Queer Joy

I call all of my joy “queer” joy, because being queer is what pushed me towards seeking joy.

Art by Shaheen Boaz

To start within my own body, queer joy broils from the middle of my little gay heart. It’s vivacious. It takes space with a mere laugh. Queer joy is laughing so instinctually it shoots out of my body with a “ha!”: I grip my stomach with both my hands and shrink in to try and contain it all. Queer joy is standing in a circle with my queer friends, almost as if in ritual, and one of us says something so outrageously hilarious that we have to bark with laughter. We can’t hold it in. I grab someone’s arm, they keel over into my body, and everyone around us is just staring at this troublesome gang of loud, effervescent teens feeling comfort in each other’s presence.

Queer joy is feeling secure in a circle of friends where you can be raucous and provocative, but there’s a constant, clear, and healthy discussion of boundaries and consent. Queer joy is making a small comment at work which, even if no one else understands, makes me laugh, and sometimes there’ll be a giggle of recognition from someone else. Queer joy is a secret code. It’s laughing when the lecturer makes a subtle “top/bottom” innuendo, intentional or not, and knowing just a handful of others in the room understand.

Queer joy is the confusion on straight people’s faces when I tell them to “werk it hunty.” Queer joy is when you get that “look” from someone. You know the look: they see your little pronoun badge or the sashay in your walk, or maybe they hear the distant stomp of Doc Martens and a carabiner click, and your eyes meet, and you both nod.

I call all of my joy “queer” joy, because being queer is what pushed me towards seeking joy. Being queer is what taught me that my purpose in life can just be to seek fun, seek excitement, seek joy in my life and in others.

Queer joy is political. We are being stamped out, we are misrepresented in media as miserable beings shrouded in self-doubt living inherently doomed lives. Queer joy is an act of survival. Queer joy is peeling apart your limbs which have been shaped into a square, and contorting them into new shapes, shapes which feel natural and smooth, and suddenly you’re no longer giggling in a modest, contained, typically masc or femme way, but claiming your space as your own.

When I learned to embrace queer joy, my laugh went from a timid giggle to a breathy, facially expressive, punchy roar. Queer joy lets me take up space.

When you’re socialised as a male, queer joy is realising you don’t have to stomp around everywhere looking miserable and unemotional, never laughing or smiling cause that’s too gay. You are gay. Be gay. Queer joy is sought out, but also found. Queer joy is stumbled upon. It is oxygen and it is in our blood.

Queer joy is gallivanting down the street and spontaneously breaking into a sparkling rendition of Believe by Cher, knowing that if enough voices join in, you can sound really autotuned.

Queer joy is sitting in your room, faint moonlight dusting over your bed. You’re cross-legged, phone put to the side, and you’re thinking about your day. It’s awfully quiet. You were here a few months ago, dark, alone, silent. Except, tonight, there’s a little fire in your heart. It keeps you warm. You have a hearth filled with queer joy that has made its home in your heart, and you feel at peace with the world. You lay down, go through every muscle in your body and unclench, and know that life can only get better from here. You feel at home.

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