Post by Hannah Barath, Access and Diversity Co-op student.
At the end of September I had the opportunity to attend a screening and discussion of “What I LOVE About Being QUEER” with film-maker Vivek Shraya. Often when we hear stories from members of the queer community, we hear about discrimination and challenges they face. In his work as an artist, human rights advisor, and positive space coordinator, Shraya has met many young queer and trans individuals struggling with internalized feelings of shame, homophobia, and transphobia. This film was created to offer a positive alternative narrative. It is not meant to take away from the stories of struggling, but rather act as an accompanying story that supports and inspires.
In this film, 34 individuals share what they love about being queer. The result is a touching and impactful film that celebrates all that is queer. By interviewing a group of people varying in age, ethnicity, and gender expression, Shraya highlights the diversity that exists within queer communities. Not quite content with that, a Tumblr page where people can submit their own answers, as well as a book, was created to show an even more complex picture of the diversity within queer communities.
As expected, what people chose to talk about was quite varied. One of the topics discussed was sex. For some, queer sex is central to their identity, and for others it is just one of many things they love about being queer. Some love the physical aspect of it while some love that the absence of normative expectations lets them personally define what queer sex means for them. A film where queer sex is unabashedly celebrated is both wonderful and needed because it is something that is rarely talked about, at least in a positive manner. It also shows that there is nothing wrong with enjoying or wanting sex if you are queer.
The celebratory nature of this film isn’t meant to take away from the challenges queer individuals face in their daily lives. It is important that we remember to acknowledge these struggles. Queer sex is often demonized, condemned, and seen as unnatural. In order to change cultural attitude around queer sex we need to change the structures that support these attitudes. One way to make conversations around queer sex more positive would be to broaden sexual education programs beyond educating youth about sex for reproductive purposes. If instead, sex can be taught as something pleasurable it would only be natural to include topics such as queer sex and consent within the educational context.
In the discussion that followed the screening, Shraya said that he wants society to move beyond acceptance and tolerance, to strive towards celebration. With “What I LOVE About Being QUEER” he does exactly that, celebrating and connecting queer communities to each other while challenging mainstream narratives that surround queer identities. To explore, learn more about or take part in this project check out the “What I LOVE About Being QUEER” Tumblr and book. If you have time, make sure to check out more of Vivek Shraya’s amazing work.