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How does queer joy as a practice create personal and collective resilience?
Queer Gaze

How does queer joy as a practice create personal and collective resilience?


Digital spaces are important sites of both struggle and genuine joy. That’s one of my early learnings from new project Queer Joy as a Digital Good, funded by the ESRC Digital Good Network

Through this project, we have learned that queer joy as a daily practice creates personal and collective strength, happiness, and connection. 

More than anything else, this project is emphasising to me the uncrushable power of queer communities, both online and off. 

We are using interactive, arts-based workshops as well as survey data to answer very interesting, and very gay, questions - questions like ‘How do we understand the idea of queer joy?’ and ‘What does social good look like in a digital space?’

Preliminary findings of our research and our literature reviews confirms that instances of homophobia, queerphobia, and transphobia are on the rise

Yet, we’re also finding that queer people are continuing to make and hold spaces together for flourishing, power, and joy. 

Sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to emphasise joy over adversity. But it is possible, and it is important, because it brings a tremendous cascade of benefits. 

During our workshops, images of superheroes and gardens both emerged from the hands of our participants again and again. 

These images speak to themes of regeneration and growth, the naturalness of queer life, and ideas around rescuing others and being rescued ourselves through the power of our community. 

It’s not often that academic research is heartwarming. Still, these insights genuinely brought a tear to my eye as I relived for myself some of my own treasured memories of queer solidarity, experienced at burlesque nights or in comments on my writing about queer life

I love that our project emphasises the value and pleasure to be gained from actively promoting queer flourishing and happiness. But there was also a tension between a desire to educate non-LGBTQIA+ people and to create safe and joyful spaces for LGBTQIA+ people only. 

I was impressed by how sensitively our participants spoke about the need to create spaces online that are inclusive, but at the same time also necessarily exclusive of some groups - like homophobes and transphobes.

The imagination of the participants, the arts-based nature of the workshop, and the inherent creativity of queer living all entwined together in wonderful and unexpected ways. 

Given materials - pens, paper, glitter - to produce art relating to queer joy, one group just stuck a cookie to the paper. Another split open a pomegranate and used the juice as ink to add splatter marks to their collage. It was brilliant. 

The fact that everyone who registered for the workshop 1) actually showed up, and, 2) had done ALL of the preparation we asked of them speaks to the wider commitment that queer people have to contributing to and supporting the queer community. 

I cannot emphasise enough how unusual it is to have everyone who signed up actually show up. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised - queer people have a rich history of organising. Social movements like lesbians and gays support the miners, Harvey Milk’s visionary civil rights work, or African Ancestral Lesbian collective organising are just three examples out of thousands that show how dedicated and proactive our communities are. 

So ask yourself what you can do to express your own queer joy online today, for your own pleasure? What could you do to support the joy of another?

A sweet little message to a loved one, perhaps. Or maybe treat yourself to re-bingeing all of Mae Martin’s Feel Good

Nourish your joy in any way that you can. We deserve it.

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