Reading Time: 5-10 Mins
Category: Blog
Author: Rachel Salmon (She/They)
I am writing this in March 2023, two weeks after LGBTQ+ history month ended in the UK, many corporations and large organisations removed their rainbow logos, pledges and social media posts (if they bothered in the first place) and normal life resumed. This leaves LGBTQ+ people to fight for their bodies, rights and lives the other twelve months of the year, often with limited support from these ‘inclusive’ companies.
The removal of these visible signs of LGBTQ+ inclusion made me think about queer support, which led me to consider queer happiness and queer joy and what this means. It might seem odd to consider this with the increasingly immoral use of the pink pound and in a world where conversion therapy is still legal, anti-trans rhetoric grows by the day and our queer friends are losing their lives. It’s so important that people sit with this pain and outrage if they feel able… But queer joy is an important emotion too, not just for us, but also for the young people wondering what growing up queer will be like
Queer joy is being discussed more widely and it reminds us, and the next generation, that happiness is out there. Perhaps queer joy is being discussed more because right now things seem so hard. Talking about queer joy when violence continues, bigotry is pervasive and attacks on our community increase is difficult. But queer joy is vital to us and our community.

I didn’t fit in with my gender when I was growing up. I was forever in football kits and hated the pink toys and clothes I used to get for most birthdays and Christmas. I experienced negativity towards my gender presentation before I even realised I wasn’t fitting in. In the same way, I learnt about homophobia before I realised I was attracted to girls. I experienced anxiety and depression as a result of hating myself and these parts of me from a very young age. I have had to learn how to love myself and how to experience true, queer joy.

I want to make it clear that when I talk about queer joy, I do not mean that I am happy all of the time. My chosen family and friends will tell you that is certainly not the case and I can often be heard to declare that ‘I just don’t like people’. I am no social butterfly, I have two long-lasting mental health conditions and find comfort in solitude. But I am also eternally grateful for what I have.
I didn’t ‘come out’ (first as bisexual, then as gay and currently as queer, which seems to fit me best at the moment) until I was 23. My teenage years were difficult and although I didn’t experience bullying or have any real difficulties at school, my home life could be hard and it contained an anti-gay rhetoric a lot of the time. I played football and had a few friends who came out in their teenage years, but I pushed this side of me down, wore dresses and makeup and dated boys. I was deeply unhappy and when, aged 22, my Dad, who was and is absolute hero, was given six months to live, I chose to come out to those around me.

After my Dad passed away, and with the exception of a couple of cousins, my biological family are no longer in contact with me due to my sexual orientation. Things haven’t always been easy for me due to my sexual orientation and gender expression. So why do I choose to embrace queer joy?

My chosen family and my friends make it easy for me not just to survive, but to thrive. I know I am lucky in this regard. Thinking about moments of joy makes me think of the big moments. These include coming out when it went well – to friends and to colleagues. Other times include my first Pride and meeting Laura, my wife. I also remember our good friends having their twins via IVF, one of the first times I realised that I, as a queer person, could be a parent too. Seeing their children grow into independent, funny and fierce 6-year-olds who have two mummies has been one of the joys of my life. 

The truth is though, queer joy isn’t exclusively in the big moments, it’s the everyday things too. Moments like when I see myself represented on TV or I find a new book with authentic queer representation. Queer joy happens when I see people in management who have experiences similar to me or when someone comes out, whether this is for the first or three hundredth time, in private or in public. It’s when I play football in a women and gender minorities team, and we have a team made up entirely of couples.

Queer joy is intersectional, it is present and it’s standing witness for ourselves and our community. It’s not just queer joy, but queer pride, sport, representation, love, kindness, laughter, adventure, attraction, travel, politics, identity, empathy and everything else in between.

Queer joy can be rooted in privilege, and we have to acknowledge that. LGBTQ+ events aren’t always accessible and may be bi and/or trans exclusive. Racism is a problem within our community, as it is in society. People are living in harmful home situations and countries, where they cannot be themselves and queer joy seems unobtainable. Queer joy must also involve queer hope, gratefulness, support and humility.

Queer joy comes with thanks to those who came before us and the untold struggles they faced. Those who fought and died for this, those who walked so that we can begin to run. Queer joy honours the named and unnamed, the known and the unknown in our community who made sacrifices and it comes with continued thanks to our queer elders.

Queer joy involves risk and stepping outside of comfort zones. It’s saying that this is my wife, not my friend. It’s standing up to poor behaviours and language when we hear it. It requires work and effort, belief and trust.

Most of all, queer joy is love. For some this is biological family, for others chosen family and friends and for some it’s loving yourself. However you choose to express it, it is relevant and valid and, if my experience is anything to go by, will help someone out there to show their own version or queer joy.

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