During this LGBTQ+ History month, as we find ourselves in another national lock-down here in the UK, we have found ourselves reflecting on how we renegotiate and re-calibrate those queer spaces that we once inhabited. By extension, our thoughts have been informed by the uncertainty and doubt that underpin our predictions about the survival of queer physical spaces, from queer bars to reading groups in queer coffee shops. We then found ourselves reflecting on the nature of what precisely constitutes a queer space, how such spaces are constructed and how they are sustained and by whom.
It has often been said that you only appreciate something when it’s gone, its presence is felt more immediately and intensely by, paradoxically, its very absence. In a literary vein, many tales have been told of writers who in both self-imposed exile and in their exclusion from certain spaces, often have a more reflective and creative critical distance, as they reflect on and write about space, place and their own subjective attachment to these sites of meaning and influence. In our ever-fluctuating and eternally-mutable new landscape we are motivated to reflect on how the physicality of queer spaces guides, impacts on and facilitates our own interior spaces of identity, self-perception and the very politics of the personal experiences that we not only experiences, but internalize as emotion.
Queer spaces are physically built architecture housing bodies that move, mouths that communicate and touches that are exchanged. In this sense, the way in which we navigate within, and consume the spectacle of, these exterior spaces- from coffee shops to clubs- is often a remedy for the epidemic of loneliness in a hetero-normative world that, if it is not punctuated by the queer collective experience, has a very real threat of fostering a retreat into the inactivity that inhibits our abilities to visibly exhibit our same differences. When we don’t encounter our queer-selves, or, rather, our ‘plural selves’ as Meg-John Barker astutely describes them, we are at a very real risk of under-representing who we really are, and how we really want to be seen and how we want to see. Spaces that serve as a platform for an exhibition of our very vulnerable, very personal and very complex selves rely on our very resistance to the repression that is regulated by invisibility. In a sense, our queer sites act as an intermediary interzone, one that breaks the binary between the tweets about queerness that we compose in physical isolation and our performance in the world in work and social spaces. In these in-between spaces is ruptured the dichotomy of everyday dissimulation and the every-so-often permitted open vulnerability and an appreciation of difference in stark contrast to the much-too frequent fear-based monitoring and self-regulatory performance of gender and sexuality that we enact upon our own movements.
The symbols that serve to showcase our queer spirit and our passion for personal expression (from flags to clothes) rely on safe queer spaces. These spaces are so important because they transform our self-conscious marginality, self-imposed exile and fear of expression into a very real and very visible spatial articulation to what would otherwise permeate the periphery of queer experiences. In these spatial articulations our authentic selves are front and centre, and the straight-jackets that curtail our spiritual growth are pushed to the periphery. In the safety of these queer spaces we see exactly how we can be ourselves, we recognize the sameness of others that share our differences and we learn from those whose difference drives us to demand more, not just from the spaces that we need, but from ourselves in our determination to derail our internalized and unconscious restrictions that we impose our authentic speech, behaviours and attires. When we walk of the well-travelled path, we walk together and we don’t resist divergence but digest and divulge our experience of difference. We do so because we know that such experiences remind us that our struggles are not only shared, but that we are valid, that we are here to be seen and to be celebrated. When we see ourselves refracted in the uniqueness of other queer people, we stifle that insidiously suffocating sense that our daily struggle amounts to nothing. When we see, hear, smell and experience the differences that are found off the linear path, we realise that we belong, that we matter and that our marginalized differences have a place, front and centre. Our queer spaces solidify our strength and solidify our striving to continue, to push forward and to perform our queerness with pride. This is exactly why we have committed ourselves to Queerlings, if anything, to exist as an online space that offers a queer space, albeit a virtual one, where people can share the sameness of experiencing difference, a site where people can see how just how important who they are, really is and an online community that will always be here for people, even if those more physical spaces are harder to find. In this light, such spatial articulations of queerness, the exhibition of queerness and the adulation of authentic individuality, are a-plenty in the incredible, and the incredibly diverse work that we have been lucky enough to receive for this, our second issue.
The Queerlings Editors