Queer joy

I wrote a new post on queer joy for Pride month on the JKP blog: Why do we need to queer joy (and pride), what does that mean, and why does it need to include the whole rainbow of LGBTQIA+ and the whole rainbow of feelings?

When JKP asked me to write a piece on queer joy for Pride season my immediate response was ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’ After these past two years, how can a focus on joy – or pride for that matter – be anything but a deluded kind of ‘back to normal’ dream: a dangerous denial of what we’ve been through, what we’re still going through? On reflection though I began to wonder about receiving the phrase ‘queer joy’ as an invitation. What might it mean to queer joy?

Queer umbrellas

If we take queer as a noun – an umbrella term for our LGBTQIA+ community – then it’s hard to find much joy. At a cultural level, the pandemic disproportionately impacted queer people’s mental health and queerphobic hate crime soared. The recent government U-turns on banning conversion therapy, and subsequent decision to do so only for sexual orientation, reflects the ongoing moral panic against trans folks, and how intersex and a-spectrum people are rarely included under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella in more than name, given that erasing practices for these groups are some of the most extreme and commonplace.

The impact of living through this time has been even greater for those – many of us – whose queerness intersects with other marginalisations: disabled folks who’ve seen COVID policies and practices centre abled people and treat them as disposable; those who the current economic crisis is pushing into ever-deeper levels of poverty; and people of colour – also disproportionately impacted by the pandemicrises in hate crime, and endless cultural gaslighting of their experiences past and present.

At a community level, this has all taken a massive toll. In the last year alone, my close communities have seen six deaths, all related to mental health struggles rather than COVID itself.

While we might want to tell joyful stories of queer communities drawn closer during a time of crisis, the truth – for many of us – is the opposite. Understandably, given our experiences of both cultural trauma, and frequently the developmental trauma of not being fully accepted by our close people growing up, many of us have fallen back on our unconscious survival strategies: attacking outwards – blaming and ostracising those who seem to be hurting, abandoning or endangering us; attacking inwards against ourselves, or crossing our own – or others’ – boundaries in attempts to get our needs met; withdrawing into smaller and smaller zones of safety; and/or avoiding pain by distracting ourselves, distancing from those who’re struggling, and rushing ‘back to normal.’ Read more…


Meg-John Barker is the author of a number of popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including Queer: A Graphic History, How To Understand Your Gender, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and IF You Want To), Rewriting the Rules, The Psychology of Sex, and The Secrets of Enduring Love. They have also written a number of books for scholars and counsellors on these topics, drawing on their own research and therapeutic practice.

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