Pride month during the summer of 2020 certainly looks different amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Many LGBTQIA+ folks have become acquainted with a new kind of displacement. Being separated and moving away from chosen families and safe spaces has always been a tangible reality for queer, trans, and non-binary individuals. Due to Covid-19, many have been forced to move into non-affirming spaces. A non-affirming space might look like an environment that is not positively receiving or supportive of LGBTQIA+ individuals. These spaces often require LGBTQIA+ individuals to navigate the challenges of invisibility, invalidation, homophobia, and/or transphobia, putting these individuals at high risk.
In the initial weeks of March 2020, Covid-19 cases in America began to surge. Many college students, for example, were beginning their transition to online learning, leaving highly populated cities, evacuating college dorms, and moving back into their childhood homes. Others who had expiring leases and no foreseeable way of renewing or renting new apartments would also go on to enter new living spaces.
Many quarantine households have become places where LGBTQIA+ individuals have faced abuse, gaslighting, and other forms of harmful and degrading behavior. LGBTQIA+ young adults might have gone on to cultivate distinct lives outside of these homes, finding communities overflowing with supportive and loving friends and those that share similar identities. Now, having no choice but to return to those homes and celebrate Pride in circumstances such as these, it becomes essential to contemplate the ways in which LGBTQIA+ folks might maintain an unwavering sense of self when their immediate atmospheres might not necessarily be conducive for them to do so.
Here, meditating on queer joy feels like a necessary practice to take up. Preserving one’s identity during a time in which it might be problematically challenged, undermined, and threatened is so crucial. Queer joy and queer love can be found everywhere, even in covert places. According to scholar Eve Sedgwick in her book Tendencies, “queer” can refer to “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, or anyone’s sexuality aren’t made of (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically.”
So, “queering” culture, for someone who lives in a town or city with few LGBTQIA+ spaces and representation, might look like simply observing the various ways in which individuals in their direct community might exist subversively and veer from heteronormative lifestyles. The power of queer lies in the notion that “its boundaries are not determined in advance, that it does not name some stable entity but is constantly in the process of being redefined and re-articulated.” Consequently, discovering representation and visibility becomes possible in unlikely places.
There are a plethora of ways to “queer” life, and perhaps by finding those small and intimate ways, it becomes possible to challenge a cis-het white male narrative without having to go to your favorite gay bar. For example, unpacking and dwelling on queer childhood crushes or icons could be a cathartic and healing activity. Destabilizing the patriarchy and heteronormativity doesn’t have to be a grand act, but rather, it might look like binging films and literature with unique ranges of representation (Check out Wanuri Kahiu’s film Rafiki and Carmen Machado’s memoir In the Dream House). Immersion in the history of Pride month is another way to feel actively involved in the celebration of LGBTQIA+ lives, as folks like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera paved the way for visibility down the line. Investing in yourself in these kinds of subtle but essential ways are forms of self-preservation and resistance.
In tense households that are hosts to precarious relationships, choosing when and when not to engage with cohabitants, if possible, might also look like a form of self-preservation. First, a way to physically relieve that tension might be to turn to self-care and engage with your body intimately. Stretching and practicing yoga are great healing practices. Then, making peace with those strained relationships could mean acknowledging the fact that oppressors have the undeniable ability to understand the harm they cause. A quick and simple search on google might be their first step in understanding their own abusive tendencies in order to learn how to affirm others marginalized identities. After all, it is not the burden of LGBTQIA+ folks to educate and inform the people who actively vilify and oppress them.
For queer, trans, and non-binary bodies, the choice to fully embrace oneself and live in truth is a radical act. Calling oneself into being through identification empowers those on the spectrum, as the scholar Gloria Anzaldúa notes in her “To(o) Queer the Writer — Loca, Escritora, y Chicana” essay. Choosing to proudly own one’s identity in bigoted spaces inherently defies and dismantles the hegemony. By centering the lives of marginalized individuals, social normatives and constructs are challenged and oppression is undermined.
Leaning on supportive friends (virtually) and indulging in queer relationships at this very moment can be restorative, even if physically quarantining away from those chosen family members is the matter at hand. Deeply investing in those special people can be therapeutic in anxiety-inducing atmospheres, as it is important to remember queer culture is always present, accessible, and ready to embrace.
This by no means an exhaustive list of ways to celebrate Pride in non-affirming spaces, as the LGBTQIA+ community is resilient and constantly evolving. Preserving and safeguarding one’s core identity might be one of the most important ways to celebrate Pride this year. Even by “queering” imagination, it becomes possible to dwell on the future possibilities outside of quarantine and Pride month in order to envision a radically queer and liberated future for all.
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