Spaces: Being Queer in Nonqueer Spaces

“I’m not used to seeing queer people in spaces that aren’t specifically for us”

A few nights ago, at dinner, I was sitting with my friend’s mother at the bar of a restaurant waiting for our table to be ready. (This was a popular establishment and we had been given an hour wait time.) At some point as we chatted, the man seated next to me asked us if we would like his leftover chips and queso. Gesturing to himself and the person next to him, he said “we” didn’t double dip or do anything weird to it. I was hungry and I am a trustworthy person so I said yes and thanked him.

He laughed and told me not to worry about him hitting on me or anything because he was gay. He leaned back and introduced me to his partner. I laughed and said I was gay too. We wished each other a happy belated Pride month and swapped a few stories. It was great.

I’m not used to seeing queer people in spaces that aren’t specifically for us. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing others at Prides because basically everyone is queer, but I still become giddy when I see two girls holding hands while walking on the quad at Notre Dame, a same-sex couple buying groceries, or even just when I see pride flags displayed. I am constantly (and pleasantly) surprised to see the normalization of the LGBTQ+ community. This visibility is a clear sign of our acceptance. It also causes us to be more accepted because the world becomes more used to it as a normalcy instead of a quirk. (#RepresentationIsImportant)

Yesterday, I spent about six hours at the South Bend farmer’s market tabling for TREES, Inc. Unlike the Prides I have worked before, it was not a specifically queer event. I didn’t just talk to young kids wearing pride flags like capes and their parents and others who were in and loved my community. I talked to older millenials on health kicks, baby boomers from agricultural backgrounds, families with little babies, etc. No one was outwardly presenting in a million rainbows, but everyone was accepting. People thanked us for the work we do and donated to the organization. It was incredible. I wore a button that said “Pretty, Gay, and Pretty gay” and it was the first time I was in a nonqueer space that I felt totally safe in. Granted, South Bend is pretty liberal (we have a gay mayor!) but this was still huge for me.

I’m not saying that these experiences have changed the world for me, but it is really inspiring to see that you can be safe while being out. Of course, I am a white, straight-passing lesbian and I can only speak to that experience, but hopefully in my being out and outspoken, I can help normalize queerness and make the world a safer place for others.

I’ve learned a lot about being queer in the two and a half months since I’ve been out. I’ve gone on dates, started a blog, and worn more rainbows in a month than most people wear in their lives. I’ve learned that coming out and being out is liberating but can also be exhausting. I’ve struggled with unlearning internalized homophobia. I’m making a lot of headway, but I’m still learning that at the end of the day, we shouldn’t be forced to confine our queerness to Prides.

Spaces: Lexington Pride Festival 2017

“the queer community made a powerful statement about the overwhelming love we have”

When I traveled to Kentucky with my boss, I wasn’t sure that the south would be the most accepting place. I am happy to say that, as far as Lexington is concerned, I was very wrong. We had the booth set up for about twelve hours that day so I was on my feet for about ten and it happened to be our busiest day ever so I was able to interact with a lot of people.

At Lexington’s Pride Festival, I was able to witness something I had never seen before in real life: Christian extremists protesting. They had the classic “HOMO SEX IS SIN” sign, some other ones about how we were all going to hell, and even an anti-Islam sign (for good measure I guess? I don’t know how they think. It was not super pertinent to the day’s events other than they fact that they had intersectional hatred.) They gathered around the entrance and for at least seven hours in the blazing heat held these signs and said horrible, hateful things at the crowd through bullhorns.

What I also witnessed that day for the first time was how much love the LGBTQ+ community has. Our table was fairly near to these protestors so we overheard them all day. I was not super bothered by it after awhile (apparently after being told you’re going to hell repeatedly eventually the edge wears off) but some people, especially young kids, were. Throughout the day, people stood in front of the protestors and made noise to drown them out. From students for the rights of trans students with pride flag capes and signs of their own, drag queens, a big gay marching band, and large groups with noisemakers, there was constantly a group who refused to let the message of hate from the protestors be heard. It was comforting to know that we (specifically here I mean queer youth and others who were bothered by it) were so loved by this community that people would sacrifice their time and energy to make us feel safe. It was powerful stuff.

I know this might not be the best way to try to get protestors to leave, but it wasn’t necessarily about that. We knew they wouldn’t leave. Instead, the community took it upon themselves to make sure that everyone who was there knew that we had each other’s backs. It was beautiful. To be around such a tangible symbol of how much love we have and how dead-set we are on combating hate was amazing. While I wish there had not been protestors, I am glad that the day progressed the way it did. At LexPride, the queer community made a powerful statement about the overwhelming love we have and how we believe that can and should be first and foremost in combating this type of hatred. Not necessarily fighting back or retaliation, but love and support for the rest of us.

Stay proud.