As producers of Pop-Up! QDP, we embrace the great responsibility of being queer space makers—of physical and virtual spaces. For decades, “gay bars” were where LGBTQ folk gathered to connect, to celebrate, to mourn, to debate, to organize, to be their full authentic selves. In a rural state like Vermont, now long-gone gay bars like 135 Pearl and the Rainbow Cattle Co. were often the only place to simply find each other (that was waaay pre-internet).
Queer space is sacred space, but how we are in that space together as a community is equally important. Let’s be real, the queer community has not been great about always making it better for all for us. We have a long history of othering each other as a means of strategy to survive, to claim space for some identities (namely, white cis-gendered middle and upper class lesbian and gay identities) at the expense of others (trans and gender-queer/non-conforming/fluid/non-binary folks, people of color, bisexuals, those living in poverty and the working-class), and to “gain” milestones in our pursuit of civil rights like marriage. This “othering” is not unique to queer folks and it is often not intentional. It is the result of us all living in a systemically oppressive society and culture that has historically used “othering” to diffuse power among less socially powerful identity groups who otherwise would unite to topple more dominant social identity groups in power. In the queer community to this day, it is often our trans community members and people of color communities who have been left out, pushed out, or told to calm down or to wait. These are not alternative facts, they are facts and lived experiences of many trans and QPOC folks to this day.
This complex queerstory of what queer space means is ever present in our minds and hearts while we are planning our pop-up! qdp events and gatherings. Our goal is to be inclusive, to create safe space, to present anti-oppressive content (from the stage and otherwise), and most importantly, to be courageous and open to having tough conversations, when we need to, in person or on our digital platforms. Our goal is to do right by the community as much as we can. Sometimes we don’t get it right, but we always aim to make it right if we screw up.
On the Pop-Up! QDP facebook page we often cross promote other queer happenings, amplify current events and calls to action, and call out acts of bias and discrimination against the queer community. When inevitably we are challenged on the content, we don’t shut down the conversation, we welcome it. We roll up our sleeves and we do the work to understand, to challenge, to educate, and if we need to, we say oops if we stepped in it (and we have).
We are stronger, sparklier, and more connected as a community when we open ourselves up to having difficult conversations, especially when even the best of intentions have unintended impacts.
We believe empathy is a good look.
Lastly, we get how important the name of a space is. We went through this when we very intentionally chose “queer” as part of Pop-Up! Queer Dance Party. We wanted to use a term that clearly identified our parties to the queer community as being, well, queer. Our Pop-Up! QDP founders and producers directly identify as queer across multiple parts of their social identities.
“But, Pop-Up! the word ‘queer!’ offends some folks in the LGBTQ community, it was a slur!” Yup it does, it was, and those experiences make our hearts ache.
The word queer has a unique place, along with only a handful of other social identity terms, that have been reclaimed first by individuals as part of their own social identities, and over time become more collectively used to identify our increasingly diversifying community that has expanding concepts of gender and sexuality well beyond the original “LGBT.”
With all this as context, there remains a list a mile long of slur terms which have not made this same conversion from hurtful to prideful.
We hope that queer space will continue to be created by many diverse community members now and long after Pop-Up! QDP is gone. And in creating that space, we ask that producers join us in being intentional and open to how we do this, just as much as to why we are creating the space.