Our Q42 group members tried to answer this very question. It wasn't easy, but we came up with some ideas that might even help create your own.
Using the LGBTQ+ Village in Manchester as an example, we noted how so many queer spaces are adult-exclusive: bars, nightclubs and the like. But what does a queer space look like when it’s for LGBTQ+ young people? And from here, how could we make our group space a queer space?
Public queer spaces aren't always accessible to everyone and the lockdown certainly highlighted the impact that can have. Sometimes people's only space is their own space (if that!) and unfortunately, far too many might be stuck in queerphobic spaces. Meanwhile, many others may not be out of the closet, and can end up being isolated from many spaces, especially if stuck at home.
Living like this can be really detrimental for your emotional health and wellbeing, if you need support you can find out more about 42nd Street’s support, or contact the LGBT Foundation’s helpline. It’s so important to find ways to take care of yourself and affirm your queer identity. Remember: you are not alone, your identity and experiences are valid, and there is a whole community who cares about and is rooting for you!
And so, taking the ideas of our Q42 group members, here are some suggestions for making your space an affirmative queer space:
If you’re able, a really easy and straightforward way to help make your space feel like a queer space is to hang the LGBTQ Pride flag, and/or the flag that’s specific for your identity (ie – the trans, pan or bi flag).
If you’re not out, or if you just don’t want to decorate with flags, there are plenty of other options! You could hang posters from LGBTQ+ music artists, quotes from LGBTQ+ tv shows, or even some art by LGBTQ+ artists (even if the art isn’t explicitly LGBTQ-themed, knowing it’s by an LGBTQ+ artist counts for something!).
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this in your room, maybe try your phone or computer. Like a Steven Universe wallpaper, or a RuPaul ringtone.
Just give yourself those little reminders of your community to help you feel less isolated and a part of something bigger.
In your own private time, a great way to make your space achieve a queer atmosphere is to listen to LGBTQ+ music, read LGBTQ+ books and/or watch LGBTQ+ films and TV shows.
Creating a queer atmosphere requires queer people, and so adding as many positive queer voices and representations into your space should hopefully help with this.
Your queer space should be a place for you to express yourself freely and openly, without fear or judgement.
For some, this is not always an option, especially in our own homes. And so it is really important to make time for this, and carve out a place you can do this – even if this place is online! Creating a blog, writing a diary, or just engaging with others on social media are all great ways to express yourself in an anonymous or open way.
Queer history and culture is very rarely taught in schools, and so a great way to make your space a queer space is to make it a space of queer education. By dedicating time in your space to learning about LGBTQ+ people, movements, politics, and so forth, you enrich that space as a place for you to connect more deeply and complexly with the LGBTQ+ community.
What is going on with the queer community today? How are LGBTQ+ people dealing with their identities, laws and social issues right now? What are your own feelings about your own identity?
Taking time to be mindful of yourself, and how you place yourself within the current context of the larger queer community can be a really healing and motivating activity. This kind of introspection, and allowing time to do this safely and without judgement, can often be one of the most positive parts of any queer space.
Just because you’re doing it alone in your own bedroom doesn’t lessen the value of that.
Not only does the LGBTQ+ Community have a long history of activist movements, but these movements have come to define queer culture.
Historically, queer spaces have been the planning and outreach grounds for civil rights movements, AIDS awareness activism, equal marriage campaigning, and so forth. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an activist, but there should be a sense of moving forward not backward, of working actively to not let complacency shape your space.
Instead, think of the ways you want things to get better and use these to shape how you decorate the space, and how you spend your time in this space.
If you know other LGBTQ+ people, try and make time to connect with them. By building positive and supportive relationships, your queer friends can become your chosen family. These are people who can encourage and uplift you, which can be especially needed when others in your life fail to do so.
Practice Radical Self Love
Your queer space should be a space where you feel valued and respected as a queer person. It is so important that you make the effort to intentionally and actively love yourself. Celebrate you!
Celebrate your body, your skills, your accomplishments. Remind yourself that you are enough: you are good enough, just as you are, and while yes there’s always room for improvement, you are deserving of love right now and don’t need to do or change anything to still be a valued member of society.
This is your space, and no one can tell you that you don’t belong here. You are so dearly beloved, and so in your queer space try to treat yourself with all the care and love in the world.
For some, the above examples can be applied to physical spaces, like your bedroom.
For others, the above suggestions may need to only exist online and in private.
But hopefully, by cultivating time that’s dedicated to enriching your own queer space, you will be able to escape from the queerphobia of the world and enjoy even just a few healing moments of queer space.