Its almost the end of Pride month, and, inevitably, some people claim queerness is nothing to be proud of. In an ideal world, sure, orientation and gender identity would just be facts about you and not accomplishments to be proud of, but this isn’t the world we live in. Our world is one that makes queer existence a feat in and of itself. Mainstream culture reminds us that it isn’t for us on a daily basis. Here, I’ll go over a few point of pride I’ve found in my queer life.
- Inner work — The queer journey is a tough one, and it requires you to take apart every piece of yourself and study your inner workings. My journey started when I began asking myself how I thought and felt instead of living the life sold to me as the ‘respectable’ one. It felt revolutionary at the time, and it burst forth with a strength that almost took me with it! I had to question everything: who I was, what I wanted. I had to closely scrutinize everything my environment had taught me and evaluate it’s truth. It can be a lot of work, but it is so worth it. It gave me a firm foundation of identity so that I could live without an inevitable identity crisis down the line.
- Strength in the face of opposition — For many queer folks (especially here in rural America), the world is not friendly or affirming. Quite the opposite, usually. We have to balance a calloused toughness with an open, loving connectedness. It can be harder to only have one; we need protection and connection. Queer folks often have to learn to make it through systems that are made without our experiences in mind. We have to navigate well-intentioned miscommunications, passive aggressive erasure, uncomfortable assumptions, and active violence. Survival means learning cope with the extra background cognitive load while worrying about the usual things (like money, grades, etc.). I was bullied, threatened, and excluded throughout most of my time in school. I had to learn to compartmentalize this and still focus on my school work like everyone else. I was harassed in my dorm’s community bathrooms during my first college finals week (a stressful time already) and had to set aside my experience and fear of it happening again to focus on studying for my calc exam.
- Independence — Queerness has a lot to do with independence. We have to learn to love ourselves regardless of what our peers think of us. Growing in a queer identity requires thinking deeply about things we’re told to just accept. We have to listen to what our own experiences tell us instead of just hoping the assumed experience fits. I’ve been the ‘other’ for a long time, and I find it quite liberating! My life is mine to live, whether traditional culture has my back or not.
- Legacy of Endurance — Queer folks have been subjected to unspeakable harm for centuries. Our possibilities were outlawed and, when those laws were lifted or eased, they were made punishable by social death. Trans women were forced onto the streets and queer culture was pushed underground, where it has grown to influence modern pop culture. The queer story is one of patience and diligence and endurance, and it continues into the future. Queerness is still officially illegal in some countries, trans women are being murdered, queer possibilities are still largely ignored by institutions we are required to navigate, and most of us experience some level of harassment and exclusion.
- Legacy of experimentation — Mainstream culture is filled with expectations, and queer culture loves to break these. There are almost infinite possibilities we can embody, almost infinite stories to live. Most of these are too far outside of the respectable norm for mainstream culture. Queerness opens the door to innovation in art, fashion, film, and other aspects of culture. Queer artists have a history of subverting expectations and rewriting the rules. This is why queer culture is such a dynamic generator of new ideas, often appropriated when someone just within the threshold of respectability picks one up.
- Morality — Mainstream culture has a history of entwining morality and respectability. It sees “family values” as traditional values, built on an existential fear of a breakdown insisted to arise when the strict power structures of the nuclear family are challenged. It builds our sense of morality from a basis of conformity and “proper” being. It defines moral action not by demonstrable harm to living beings, but by separation from approved institutions. Queerness is a practice in valuing human thought and feeling over traditions, challenging that system and prompting personal moral inventories. It’s about seeing our own experiences as just as real as those pushed onto us. People are more real than traditions. We are so often assumed to be immoral, depraved beings for existing outside of what we were told. Our existence is seen as wholly and exclusively sexual by most conservative politics, and the far right has adopted a conspiracy theory of leftists trying to “feminize the western man”. We are misrepresented and misunderstood and targeted by campaigns attempting to write morality specifically to exclude us.
Being a queer person is a lot of work. We have to deconstruct our identities and try to explain them to people who don’t want to understand. We have to find community when visibility is a risk. We have to constantly battle harrassment and political optics while doing all the stressful, mundane things everyone else does to. Queerness is also absolutely freeing! We grant ourselves the agency to find the way that fits us best, and there’s a certain solidarity once community is found. This is why I’m proud.
(Also, Black Lives Matter, sexuality and gender is often racialized, and black trans women are being killed. Queer issues and black issues overlap, especially for queer people of color. Protest, raise awareness, and donate if you can. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019 )