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Queer experience is not limited to trauma

  • 18 March 2016


In the early naughts, I was a happy, well-balanced teenage girl who looked forward to the future; I was a moody, insufferable tween with no respect for her peers; I was a studious, engaged student; I was lazy and contemptuous; I was sweet and generous; I was an audacious brat; I was excitable; I suffered; I was the cause of the suffering of others; I wanted to kill myself; I didn't want anything more than I wanted to be 20.

Each of these statements is true. Some were at times truer than others. But which of them is the truest?

And what happens when one true statement is not believed?

If the statement not believed is a crucial one, an important factor in a person's understanding of themself, they might repeat it out loud. They might repeat it so often that the other statements begin to lose significance. Other factors are erased in order that the person can convince the listener of the trueness of the crucial statement.

What is this about? It is about the demand made of queer people to repeat statements about themselves in order to convince listeners of their truth, and the cost of this demand.

'Coming out' is one of these statements: this gesture is specifically, politically required of queer people but not of straight people. Queers are asked to do it again and again, to tell the story of how and when and why they knew and how they announced their knowledge, whereas heterosexual people are rarely — perhaps seldom — required to come up with a story to account for their sexual orientation.

Another statement demanded of queer people is that they are injured and traumatised by the fact of their sexuality or gender. For example, when advocating for basic resources such as the Safe Schools Coalition, queer people are called upon to recount the trouble their queerness has caused for them.


"Same-sex attracted Australians are 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. This is the real, lived effect of homophobia."


Collecting these testimonies, such as those in the Safe Schools Story Project, is a potent strategy to build a case for representation, to articulate the ongoing harassment and discrimination queers face, and to affirm to young queer people that they are not in it alone.

But why call on individuals to testify when the statistics are heartbreaking enough? Same-sex attracted Australians are 14 times more likely to attempt