Maybe it is All about Sex
One of the things that always struck me when I was first organizing around sex worker was how many other organizers came from their high school Gay/Straight Alliances. Not only had we been members, but almost all had been one of the first or second presidents of our respective groups. It’s clearly an age thing. Many of us came of age when high schools across the country were adopting these changes, and those experiences led us away from queer organizing but also kept us in the spirit of community.
Queer kids at my high school had pushed to establish a GSA for several years despite vocal opposition from the FISH (Followers in Serving Him) club and the quiet disappoval of the administration. The administration eventually relented and let the GSA exist, but made it clear that we were not welcome or wanted, and thwarted anything more than a quiet monthly lunch meeting. We met, felt both more and less alone, cried in our parents’ or friends’ parents’ cars to A Better Son/Daughter, got through it, absconded to other places, got comfortable with singular ‘they’ pronouns, watched a handful of former FISH members come out, got comfortable teaching people about singular ‘they’ pronouns, and pretended we weren’t all carrying the same and different traumas.
Pride month always brings up these histories. We hold community and collective memories of how we came here right alongside our personal pathways that bring us to becoming the queers we now are. We remember our first pride parades, of stealing our mothers’ one pair of black patent leather heels only reserved for holidays and the catwalks of upstairs hallways. We hold pleasure and shame at the first riot of a tantrum when the poster of JLo in a soaking t-shirt was taken down. Our roots are collective and political, and they are also so, so personal. They are so big and so small.
It is important to celebrate how the last few years have moved queer advocacy into the radical fights of anti-policing, economic justice, racial equity. We are now championing prison abolition as a queer issue, recognizing that there is not queer liberation where these gendered and racialized spaces of oppression exist. Uplifted are stories of economic justice; not simply non-discrimination in formal work places but how street economies have kept us alive and sheltered when no one else would. And all of these are stories of resilience and resistance wrapped around a core not of queer pain but the demand for queer love and queer joy.
Being part of a group of young people learning how to be queer was not about those issues .
It could have been and maybe should have been, but it was ultimately of something more banal and pure. We just wanted to find someone else who wanted to make out with us. Some were trying to understand familial rejection. Some were trying to learn the language for what we were. Many were navigating the ebb and flow of mental health struggles and crises. Some were exploring how every word around gender we had was failing. We all wanted to know we were not the only ones. But all of this was wrapped around a core that we wanted to connect and kiss and figure all of that out.
That was also the most controversial and maligned aspect of the GSA. The idea of fighting discrimination or making the school more inclusive was fine, but that was where things ended. It was clear that the teacher/advisor of the club could not introduce people to each other or invite anyone to the club for fear people would date. The root of why we were there was the most threatening part. We were allowed to not get beaten up, but love and joy and possibly kissing were beyond what we deserved. To meet someone who not only validated us on an existential level but was willing to engage and maybe, maybe even kiss was an affront that the school administration had to make clear was *not* acceptable as a potential outcome. It was the only unacceptable potential outcome.
Queer community is so broad and diverse that the term itself feels undermining. But the core of it remains that we build community around queerness all the time. For pride, my reminder this year is that the center of organizing not about a fight demanded of us from others, but about more queer joy and love within our world. We wanted outside worlds to accept us, and no one found the answer in a monthly pizza lunch — but maybe we saw someone we thought was hot and they might think we were hot, too. It’s about the trauma, but not more than that it’s about the sex. The potential for sex.
And this is not a plug for why marriage should have taken all of the air and resources in queer liberation. The fight for marriage was not about love. Centering queer love means the ability to define love, family, sex and community in ways that feel right. Marriage stole the idea of queer love to say that if we give up that the ability to define queer love as ours, then and only then do we deserve dignity and humanity. We deserve dignity and humanity, and in that space we will define our own expressions of queer love and joy.
There is so much that queer liberation is about. It is prison and policing abolition. It is racial equity and economic justice and migrant justice and earth justice. It is healing the collective and personal trauma. And there is so much to be proud of. There is resolution and resilience and a culture of balls and great music and the ways we have taught each other to enjoy sex because we had nothing to model our sex after. The way we had to have the intention to value and love our bodies and our desire in a way which was maligned and in its curiosity, magical. Yes. It’s about so much more. But once we seek a world beyond simply survival, and maybe even below that level, it really is just about sex.