dimensions doesn’t apologize for itself being complex, and neither should we.

Yet at the same time, I will not leave my queerness for my culture. As a queer transgender hairy Armenian diasporan, I know a bit about intersections, and I know that the space where identities intersect is a painful one. It’s a space where I feel the conflict inside of my bones. If I can’t have both, which do I choose? This is how the story goes—for me, and for many queers trying to reconcile difference within a cultural context.

I was born in the United States and so I was taught to assimilate before I was taught what that meant. But there is a growing rift quite visible within my own family. My father speaking Persian Armenian, my sister, interjecting with the Armenian she collected while living in Armenia for two years, and my mom and me, nodding, playing a game of “Mad Lib” filling in the blanks with our own adjectives and nouns, laughing at jokes long after they’ve happened. Bilingualism is important for reasons other than cognitive benefits. A common language facilities the building of family integrity and community; both allow us to feel held. I can’t say that not speaking fluent Armenian is the only barrier I have, but it’s there, and it’s loud, and it hurts.

The toughest questions, the one’s worth investigating, belong to a group of queries I call “the unanswerables.” As mathematicians we can postulate, we can theorize, we can get drunk and talk about the cosmological constant, but in our little lifetime we may not ever have the answers. The irony is that I began to study math out of a sincere hope that one aspect of my life could have answers. I had so many questions about myself I kept my shoulders shrugged for three years, binding my pain flat against my shame. And so I chased answers elsewhere, only to find that what I was studying did not offer answers at all, but rather provided tools, and those tools may or may not be able to open doors to rooms that nobody knows exist. In other words, I was wrong about math.

But I am learning to find comfort in this. In the not-knowing. In the in-between. Where there is confusion, it is usually assumed that the confusion is a result of a problem that must be solved. But identity is different. It’s never about the answers. For me, it is and has always been about learning to live without them. I don’t know the best way to integrate this realization into my life; but my guess—and it is only a guess—is that to mitigate hurt we need to plant ourselves in it. We need to find that common space, that intersection, and ask ourselves “do I feel safe here?” If the answer is yes, you are home.