Queer feels

I just watched Pride again - third time, still bawling into a bag of popcorn. The twin pains of seeing the Valleys in a way I never had before, alive and singing (my memories from going to school in Rhondda Cynon Taf were mostly of bullies and far too much grey, welfare hall day and night in her widow's weeds) and of seeing the queer community in a way I never had - singing, fighting, angry as hell. Both communities which seem unrecognisable now. But this time I cried for another reason as well.

The first time I saw Pride was just before I started university. Coming out of the cinema, I called my mum and gushed about it. I can still feel my heart skipping a bit with the anxiety of saying "lesbian and gay" over the phone, spluttering over the syllables. I was scared that even talking about queerness would be an admission of my own.

Queerfest costume: Rocky Horror/high society
Edie Sedgwick inspired queer alien looks
I'm finding it hard to write this. I'm giving myself the space I need to breathe; giving myself this clean blogspot window and the wide, sprawling emptiness of the internet. Excuse me if I trip over these words because I've been keeping them tightly wound for a very long time.

The second time I saw Pride I was with my mum. She cried a lot, too. But I couldn't put into words exactly why I was crying so much. We talked about the Valleys and Thatcher a lot afterwards, not so much about LGSM.

Today, my mum sleeps opposite a pair of alien boppers with the letters 'B' and 'I' stuck onto them with see-through plasters. They're from my Queerfest costume this year, which was on my birthday. I'd arrived in university in October and without thinking, I was out. My queerness fitted easily into this college, the bi-weekly trips to LGBTQsoc drinks and gay clubs, its emphasis on intersectional feminism, the active non-heteronormativity (queernormativity?) of students here. I was still scared. I still danced with boys in queer clubs even when I didn't want to. I kissed girls and slept with girls but didn't have the words that came easily with men. I couldn't speak to them afterwards and hated myself for it. Over Christmas, slipping between various beds that altogether constitute my home, I still tripped over my queerness. I talked, stuttering, about sex with women to my cousin as we'd talked about sex with men. I talked queer politics with my mother. Still not my politics, though. Not talking about me.

beautiful queer Wadham
The other day I called my mum to tell her about the girl I liked and who likes me and how we're navigating the minefields of mental health and queerness, but I couldn't. My mouth was open but the words wouldn't come out. I told her about "romantic developments", keeping pronouns firmly out of it.

But it's getting easier. My voice is getting stronger. This time, watching Pride, I was crying because I could recognise myself and my friends in it. Some of that wild, unpretentious, idealism has crept into my life. That glint Mark has in his eye at Pride. That feeling of being totally accepted, totally deserving of my space in the world, totally able to change it.

My point here is that I can feel my chest expanding like it's breathing fresh air for the first time and that I keep crying from happiness so much that when I told my psychiatrist he thought I might be bipolar. But it's actually because for the first time in my life, I'm surrounded by beautiful, radical, supportive queer people. Communists and anarchists with bones to pick and binaries to dismantle who hold each other and sleep together and go onto the streets shouting together. I'm unlearning heteronormativity, unlearning the gender binary that made me fuck up my friend's pronouns the first few times I talked (gushed) about them, unlearning this damn persistent idea in my head that queerness is something I have to hide and feel shame over. I don't feel any shame when I wake up early lying next to a girl in clean white sheets and everything feels purer and simpler than I could have imagined.

My point here is that I've found something I didn't even know I was missing. My identity as a queer person feels like it fits me for the first time - because I'm visible and I'm political and it's so much fun. I feel like I have what Pride managed to capture - I'm Joe, grinning as he says "shut up and march". Walking into the pub or club or whatever space and knowing it's yours. And I don't know how to put that feeling into words without being unbearably cheesy - I'm just so grateful I've finally found it.