Everyone has their own definition of queer joy – for some, it’s about putting on a blue eyeliner or attending a drag performance, for others – it's about walking hand in hand with a same-sex partner or celebrating a transition anniversary. This Pride Month we partnered with artists and activists from different corners of the world, who speak about gender justice and inclusion, to share our take on queer joy. Queer Joy Manifesto represents a vision of a world where LGBTQIA+ people are seen and treated as equals, queer leadership is recognized and queer community is celebrated. In this blog we explore what it means in more detail, and invite you to share this vision with others.
Queer Joy is blossoming outside of rigid gender roles and norms
People in most countries and cultures face pressure to comply with social norms that define ’masculine’ and ’feminine’, normalize gender binary and justify punishment for those who don’t act in accordance with these ascribed roles. Research conducted by the Enough campaign found that rigid gender roles and other harmful norms contribute to fueling gender-based violence. LGBTQIA+ people often face disproportionate social pressure to comply with these norms due to their gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Often these norms are embedded in cultural and religious narratives and present themselves in a form of ’traditional values‘.
According to ACTÚA Detén la Violencia - a Bolivian campaign that aims to challenge harmful gendered tropes, indigenous LGBTQIA+ people often have to leave their native communities in order to break away from this pressure. ACTÚA activists work with bloggers, authors and creators to mainstream messages of gender equality and inclusion among the Bolivia’s youth. Their work contributes to making the vision of the world where everyone can blossom outside of the gender binary without fear a reality. This Pride Month they partnered with an artist and activist Wilmar Montero, who portrayed queer joy as an indigenous family who is able to freely express their love and affection.
Queer joy is seeing LGBTQIA+ people in leadership roles
Although the world witnessed considerable progress in gender equality and inclusion in the recent past, too little has been achieved to ensure equal political representation of LGBTQIA+ people. Lack of data disaggregated by gender identity and sexual orientation makes it hard to estimate the lag. However, a snapshot from USA demonstrates that while LGBTQIA+ people make up 4.5% of the US population, they hold only 0.2% of all elected offices nationwide. Having LGBTQIA+ people in all levels of political decision-making is essential for ensuring their needs are taken on board when it comes to policy planning and execution. It’s particularly evident in times of crises – caused by climate disruption, the pandemic or wars. Oxfam’s report details the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 crisis on LGBTQIA+ people and strongly calls for their inclusion in decision-making.
The IMatter campaign who contributed this line of the Manifesto is working to mobilize leaders who champion leadership of women and LGBTQIA+ people in more than 20 countries living through or after crises. Maanya Dhar – an India-based artist, partnered with IMatter to develop a visual representation of queer joy, and portraid it as a leader from LGBTQIA+ community who is delivering a powerful speech at a high-level political event. We have so much work to do to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people everywhere are finally being heard and are not prevented from representing their community in leadership spaces. Queer leadership needs to get normalized.
Queer Joy is knowing I can be myself without fear of violence
“For the longest time, the world has been hard for us – we’ve been ridiculed about the way we talk, dress, or just even move. Society denies queer people the right to be themselves so much that the sight of us walking with our partners on the street can present a lethal danger to us. Being yourself or expressing affection towards a loved one should never be dangerous or against the law.” - says Henrick Dulin, an illustrator from the Philippines, who authored this visual representation of queer joy.
Despite the lack of data, reports from different parts of the world confirm the trend – LGBTQIA+ people are disproportionately affected by the ‘ignored pandemic’ of gender-based violence (GBV). The Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout exacerbated already challenging access to safe housing, healthcare services and economic opportunities for the queer population, which further contributed to rising vulnerability to GBV. In addition, homophobic and transphobic laws contribute to institutionalization of violence against LGBTQIA+ people. According to Human Dignity Trust, 71 jurisdictions criminalize consensual same-sex relationships, with 11 having death penalty for same-sex activity, and 15 – punishing gender identity and/or expression of transgender people.
Queer joy is not having to worry about your safety and life – irrespective of your gender identity, expression and sexual orientation. Oxfam Pilipinas study access to services for people affected by gender-based violence, run awareness-raising campaigns, partner with opinion-shapers, and team up with amazing gender equality advocates to demand legal change to end GBV. This Pride Month they worked with Henrick Dulin to create a visual representation of queer joy as a world where everyone can enjoy safety and be themselves without fear of violence.
Queer joy is expressing myself freely through clothes and look
Queer joy is to have freedom to express your identity through clothes and look – without having to face backlash or violence. It’s not always the reality for many LGBTQIA+ people. Despite that, queer communities across the world have been exemplifying ultimate self-expression – through their lives, drag, activism and art. This Pride Month we partnered with Saif Ali – an Arab Muslim artist and activist, to create a visual representation of self-expression through clothes as a revolutionary act.
You don’t have to dress “like a man” to be a man. You can be a man, and wear a pink dress and make-up. Our identities are so much more complex than the black-and-white of gender binary, and clothes is just one way to highlight this diversity and pluralism” - says Ali.
Boundless self-expression of various identities should not be punished by law or become a reason for violence. Unfortunately, 15 countries still have so-called “cross-dressing laws”, which persecute people who wear clothes or accessories not seen as corresponding to their gender role. Harmful social norms are linked to heightened risk of gender-based violence against LGBTQIA+ people due to how they dress. LGBTQIA+ people pave the way for the world free of gender stereotypes with their courage and authenticity. We are grateful to everyone who works to challenge harmful social norms and discriminatory laws affecting LGBTQIA+ people.
Queer joy is to be surrounded by a diverse and powerful community
Research proves that a strong feminist movement is the most powerful factor for progress in eliminating gender-based violence and moving closer towards gender equality. LGBTQIA+ movements are a big and integral part of it. Queer activism and scholarship help expand our understanding of gender and sexuality, and champion the messages of diversity, acceptance and inclusion in our societies. Chosen families, drag parents and other forms of queer kinship are an antidote to exclusion, dehumanization and hate.
Enough campaign is a community of gender justice advocates in more than 20 countries that brings together young feminist leaders and artists to call for a social norm overhaul. This Pride Month they invited Maanya Dhar to illustrate the diversity and power of the queer community in a form of a card.
“I drew a jigsaw of different identities, ages and social groups that are part of the LGBTQIA+ community through colors of different Pride flags. As we learn more about gender and sexuality, this jigsaw is ever-evolving, leaving space for accommodating other shades of queer”. - says Maanya.
Queer Joy is to belong to a community that accepts, supports and empowers you. Maanya said it well, “Queer communities are revolutionary, intrinsically feminist – they are an unstoppable force”.
Feeling inspired by this Queer Joy Manifesto?
Share the cards and the messages of gender equality, justice and inclusion with your friends to spread some queer joy!