AI: Safe Places for Queer People
Yesterday, a colleague of mine found out I date girls and reacted in the best way I can think of: “cool. Hand me that beer over there.”
This interaction got me thinking about the whole experience of being out (even though I am not completely out yet). College was the first place in my life where I felt no need to hide my queerness. First week of classes, someone bluntly asked what my orientation was (which sounds somewhat rude, I guess, but at the time felt okay), and received no judgment back. And while I don’t actually go telling everyone I’m a lesbian, I get the sense everyone would be okay/indifferent to it.
Which is an awesome feeling.
So tell me:
When was the first time and place you felt safe being queer?
The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 3pm ET.
Featured image is a painting by artist Mike Kury.
I hadn’t realized it until reading todays AI. But despite having been in the LGBT community for most of my adult life, well at least socially & colynteering. Yet I only really started living fully out recently, as in only iver my last one year. Being a genderqueer intersexed lesbian hasn’t ever been easy. But to answer your question, where I am now living is the first place I ever felt safe just being. I don’t also feel understood but I do feel more accepted than I have at any other time & place in my life & memory.
Honestly, this weekend, at the Trans-Health Conference in Philly. And this is after being out for 15 years and completing my social transition 4 years ago. Maybe it’s because trans-ness brings issues out that other types of queer don’t, but until last night I never realised that I go around in a constant state of anxiety.
The first time I ever felt comfortable actually saying to someone in person, “yeah, I’m gay,” was in a gym class my Freshman year of highschool, and only because due to the people I was talking to it was closer to saying “yeah, I’m gay too.”
I’m kind of sad that it was only safe because it was other queer people, and also because I still wonder if it was a case of being accepted because of the tons of girls who just -decide- to be bisexual because it’s supposed to be hot, but nonetheless it was still the first time I felt I could talk about it.
And it did lead to the first time that I was able to tell a straight girl about it without her desperately trying to shield her chest from view before I could infect her with my gay virus, so that’s certainly worth something.
Great question. I would say back in my early 20s when I lived with three other gay roommates. It was a formative time in my life. It was the first time that I was able to be openly and unapologetically myself. I have no qualms about talking about being queer now in most circumstances. I don’t go around shouting it, but I certainly don’t make an effort to hide it (not that I could hide it very well–I’m fairly effeminate).
When I joined my local LGBTT* choir. It remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, I feel so safe and loved and supported every moment I’m around them.
Ironically, the first time I really felt comfortable with words like “I’m gay” or “I’m trans,” other than with romantic partners, was while tabling for my campus’ atheist club. The mix of expecting people to have contempt for me for being an atheist (nowhere to go but up!) combined with the sense of safety and relative anonymity that being out in the busiest part of campus made it easier to use those phrases in public. After that, it gradually got easier to come out to people whose opinions I actually cared about.
It was college for me too. The school I went to had a reputation for being queer friendly and that did factor into my decision to go there. Also, literally no one from my home town attended that college, so I felt incredibly free to be as open as I liked. In some ways it was great and others it was an adjustment moving from a sheltered, ignorant about queer identity, and closeted life.
For me it when I joined the LGB(T? I can’t remember if there was a “T” in there….but it was the ’90s) Youth Project in Halifax Nova Scotia. It was a product of the local Planned Parenthood, we’d meet every other week and would watch queer movies, or have guest speakers, or just hang out. Pretty much anything good about my ideas around sexuality, acceptance, queer rights, etc has been hugely influenced by that group. The mentors and organizers knew their shit, and it was a completely positive and accepting environment. One year we were the Gran Marshalls of the Halifax Pride Parade, and I’ll always remember walking through the streets of my city shouting things like “Ho-ho, Hey-hey, Masturbation’s O.K.!”
I guess the down side is that through my friends there, I learned how truly, truly lucky I am to have a family that’s been so accepting and supportive. I probably didn’t NEED the Youth Project, but a lot of kids there really, really did.