I have known Maya for years as the person who announced the events at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble. But now we’re friends! I was so worried about how I was going to close out this event, and then Maya sent me the perfect post to do the job. You can find Maya on Twitter. They also write for The Body is Not an Apology.
I have so many messy feelings about Pride and my relationship to it, year-round. Because it is not a single thing, a flat experience. Pride is a palimpsest, simultaneity, tragedy inextricable from joy and vice versa. Pride as we know it began as a riot, a revolution of angry and hurt Black and brown trans women fighting for safety, for healthcare, for protection from the state. Today Pride celebrations are too often actively inaccessible and fail to center Black and brown queer trans voices. Pride has become a capitalistic, exploitative nightmare, coopted by cis, sometimes allohet white folks to party and sell things.
And yet…I find so much joy in it.
The thing is, I want to be unapologetically queer year-round. I want to exist outside of cisheteronormativity. I want to surround myself with queer everything: queer fairytales, queer sci fi, queer businesses, queer stories, queer love, queer community. All of my identities are nonbinary: my sexuality (bi), my race (mixed, Filipinx-Jewish, and diaspora too), my gender (literally nonbinary). Lots of folks, including LGBTQAI+ elders, have told me I’ll grow out of wanting to wear my queerness on my sleeve, that I will grow up and settle into being just like straight folks, except also I like people who aren’t cis men.
Some people love that idea, and that’s fine! But I don’t want that. I love being queer. I love knowing myself enough to know I can lead a different life than what the a cishet patriarchy wants from me. I can be honest with my body and my heart now. I can live honestly in the love I share with a woman.
I’ve always felt a distance from the expression “Love is Love,” which parallels the idea that hey, queer folks are just like you cisallohets! It’s asking to be seen as human, too. But what it leaves out is that LGBTQAI+ folks…we navigate this world differently. Pride is inextricable from grief, from loss, from danger and fear. Not for everyone, not to the same degree, and privilege is always a factor.
Yet in general at least, queer love is a triumph.
In a world, a set of systems that prescribes who we are supposed to be and love and become, queer love and queer self-love is an act of revolution. It’s such a tender, magical thing, such an absolute privilege and a gift, to survive and exist like this, and to get to love myself and my girlfriend within in. I can’t believe it, sometimes. For all the tensions surrounding Pride, it feels like a reminder, resonating, cliché but true: we’re here, we matter, you are not alone.
And that’s what LGTBQAI+ books do for me. Year-round.
I realized a few months ago that I can picture the queerest scenes from my favorite books so easily, because I’ve read and reread them so often. For so many, many years I only had tragic stories, stereotypes, or fanfiction. Now, I have the beautiful bi love story of Labyrinth Lost. The all too necessary vindication of I Wish You All the Best. The glory of This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story. The self-love of Patsy. The revolution of We Set the Dark on Fire. The magic of When the Moon Was Ours. The poetry of When the Chant Comes. The messy bi love triangle of Odd One Out. And so many, many more. The surge of LGBTQAI+ is still a small one compared to the whole of publishing, but it’s gamechanging. It means I get to read stories in which people have bodies like mine and loves like mine and not only survive, but get happy endings, and that lets me envision a future I once wasn’t sure I was allowed to have.
Love should be love, but it’s not. Queer love and queer self love are hard-won things. So even though Pride is a messy month, I am grateful for it: for the community, for the reckoning with our past and how far we have yet to go, and for the excuse to be absolutely brazenly queer. I hope soon we can do it every day of the year. Until then, I’ll spend my days reading books that let me celebrate queerness in all its messy, magic triumph.