Who decides what queerness looks like?

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Am I queer? Yes. Do I tell people I am queer? No. 

 

It has been about 4 years since I realised that I do not really fit into the neatly labelled box of heterosexuality. In hindsight, of course, I always felt like I didn’t fit in, but back then I did not have the words for it. When my peers were swooning over Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, I was trying to find objective answers to “what am I feeling?” or rather, “why am I NOT feeling anything?”

 

News flash, old-me: You still do not have the answers. But today-me is okay with not having all the answers.

 

Owing to my privileges and a supportive group of friends, I did not struggle with shame while coming to terms with my sexuality. The struggle has always been in connecting with folks outside of my friend circle. Given that I am still making sense of my queerness, there is always a feeling of “am I doing this right?” There are so many layers to this feeling that I am still trying to dissect.

 

“But you look so straight!” 

My exposure to queer folks began with pop culture. I started watching Grey’s Anatomy in 2014, and I have revisited it multiple times, at different stages in my life. This is when I realized the way that I watch the show depends on where I am in my life trajectory. A couple of years ago, when I (re)watched Arizona Robbins expressing interest in Callie Torres, and then backing away because C wasn’t “gay enough” was probably the first blow to my newly accepted queer mind. Since then, I have noticed a pattern in shows and films, where one person is usually portrayed as “more” queer than the other, in terms of their experiences with relationships or their gender expression. This has always made me reflect upon my own queerness.

 

Is there ONE way to experience queerness or be queer?

 

Am I still queer if I don’t subscribe to pop culture’s idea of what it means to be queer?

 

Do I need to have certain kinds, or amount, of experiences to be a part of the community?

 

How do I build relationships with people when I do not [yet] have shared experiences with them?

 

Is it me or is it my trauma? We’ll never know

Adding to the lack of experiences and interactions outside of the heternormative structures that surround me is the layer of sexual trauma that makes me question my own queerness. Am I queer because I am a survivor? Is my sexuality a trauma response? I still struggle with this question on many days, and I know there is probably no correct way to answer this but I have also come to accept that I do not need an answer to this. Even if my queerness is a trauma response, it is still valid.

 

To label or not to label

Queerness, to me, has meant moving away from labels. I have moved from using “not heterosexual” to “queer” for myself, but I do not yet have a label for it. On one hand, I see both sexuality and gender as fluid and I do not feel the need to use one particular label for them. On the other hand, I struggle to see myself as part of the community, unsure of where I “fit in”. For some people, labels can bring a sense of calm or belonging, perhaps the feeling of “fitting in”, but for me, it seems more complicated than that. Over the past years, I have interacted with many queer folks who have specific labels for themselves but I struggle to introduce myself in those spaces. It feels like stepping into a room where everyone knows what they are doing, and you are just… exploring (hi, queer imposter syndrome). This has also prevented me from accessing community spaces shaped around queerness because I do not think I am “queer enough” to occupy those spaces.

 

“Queer Imposter Among Us”

As an introverted, awkward-in-social-settings kind of a person, sometimes I think I do not even have the personality to be queer (wow dear mind, do we even need a personality to be queer?). In the mainstream media and social media, the way people from queer communities are portrayed and played is fascinating to me. The thought of attending a Pride March makes me uncomfortable – not because it is a Pride march – but because I am not a fan of attending such large gatherings. This is my “if I am not outgoing enough, will these spaces accept me?”, much like “if I have not watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, will society accept me?” vibe.

 

It is a vicious cycle.

 

I have had the opportunity to be in some online spaces with other queer people, where they have also shared their own thoughts on questioning either their sexuality or gender. There are accounts of bisexual women who, while having some privileges, tend to feel invisible both within the heteronormative society and the queer community. I remember when Jameela Jamil came out as queer in 2020 on Twitter and the backlash that she faced. The kind of debate that Jamil’s tweet on coming out sparked is what bothers me. This idea of “queer aesthetic” and how anyone who does not fit into it, is simply not “queer enough” or passes as cisgender and heterosexual.

 

I also think that oftentimes, we forget that the queer community is after all a community – a group of people with shared experiences coming together to support one another. So, like any community of people, this is not a monolithic group and there will be differences and intragroup dynamics that shape the community. For instance, gatekeeping within the community has been a concern. It is often used as a way to keep particular members of the community at the margins of an already-marginalised community, which can lead to the erasure of identities, like for those who identify as bisexual, asexual and/or aromantic and intersex. Being part of queer communities does not free people of their biases. I wish more people realized this.

 

For the longest time, I thought the “Q” in LGBTQIA+ also stands for Questioning, however, over the years, I have seen there’s less space for it. For some people, realising that they are queer can be instinctual, and I understand this. But many others may never have known another way to understand themselves beyond the heteronormative structures they are surrounded by (and part of). And, now that we do know, should we not have the space to question, explore, and figure out where we fit in, or whether we even want to fit in?

 

I am proud, but I am not out (yet). The only thing that gives me comfort is knowing that every day I wake up to a world full of possibilities where I could be anyone and that regardless of what label I use, there will always be spaces and folks who will accept me.

 

For anyone who is reading this, and finds themselves relating to any of it, I hope you know that nobody gets to decide what queerness looks like for you. Define your own aesthetic. Be as dark as Taylor Swift’s Reputation or as bright and shiny as Taylor Swift’s Lover. 

 

– Jean Grey [Pseudonym]

Pride with OFC, 2022

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Pride with OFC: Over the Years

Pride with OFC: Over the Years

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As a queer and youth-led organization, the centering of queer experiences in the systems we inhabit forms a crucial element of our work at One Future Collective. Pride Month is an opportunity for us to learn about and reflect on queer lived realities, informing our work towards queer rights and freedoms throughout the year. We hope to use our spaces to build and share knowledge about queer identities, celebrate queer joy, and express solidarity. In this blog post, we’d like to take you through Pride with OFC initiatives over the years as we begin Pride Month, 2022. 

 

Pride with OFC, 2020

 

In June 2020, OFC observed Pride Month through #PridewithOFC campaign. The campaign aimed to develop knowledge and resources about queer lives using a intersectional, rights-based approach, and celebrate queer people’s strength and expression through activism and art. During this year, our work during Pride was informed by the conditions of COVID-19 and initial lockdowns, which posed complex challenges of safety, mental and physical health and well-being for queer individuals.

 

  • Online Events:

To engage with people online we held variety of IGTV lives to understand queer affirmative counselling during COVID-19, trace the history of Pride in India and reflect on young queer people’s activism. We also collaborated with organizations like VCF India and MullenLowe Lintas Group to hold some informative workshops. 

 

Keeping up with the spirit of Pride, we held our 12th Feminist Futures meet-up to facilitate dialogue around queer allyship and the 13th virtual meet-up for the Sanskari Girls Book Club to discuss Jump Space by Mary Anne Mohanraj. 

 

  • Queer Art Festival: 

Through Pride 2020, One Future Collective decided to amplify the voices of some brilliant queer artists through a showcasing of their work. We curated a completely virtual Queer Art Festival in association with Social Offline. We partnered with 10 of India’s most prominent and active LGBTQ+ organisations to bring queer movies, artists, and music to the fore. Through the Queer Art Festival, we reached 10,00,000+ people and amplified the voices of several queer artists, musicians, directors, through our channels. 

 

During the Queer Art Festival, we also curated two important panel discussions. The first one discussed ‘Queer Mental Health’ with illustrator Sonaksha Iyengar, mental health professional Richa Vashista and researcher Sukhnidh Kaur. The second one was based on ‘Workplace Inclusion’ and was facilitated by Apurupa Vatsalya, Daniel Mendonca, Koninika Roy and Shambhavi Saxena. 

 

Pride with OFC, 2021

 

For our second Pride Month in the midst of the pandemic, we wanted to focus learning and reflection to queer people’s needs for safety and healing from the second wave of COVID-19. We did this by working on encouraging allyship and support, building knowledge on technological justice as we navigate more and more of our lives in cyberspace, and hosting several celebratory spaces. 

 

  • Queer Rights and Allyship (QRA) course:

Our Queer Rights and Allyship course was especially curated to encourage allies and community members to extend their support to queer communities not just during, but also beyond Pride Month by donating to queer causes, educating themselves and inculcating inclusive practices in their work and workplaces. The course was one OFC has run many times, and it was run as a free, open course to make it accessible to all. We had over 40 signups for the course and ran it in two batches, facilitated by Apurupa Vatsalya and Kuhoo Tiwari. 

 

The main objectives of this course were to understand the basics of Gender and sexuality, navigate legal provisions and safeguards (or lack thereof) for queer communities, develop allyship and put it in practice, and understand and address the mental health needs of the queer persons. 

 

  • Online Events:

We organized virtual events like open mic jamming,  poetry reading, as well as healing spaces with art and movement. We also organized a  workshop to discuss “Privacy and Gender”.  Here, we talked about technology,  safety and identity for queer folks and gender minorities –  from gender injustice to tech policies, and to the use of dating apps to track people. 

 

We had over 120 sign-ups across two weekends with over 9 events to attend! 

 

In addition to these events, we also curated lists of state-specific policies for trans folks in India that deal with health, education, skill and economic support for trans folks.

 

Pride with OFC, 2022

 

We are very excited to welcome you to our Pride journey for 2022, as we navigate several key intersecting axes along which queer lives are organized, and continue to center safety and joy in our work with the built and social environments of queer folks. 

 

This year, Pride with OFC is going to be all about building knowledge about and celebrating LGBTQIA+ realities in unique and engaging ways. Our objective is simple: as queer folks, this year (as we strive to do every day of the year), we take up space, represent our lived experiences, and collaboratively work on creating safer, healthier, happier worlds! 

 

As a part of this, OFC will be hosting a range of virtual and in-person events, including community spaces, sharing circles, workshops, Instagram lives, discussions on queer art and literature, online courses, and offline educational spaces in residential homes and local shops.

 

  • We are launching a Solidarity Program, through which will engage 20 volunteers, who are allies or identify as queer, towards building community awareness. Sign up: bit.ly/OFCSolidarityProgram
  • We will hold space, both offline and online, for celebration and for us to come together as communities. Sign up for spaces now: bit.ly/OFCPrideSpaces
  • We are also going to spend some time building knowledge throughout this month. You can sign up for a course or a workshop as an individual, or apply as an organisation/group!

 

Apply now:

  1. Queer Rights and Allyship (Paid Certificate Course): bit.ly/QRA_ApplyNow (Certificate Course – Paid)
  2. Queer Rights and Allyship (Free Group Workshops) bit.ly/QRAWorkshop_ApplyNow 

 

  • You can also keep an eye out for Instagram lives, blogs, and resources about various personal and political queer concerns, and fun collaborations with a queer artist!

 

We are beyond excited to kick this month off and celebrate the joy of being queer with all of you. See you all at Pride With OFC.

 

To know more about our work during Pride, 2022, visit: https://bit.ly/PrideWithOFC2022_KnowMore 

 

Happy Pride!

Pride with OFC, 2022

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Who decides what queerness looks like?

Pride with OFC: Over the Years