I came out in 1997 and started doing all pride season things. After I stopped being a wide-eyed baby queer, I generally started to skip the big, corporate parade but in Vancouver that’s a teeny part in several weeks of festivals, concerts, plays, parties, and marches. I love running into everyone who I may not often see and catching up with folks. I love seeing festivals in the park with queer youth performance groups, drag queen elders, and everyone in between.I love being with all the weird and wonderful people, my people.
This year most of the province is on fire. The air quality is horrible and I am stuck in the house. In the house with the windows closed and several noisy air purifiers on. Taking meds. And drinking medicinal tea. The isolation is seriously getting to me today. I feel so damn cut off from my community of queers. I know many others are too and have been for a long time. If you are stuck at home today, you are not alone. And you, with your chronic illness and queerness, are an important part of queer culture.
Pride started after working class queer and trans youth, primarily people of colour, fought back against the police violence that shaped all aspects of queer life. It was illegal for queer and trans folks to meet in public places, to not wear gender “appropriate” clothing. Queer spaces were constantly, violently raided and patrons arrested to face horrors in jail. In 1969 queer and trans folks fought back against attacks on the Stonewall Inn bar and the rioting continued for a week, spurring an international movement. The first Pride march was one year later. Struggle to survive is embedded in this movement. And you, too, remain part of this.
You are struggling to survive. To live with more pain and anxiety than you know how to cope with. And still we hold fundraisers to make sure folks have access to health care, we find creative ways to show up for each other while having panic attacks so we don’t face hard appointments alone, we help each other find boxes when we have to move again and again. We find ways to organize or at least to support the Black Lives Matter actions that keep alive the spirit of pride, speaking out against police violence. We find a way to roll over from our less painful side on the couch and promote an event and speak back to raising racism and ableism in queer communities. This, and you, are vital to our communities during this season.
Before I was sick, I would dress up in fabulous, glamourous outfits for each event– fishnets, slips, lipstick to match the shade of my red boa. Today, I am not dressed, let alone dressed up and the feeling of disconnect from my own self as well as from my community is palpable. To my fellow chronically ill queers, I want to acknowledge the way you keep your fabulous femme energies through creatively draping a sheet when you can’t get out of bed and dress up. I acknowledge your handsome butch nod when someone hands you a glass of water. That these are sexy expressions of your queerness. You do not have to stand in your heels or hold a door open. There is nothing more queer than the lace you sewed onto the side of your breathing mask. You may not be at the Dyke march today, but no queerness is as accomplished as this. Your efforts have not gone without notice.
Your body and self are beautifully necessary to queer culture’s move toward greater resilience, greater solidarity, and creative move toward anti-oppression. I am celebrating you today, from next to my air filter.