Reclaiming Queer Joy

by | Nov 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Growing up in a polarizing political landscape, with transgender rights under attack at every waking moment, people feel as though they have a right to how it’s impacted you. The world would rather hear stories of queer pain: the time classmates had bribed friends to out me, the time a teacher outright refused to use my pronouns because I was out sick too frequently, the people telling me I’m “going to hell” for wearing a “You Are Loved” shirt.

Cisgender heterosexuals try to justify their obligation to hear the trauma of marginalized communities by claiming it’ll help them feel inspired to advocate for us. They don’t have that right. Instead, I’ll take it upon myself to share experiences of queer joy, something that may be less interesting to those not in our community, but something we are so desperately deserving of hearing.

I’ve known I was in the queer community for as long as I’ve had memories, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to tell anyone. Luckily, I didn’t need them for a while; however, in middle school, when everyone started exploring relationships and their own romantic interests, the words were becoming more and more necessary to me. I needed a way to identify how differently I’d been feeling. These words were introduced to me through our GSA, a place where everybody was welcome, where everyone belonged. They gave me the words I had only heard in hushed whispers and told me that being gay wasn’t something you had to be quiet about. Really, they sparked my interest in LGBTQ+ activism and advocacy.

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Months later, I finally told the world I wasn’t straight, starting with bisexual and eventually correcting to “lesbian” a few months after that, in the first classroom I’d been in with an LGBTQ+ teacher: French. French class was a utopia for me, an incredible place where gender neutral language was ingrained in the curriculum, identity was celebrated, and where you could be honest without fear of consequence. These days, I still wish I could go back to the freedom and representation of people like me that my Mme. Deyo had let us feel, and with the majority of my current college-level French classmates coming from the same middle school, I feel they must, too.

During the pandemic, I had by far one of my favorite coming out experiences, because nobody even took it as coming out. All I had to do was add my pronouns to my zoom name, and allow the world to play identity-catch up. I was able to hear the first adults in my life call me by the right pronouns, without making it a movie-moment. I let the world catch up without an announcement. It was gratifying to hear people refer to me properly without ever giving them a chance to question it.

Since starting high school, I’ve gone back to my middle school, directing plays and musicals alongside my former teachers and mentors. Larger than any political win, I find the joy I feel in that space to be exhilarating. Introducing myself with “they/them” pronouns, I always see a few young actors with an excited, joyous face, finally seeing someone who’d been through what they’re going through and emerging on the other end, understanding and proud of their identity. They’re even more joyous when my girlfriend comes to help out, seeing two nonbinary students, similarly identifying to many of them, who’ve found confidence despite the alarming effects of the school system. To know that just by existing proudly, I’ve instilled them with a glimmer of hope they’ll get through everything bringing them down, I find myself beaming. The smile only grows when they get to share their own true selves onstage and offstage.

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There’s an incredible amount of positives in our community, something that simply cannot be expressed in even an endless amount of words. While many come from connections with others, there’s a lot of euphoria within the individual aspects of queer joy, too. I find nothing more pleasing than when an outfit gives off the perfect expression of “femme, but not feminine,” and I think that eyeliner is the most affirming makeup product to exist. The individual doses of happiness aren’t to be ignored, and for many of us, they’re the most common ways of experiencing queer joy.

The world asks us to share our pain. Often, it takes sharing traumatic experiences for our voices to be heard. For our country, this is sometimes necessary for the greater political and social success of the LGBTQ+ community, but it is critical that we receive chances and spaces for true queer joy.  So today, I implore you to choose queer joy, and I promise I’ll do the same. We, and our entire community, are so much more than the trauma and pain we’re forced to share with the world.

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