“I’m gay.” It came out so bluntly, and there was no taking it back. Sadly for me, I was on mute, and my team didn’t catch a single word of my gay confession. This tracks for me, I thought.
Why did it even matter to me if my team knew I was gay?
Maybe watching a Stonewall documentary the night before led me to unknowingly fall prey to exhausted delirium and proclaim my queerness in some misplaced attempt at charged representation. It wouldn’t have been until my colleague said, “Matthew did you say, ‘Ham please’?” that I snapped out of it. No. That wasn’t it. My colleague didn’t say that exactly, and I watched Tu Wong Fu the night before, in any case.
Luckily, someone joined the meeting right after, asked how everyone’s weekends had gone, and I quickly mentioned I went to the movies with my boyfriend. That was much easier and gayer, honestly. A desire to fully own one’s sexuality is something most queer people contend with at some point in their lives - at work, school, or in their neighborhoods. Queerness often goes hand in hand with an internal sense of existing as “other” compared to a majority while also wanting to be recognized as part of that same majority. My otherness had already compelled me towards enriching friendships and a sense of personal acceptance. It already opened doors for defining life experiences, but I realized there was work left to be done. What does it mean to be queer in the world today, and why is it important to own it?
Queerness in found families
Being queer often means establishing a found family wherever you are. Found families are “made up of people who have intentionally chosen to embrace, nurture, love, and support each other regardless of blood or marriage,” according to Bahiyyah Maroon, PhD at healthline.com. In the traditional understanding of family, DNA determines where one sits in the proverbial family tree. Found families for queer individuals establish a familial connection in honor of genealogical differences. Found families can live, work, perform, quarantine, or vacation together. Found families are friends and neighbors, constantly built to incorporate individuals from disparate backgrounds and ways of living. These family groups help queer individuals nurture their sense of community to access feelings of belonging, acceptance, and support they may not have otherwise. Being queer often means building found families based on a unique sense of self.
Amplifying voices in the queer community is often made easier by their out and proud mentality. Activism in all forms has been a driving force for community building and real change among LGBTQIA+ individuals for years. Queer individuals take that charter for change and apply across all areas of life. Drag kings and queens perform more visibly than ever to highlight the art of gender illusion across the globe. Last year, traditionally conservative nations such as Bhutan decriminalized homosexuality for the first time, and Bangladesh elected its first transgender mayor. Transgender representation introduced a paradigm shift on Jeopardy in the US and captivated audiences for weeks. Identifying as queer is more than just a way to find community; it’s a way to champion otherness as being essential to our global wellbeing.
What about acceptance?
Drilling down from a global view of queerness, individual empowerment also energizes the LGBTQIA+ community. In a world where queer individuals are often marginalized, championing one’s personal identity is often rewarding for queer people. It’s an unspoken demonstration of acceptance – a sometimes elusive feeling in a world still plagued by anti-gay hate. It asks people to find pride in their identity and hold uniqueness in the highest possible regard. As the world becomes more personalized than ever before, championing personal identity gives power to progress and the queer community as a whole. Revering the time it takes to explore and genuinely own one’s self is inherently queer. This is also why we themed our NortonLifeLock’s 2022 Virtual Pride Parade “100% Acceptance”.
Remember who you are
Championing queerness reminds me to value not only a more profound sense of self but it acts as a quiet acknowledgement of unquestionable support for queerness in others. Championing queerness is a way to hold on to peace and acceptance amidst rapid global change. It’s a reminder that just as the queer community is made better by the tapestry of its many identities, so too can the world if we choose to respect diversity as a foundation of what is great about the world. Queerness is imperfect, giving, awkward, powerful, challenging, communal, human, and much more yet to be known and celebrated.
Here are a few Queer Care Tips and Tricks to embrace the LGBTQIA+ community a bit more this Pride month that I found helpful, and maybe you will find them helpful, too:
1. Seek common ground with someone new who identifies as queer.
2. Binge watch all of Pose on FX.
3. Treat yourself to a nap while listening to a book/podcast by a queer creator (you’ll catch up later).
4. Play Life is Strange, and It’s Expansions.
5. Invest in your queer community, whether by educating yourself, volunteering, donating or advocating.
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