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Kimberly Lopez: What does queer joy mean? (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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I think I may be failing at therapy.

I say this because the last two sessions I’ve had, I’ve found myself rambling, not cohesive, losing track of my thoughts more quickly than usual. Anxiously complaining, and getting nowhere. My last homework assignment (which I, myself, came up with) was to microdose joy, so that I might, someday, be able to look happiness in the face and embrace it like an old friend, instead of foreboding joy like some kind of bridge troll who has never worked through their childhood trauma. My next appointment is in a few days, and instead of following through on what I told my therapist and myself I would do, I’m spiraling about the ever-increasing cost of living in Lawrence. 

I am also googling “what does queer joy mean?” at 3 a.m. instead of sleeping, because I cannot help but feel like I am also failing at being queer. How does one fail at being queer, you might ask? The answer is that I can’t rightly tell you, other than to say that I have a gut feeling that there’s something I’m doing that is intrinsically wrong. I’m not gay enough because I find myself inexplicably being attracted to some men, even though most of them baffle me. I’m not bi enough because I cannot imagine being happy with someone who does not share a similar gender identity to myself, and wait, does this mean I am not allowed to wear jean jackets anymore? 

I’m getting an F at being queer because I’m 30 years old, and I’m only now understanding parts of my identity that everyone else seemed to figure out the second they discovered Tumblr. I didn’t even read fanfiction until a couple years ago — I’m not sure why I’m allowed to sit at this table. And I don’t know why I’m writing about this when the reality is, I feel like I don’t know anything about what it is like to be queer and trans because I’m terrible at being both. 

There is a multitude of queer and trans artists I could be supporting, but instead all I’ve been able to do lately is listen to the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” and develop a personal vendetta against Jake Gyllenhaal. There are queer and trans authors I could be supporting, but instead one of my favorite books is about wizards who kiss sometimes, written by a (as far as I know) cishet white woman. I’m not a fan of drag culture. Camp exhausts me. I have failed

I’ve been putting off writing more for this publication, not because I’ve reached the end of my small list of bite-sized pieces of wisdom on how you can support your local trans, but because I cannot compute why anyone would want to read what I have to say. This isn’t me fishing for a compliment or reassurance, this is me admitting that I have no clue what the f— I am doing. Earlier today I cried when I came home and found that my new cat had somehow gotten her favorite toy — ironically, a rainbow teaser toy — wrapped around her foot, because I am also failing at being a pet parent, apparently. Did I mention I am also failing at being a person, in general? 

I’m a wreck. You probably shouldn’t be listening to me. Maybe go and find someone who doesn’t have to google what queer joy means, because they are too busy actively experiencing it to contemplate what it means.

What does it mean? I’m not sure. It could be delighting in my identity, which, honestly, hasn’t been happening lately. Or it could be naming my new cat after a One Direction song that isn’t even in my top 10, just so I can regularly sing I love, I love, I love Olivia. Maybe it’s being surprised by my boss leaving my favorite donut at my desk — strawberry frosted, with sprinkles. Maybe it’s the werewolf himbo I’ve grown emotionally attached to playing in my current Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Maybe it’s vicariously experiencing a friend’s ineffable joy, who managed to see Harry Styles perform live four times during his Love on Tour, one of them with me. Maybe it’s managing several Harry Styles references in one single column, because I am who I am. 

Maybe it’s doing your best, even when you feel like you’re failing at life. 

What does queer joy mean? I’m not sure, but I’m open to figuring it out. 

— Kimberly Lopez (he/they) is a queer, nonbinary librarian living in the heart of Lawrence. He can often be found reading romance novels or ranting about the validity of boy bands. Their obsession with Harry Styles is “perfectly normal” and “healthy.” Follow him on Instagram. Read more of their work for the Times here.

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