Dear Worrier Princess: We're All Queer Culture
Queery #1: I am a grownup human who went through a shattering breakup a year and a half ago when my partner started secretly dating one of our friends -while we were living together and monogomous and taking about getting married. This friend had the same name as me and was also in a long term monogamous lesbian relationship and living with her partner. It is not so much about that as about a strange unexpected consequence of it. Queer culture used to make me so happy and proud to be alive and part of something. I alienated any straight people in my life with constant references to that gay shit. I literally could never get enough and it was my main way of connecting. When I dried up primary sources I'd write queer fan fiction or make my own gay art. That has been my unapologetic life for the past decade and long before I met the other half of the shattering breakup. But now hearing Tegan and Sara at the grocery story makes me nauseous and irritated. Companies now releasing their gay Christmas propaganda are making me irrationally angry. I used to feel so cute looking gay and now I am just ashamed of myself and my haircut. I am in a healthcare school program populated by queer feminists and my inevitable crushes make me want to disappear just like they did when I was a scared baby queer in hetero high school. I feel cursed. What can I do to feel okay about my identity and queer romantic feelings again?
This queery reminds me of the classic feminist film Josie and the Pussycats (2001). In case I’ll summarize it real fast. The story follows Josie, a kind-hearted musician. Josie loves music more than anything in the world. When her career suddenly takes off, Josie turns into a fame monster and deserts her best friends and bandmates, Melody and Val. Soon, however, she learns that her record label is planting subliminal advertisements in her songs. This discovery plunges Josie into an existential crisis. Can she reclaim her music, or has capitalism stolen and destroyed everything the thing she loved most? Spoiler alert: Josie realizes that at its fundamental core, music is actually about friendship and connecting with . She apologizes to Melody and Val. Together, they join friendship forces and take back their music from evil corporations.
I watched Josie and The Pussycats every day in 5th grade. It’s a story that teaches us how to reclaim what we love from negative people and experiences. I’ll explain more: Josie found a sense of home in music, similar to what you found in queerness. You write that queerness was your primary way of relating to the world. But what exactly does queerness mean to you? What expectations do you have for yourself and other queer people? For your relationships? Your ex and your friend were members of your personal queer community. How can you account for their hurtful actions? Josie, for instance, refocuses her energy on the people who show up for her. She learns that just because someone professes to love music, it doesn’t mean that share her values or have her best interests at heart.
“Queer culture” is not a fixed or definable entity. Everyone has a personal definition that changes and expands as they move through life and accumulate experiences. When you’re poor, for instance, it feels like the cast of The L Word live on a different planet, or at least they get lattes on one (I am so sorry, oh my god. But the L Word was so wacky and inconsistent when it came to money and class issues). Sober queers often struggle with feelings of isolation because partiers, gay bars, and substances are such a huge part of queer culture. The examples go on and on. The secret is that most queer people feel excluded from “queer culture” because of race, gender, disability, class, and/or other marginalized aspects of their identity.
It’s normal to feel disillusioned and cynical after a big, unexpected breakup. It’s scary to develop crushes on new people. Sadly, this is one of those wounds that only time can heal. My best advice is watch Josie and the Pussycats.
Queery #1: A theme in all of my long term relationships has been my partner feeling uncomfortable because of my body. I am thin and that has resulted in my partners feeling self conscious about their own bodies. I hate the idea that my body can make my partner feel less confident and in more extreme cases change their eating habits. I have tried to be emotionally validating and supportive but I feel like that hasn’t really done much for the problem. I’m now at the point where I usually don’t take most of my clothes off during sex and I minimize the amount of times I change in front of them. I never communicate these changes to my partners because I just want less attention to my body and don’t want to bring the topic up even more. And I definitely don’t want to get any sympathy from them when I’m the one with the privilege in this situation. Given that we are so inundated with a culture of body comparison, fat shaming, and misogyny I have no idea how to combat this. I want to feel comfortable with my body without making my significant other feel bad about their’s but I don’t know how to do that given our culture.
First of all, keeping your clothes on is not a solution. Your partners can see you, they know you’re thin. The real issue here is that you’re trying to guess what kind of support, if any, they need from you. This information must come from them, not me. I know how scary it can be to broach a sensitive topic like body image, but nothing is more corrosive to a relationship than valuing comfort over communication. I can tell from this queery that you’re an empathetic and caring person. You know to listen and hold space.
Finally, you are not responsible for your partners’ mental health. You’re not their therapist. You can the kindest, most affirming partner in the world. You can listen and suggest resources. Healing from disordered eating and body image issues is a deeply personal journey. No matter how much you love someone, you cannot do that work for them.
Queery #3: I'm an 18-year-old first year college student in my second semester at a large-ish university in DC. My transition to college was not the easiest (it came immediately after a pretty intense break-up and I left the town that I've lived in my whole life and love with my whole heart). However, I've returned from break on surer footing: I like my classes, know that I'm getting a good education for what I'm interested in, and have realized there are a lot of friends who bring me a lot of genuine joy here. The thing is, I can't seem to shake a lingering FOMO for a small, liberal arts, women's college. My ex gf, as well as one of my closest friends from high school, go to the same women's college just outside of Boston. They both seem to have these intense and meaningful friendships with groups of queer woman and non-binary folks. While I deeply appreciate my friends at my school, I spend a lot of time not being outwardly queer. My friends are wonderful and kind and funny and supportive of my sexuality and I sing Mamma Mia songs at Karaoke with them, but I can't help but feel like I'm missing out on a "once in a lifetime chance" to be in a predominantly queer space. I also can't tell if I'm conflating my feelings over school with my feelings for the two aforementioned people in my life, both of whom I miss dearly. Any tips and advice on how to feel more confident about where I'm at are appreciated.
When you’re in the midst of your first year of college, it can be difficult to see that everyone, including you, is changing and growing up at dizzying speeds. I moved between multiple friend groups in college. When I graduated, my closest friends were people I met as a freshman but didn’t hit it off with right away. Right now, there are people in your classes and dorm who aren’t on your radar. But seemingly overnight, they will become the Super Gay Friends of Your Dreams. Friendships can fall apart in surprising ways, too. I was extremely close with this girl my freshman year of college. When she got a girlfriend, I literally never saw her again. My best friend from high school blocked me on Facebook after an inexplicably stupid fight. All you can do is be the best possible version of yourself and make room for new friendships to find you.
Also, you have an entire lifetime to live and explore queer communities. Women’s college is not your only chance to live in a predominately queer space. You can move to literally any city, live in a queer co-op, and date all your friends. You can play drums in a queercore band, work at a co-op, or organize a feminist arts festival. You can get an MFA in poetry or ceramics. There are rural queer communities like Ida. And you might experience those spaces and say, Never again.
You’re doing everything right. You’re going to thrive where you’re planted, I promise.
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All illustrations for this column are done by Sid Champagne. Sid is a freelance illustrator based in Baltimore by way of the Gulf Coast. You can find them on Twitter @sid_champagne, or Instagram (more cat pics) @sidchampagne