The best things about being a card-carrying member of the queer community
OPINION: I'm not trying to brag, but queers have been in the news a lot lately. Whether as award winning entertainers, as celebrated sports people, as loving parents and family members, or as young heralds of an age where we move beyond mere tolerance, we're a regular fixture and don't seem to be going anywhere.
Despite our increasing visibility however, we still face ridiculous rates of homophobia; in public from strangers, in our workplaces, schools and homes, and in the highest national and international levels of media and government. Much of this fades into the background, part of the everyday fabric of our lives, but much of it is loud, brutal and in some cases deadly, and we're far from being beyond prejudice.
Today, when we share in International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (which marks the 27th anniversary of when homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the WHO) our community joins together in action and pride, but is also reminded of the struggles that continue to impact us when we live our lives freely and openly.
IDAHOTB and other similar queer days of remembrance and mourning are deeply important, but many events on our community calendar are focused on those we've lost and the history that accompanies them – and alongside an unrelentingly negative news cycle and consistent political contempt, it can sometimes feel pretty dour to be queer.
It's important on days like IDAHOTB to find space to reflect on our lives and those around us, and to renew life-long efforts to quash the prejudices ingrained in our world. But we must also take time to find the joy in ourselves and our community. I mean, we're not called "gay" for nothing.
So instead of dwelling on the negatives today, I want to share a celebration. This big, diverse queer community is amazing, and here are some of the reasons why.
OUR SELF DISCOVERY
I first came out to a small handful of friends, a few girls from my school grade (many of whom in the following decade would themselves have closets to come out of), and in this way we instinctively lay the groundwork for a life of sharing and learning.
I've noted before that queer identity is unique in that we are innately born this way, but often into families where we may well be the first or only queer person. So having the room to explore, create and learn about who you are is invaluable. I started my journey to comfort with my identity through the internet, but I increasingly find it through the people around me, who I get to watch grow and change and emerge in turn. We share and learn better together.
While the history of this community has long steeped in mourning and loss, it also builds on an incredible legacy of resilience, support and love. As one of the first of modern generations to have elders to look up to, I see their work and care in the foundations of our world, and the care they've taken to remember those that came before them.
It's visible via the known histories – the trans women of colour at Stonewall, the '78s who illegally marched as Sydney's first Mardi Gras, the cross-community support effort as HIV swept through entire neighbourhoods and cities – but it's also invisible, via the vast tapestry of queers that occupy the length and breadth of society, known and unknown. The Barenaked Ladies quoted Cockburn when they sang "got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight", and when the times feel dangerous, it's our forebears that show us how to plant a foot correctly.
OUR ABILITY TO SHARE CLOTHING
It's a well worn cliche that queer couples wear each other's clothing. Straight culture may have coined the 'boyfriend jean', but relations with two men have been wearing boyfriend jeans since the invention of denim. Nothing's comfier than my girlfriends flannel shirt, as can be attested to by her wanting it back!
OUR ART AND CULTURE
As aforementioned, queers are really good at stuff. We win gold medals and top charts and are constantly influencing pop culture. We pen award winning books and journalism, write beautiful comic books and take home national comedy awards. Sometimes it can feel like filling big shoes to walk in our community's footsteps, but we can promise these heels look amazing on anyone.
More than any other thing, the queer community is my home. Sure, we fight sometimes, and disagree a lot, but who doesn't quibble with family? The label queer raises a rhetorical question mark, it yells "as in f... you", but it also opens its arms wide. The queer community includes such a broad and assorted collection of identities, and increasingly folk are seeing the strength in our diversity.
Over 25 years ago we shouted "we're here, we're queer, get used to it!", and while the historical record has shown some pushback against that, we're not going anywhere. Finding my people, my language and my labels not only showed me that I could be what I'd always thought was impossible, but also told me "of course you can", and "you're not alone".
It's not a yellow brick road, but there are paths being worn through this hillside of time and I believe it does slowly get easier.