This is a story, or a list of stories about joy. Multi-colored and multi-faceted joy, to get us both through the darker times, and to elicit a light smile through simpler times. This is an instance, or a list of instances where we felt loved in our entirety. As you read this, my beloved, I hope you do too.
I’ve never known how to define queer joy. How to set down the yoke we carry around our necks by virtue of being “different.” How to shed the cisheteronormative facades we are forced to affix to ourselves in order to survive.
However, I’ve known to find little pockets of peace. Moments of vibrant glee, of quiet reassurance. Moments of laughter so beautiful in their lack of restraint and second thought. These are the moments I live for. They are the moments I hold close to my chest, clutched like pearls for sometimes, they are all too fleeting. That I shall now unclasp my palms and with a shy smile, share with you.
We are seated in my friend’s car. They are reading poetry out loud. We talk about love. Repeating the lines of fourteenth century poets, marveling at how this one word, one emotion, has such depth. They transcend planes, coming alive and bringing with them a sacred, spiritual experience. This is a soft space.
I sit with my therapist as she urges me to take the longer, but ultimately more fulfilling route. She urges me to allow myself to heal. To break free from living under the rules of war, for I am safe. She promises me I will not walk alone. She sees the tears, the effort and the different choices. She says she is proud of me.
We learn best by following examples. She teaches me acceptance. She shows me that I can divest from the gender binary. She teaches me to question. To acknowledge that my sexuality is fluid, and in all states, perfect. This is a vulnerable space.
My friend walks away from our favorite juice stand with me, after overhearing hate-filled banter from the owner and his friends. She never goes there again. It is the only juice stand for miles on end. This is a supportive space.
My father gives me tips on how to make girls smile. He doesn’t know I like girls. He gives me advice anyway. This is a light-hearted space.
A friend of mine teases me about the girls I think are pretty, but for the life of me, I cannot speak to. He giggles at my awkwardness with a giggle so infectious, it transforms into full blown laughter on my end. I say ‘hi’ to pretty boys and smile as I watch him blush as they talk. This is a fun-filled space.
My partner sits across from me as I read to them. They love stories, and I have fallen in love with storytelling. I have learned not only to tell stories, but to imbue them with life, with expression and impassioned gestures. This is an artistic space.
To be known is to be loved. Book recommendations, shared excerpts, “I thought of you when I read this”, “I wanted to share this with you.” Cat photos and dog videos. Voice notes and phone calls ending with “I love you. Be safe.” “Take care of yourself,” said with intention and purpose.
“They’re definitely queer!” I tell one of my straight friends, and she rolls her eyes smiling. In a second and with a twinkle, she becomes an expert wing woman. “Get home safe. Text me when you get there. That is a threat.” This is a caring space.
There is no template for queer joy. In all these stories, there is unquestioning acceptance. “I love you” with no ifs, buts, or maybes. I find joy in the smallest of gestures—in hugs that last longer than they should because we need a little extra love, in holding hands because the joy overflowing needs to be shared, in every smile, laugh, and inherent visibility in these spaces.
These words and actions may not mean much to an uninformed observer, but they mean the world to me. Encased within is sacred vulnerability, and a recognition of the same. Within these spaces is the willful acceptance to undergo the mortifying ordeal of being known, for the sake of the world-bending experience of being loved.
About the author:
Yvonne Wangithi is currently a student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy. She is a student of life and writes about the human experience and community. Additionally, she loves music, loves dance, and all forms of performative art, and is a passionate cat mom and pet lover. She spends her free time reading, writing, talking to people, and sharing her coffee.