Your not-so-favorite brands have swaddled their logos in rainbow stripes, signaling that LGBTQ+ Pride Month is upon us. However, 2022 has not been an "easy," carefree, love-filled year for many queer people. Between transphobic legislation targeting trans youth and their families and the use of dehumanizing and incorrect language to describe trans women, the LGBTQ+ community is heavy with the weight of hatred, ignorance, and desire to limit our rights. Despite this, we continue to create, flourish, and connect in resilient, loving, and ever so unique ways.
This week's episode of The Well+Good Podcast features a thoughtful conversation between ALOK, world-renowned artist, poet, activist, public speaker, and author of Beyond the Gender Binary, and Rachel Ricketts, spiritual activist, attorney, and author of Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing From White Supremacy. Together, these two queer, gender-expansive thought leaders explore how joy and grief are inextricably tied, and how community is a non-negotiable lifeline for queer folks in times of sorrow and celebration.
"I'm new to the world of delight," says ALOK in response to what it means to care for yourself and engage in healing. "So, it's so easy for my brain and my trauma to make me feel, and prepare me for, things to fall apart."
As a result, ALOK says much of their healing and journey toward embracing delight involves realizing when their brain is trying to protect them by looking for fault lines. "Now, what I'm trying to really do in my life is to understand that there's always an underbelly beneath the surface of a feeling," ALOK says, adding that sometimes they feel denser emotions like lovelessness.
ALOK is right. According to the National Library of Medicine, complex and confusing emotional responses to trauma—months or years after the experience—is common and often distressing. The good news? Social and community bonding, familial support, and a sense of purpose are all clinically important sources of healing. This truth is very apparent in the conversation between ALOK and Ricketts as they explore what it means to heal and develop self-intimacy.
Healing often asks us to resist fear and anxiousness, but ALOK and Ricketts acknowledge that moments of despair and grief are inescapable—especially for queer and trans people of color. In these inevitable moments, queer community is vital. "I often ask questions like, 'What does it mean to be embodied in ourselves and to love ourselves in a world that's constantly causing us harm?'" says Ricketts. For ALOK, queerness, gender expansiveness, and chosen family are essential for navigating this world
Recently, ALOK shared their experience on a panel in Texas where someone said that the only way to have a good life in the state was to be a white, Christian, cisgender man. ALOK pushed back on the idea that only one type of person gets to have a good life—even though some identities possess more safety and privilege in society. "Even though I've been through a lot, I actually feel like I'm living a really damn good life," says ALOK. "And I don't want to have to emulate other standards of status quo."
Ultimately, Ricketts and ALOK say that the challenges and unique rewards of the queer community are sometimes two sides of the same coin. "We shouldn't have to struggle or experience arduous trauma to earn beautiful things," says ALOK. "But the truth is that our experiences have allowed us to harness empathy, connection, and to know the difference between living and existing."
It's easy to feel overwhelmed amid the flurry of rainbow-coated ads, panels, and events. It's easy to feel discouraged and painfully alone if the inundating narrative is that being queer means you are destined to find perfect, flawless, true love. This year, Ricketts and ALOK reaffirm what is true: There's no one way to be or feel in this community. In fact, the beauty of queerness is that you have an endless invitation to explore who you are, what you feel and an infinitely long dinner table of other people doing the same thing. These artists and thought-leaders certainly reminded me how much pride is about pulling a chair up and being part of the story.
This conversation is part of Well+Good's Love Out Loud series for Pride Month, a month-long series that centers conversations between thought leaders and community builders in the LGBTQ+ community.
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