Four Crucial Queer Survival Tips for 2019
As the calendar turns over into the new year, it’s common to see people talking about their plans, resolutions, and the high hopes they have for the next twelve months. However, it's not news to say that it's a scary time to be out in the world as a queer person, and so each coming year can feel as exhausting or terrifying to think about as it might feel exuberant or hopeful.
We live in a period where we are simultaneously the most visible we have ever been, but also the most legislated against, and the most condemned. No wonder it can feel really tough, like being out and proud is something that other people are able to do, but maybe not you.
I'm not going to lie, there's a lot of things to be scared about, but I also believe there's so much to celebrate, and that we are so deeply worth fighting for. To lose some of the battles along the way doesn't mean we have to lose hope, and there's plenty of hope to go around. This century, this last year even, has shown more trans people are able to be out, proud and successful than ever before. Even as we speak, trans people are running for state office, writing brilliant tv, modeling in world-wide campaigns, writing award winning literature and more by the day! From athletes to academics to artists, and everything in between, we are living the best lives we ever have been able to, and supporting each other to do so.
Still, it can feel like a big tough world out there. As we approach this new annum and everything that lies in store, instead of thinking about the ephemera one could manifest into being, I want to ask how we create the space to make our queer love and joy stand out and shine.
Find your passion
Nothing breeds success like doing what we love. Whether you want to stream on Twitch or paint or get really good at dodgeball, practice makes perfect. Many years ago, a friend of mine said they liked a blog post I’d sent them and that I should write more, and now I'm here, writing this to you!
We live in a world that can make doing what we love, or what we want to do, really difficult, with many people just trying to get through our weeks and months with some love, some support and hopefully even some savings! Finding those shining moments in between all of our day to day, though, is where we can find who we are and who we want to be (and who knows, maybe find a career path or partner or realize a dream)! This may look like dragging a friend to a convention to connect with others, taking some free online classes and seeing what grabs you, joining a Facebook group or forum for your fandom or favorite author, or something else entirely! Even now, if a friend wants to take me to something I’ve never tried before, I like to give it a go because I might just find my new passion! There are so many things to do, and one of them might just be the coolest thing you’ve ever found.
Plan to allow yourself some real time and energy for your hobby. Organize that tabletop game with friends, that cross-continental musical jam session, or that poetry zine you've always wanted to start. It all flows onto the rest of our lives. Heck, do all of it at once, but just discover your loves, listen to them and give them time, patience and love.
Find your people
When the chips are down, I turn to community.
This big, messy word tries to sum up the complexity of all of us altogether, how we meet and fight and grow, but it only conveys the very surface of it — community is so big, so momentous, that the big picture is one of potential, and of hope. When I was barely out, I found my people in protest marches — getting changed into the skirts usually stuffed down the back of my dresser in public bathrooms before marching through the streets, shouting and singing with people who saw me wholly. Nowadays I commune in other ways: at dinner parties and bars, gigs and readings, and in so many places that younger me didn’t know was possible (and still, sometimes, at protest marches)!
Community may take many forms for you, from a forum of friends you've never met, swapping links and stories deep into the night, or a Gay Straight Alliance at your school or college, or a group of friends who don't really have words for your experiences yet, but share a love of each other and of the chance for discovery. Sometimes there are friends around us that may or may not one day come out to us, but who accept us all the same. Sometimes we find our people in totally new and different ways altogether. Whether it’s on Tumblr, Twitter, or forums like Scarleteen’s very own, there’s so much room online too for community-making, and in many cases those communities are already there and just waiting for someone just like you.
As an adult, I turn to my community in times of stress and struggle, group messaging my elders and friends, my lovers and my loved ones for advice, for help in a crisis, and to offer the same in kind. You may not know who your people are yet, or may want to figure out who you are before you find out who they may be, but I promise they are out there. If there's one thing I can guarantee about queers, it is that we are everywhere, sewn into the fabric of family and geographical place, waiting to be found.
Celebrate the difference
Of all the vast number of gender and sexual minorities that come under today's umbrella terms, or prefer to step out from under them, we are a broad group. That we keep talking about our ever-expanding acronym is a testament to the multitude of identities across which we celebrate both similarities and differences. From Pose to Pynk, Love Simon to Drag Race, Frank Ocean to Anoni, and Queerstories to Carmilla, we are creating work that showcases our lives with all the detail and difference we really exist within. In the span of my lifetime, the tools available to creators have shifted so radically, making the queer art that has always existed more widely available and knowable. I watch the people I love being able to create and publish their own blogs, photos, webcomics, TV, albums and EPs, illustrations and even full-length films, and having that work reflect how many wavelengths of color our rainbow contains!
When the bullies and bigots are at the door, one of the most beautiful weapons we have is to manifest and exist as our most real and wonderful selves — of all genders, backgrounds, wants, needs and desires. Our difference is our power, that we group together and say we are the same but also are so many things, and I truly believe that's what will change the world.
Create the joy
There's so much trying to keep us down right now, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Taking the time to mourn, to sit with our struggle and understand the pain is so important, but so is taking the time to love, to celebrate and to live joyfully.
This may be starting with one thing each day, one little smile. As a teenager, I tried to find one beautiful thing every day, and wrote it down in a notebook. One day it would be a sunset, the next a carpet of beautiful grass, the next a friend's laughter. Through some real dark times I held onto sometimes just one thing at a time, but slowly it became easier, seeing the beauty and the light in everything, becoming a reflex. It’s a cliché, but one that let me hold onto something and imagine a better world I could be a part of.
Maybe for you it's playing a piece you love with one less mistake than last time, or rereading the latest chapter of your new favourite novel, or nailing that practice exam, or just getting a hug from a friend; joy comes in so many packages, and with time and practice we come to know the ones we can’t wait to unwrap.
It’s easy to get lost in how big the world can feel, and to be such a small part of it, but that is actually a blessing, allowing us to move through versions of ourselves until we find the ones that fit perfectly, and then come together with others until we form something far more visible, beautiful and powerful.
Have hope, because there is so, so much to hope for, and I believe that we will make that hope a reality we can live in together in 2019, and beyond.