For LGBTQ people, claiming space for what we’re passionate about in a cisnormative, heteronormative world is an act of revolution. That’s why Logo is continuing Claiming Space, a roundtable series where we pass the mic to a group of queer people we admire to speak on…well, whatever they want.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked seven LGBTQ women activists, artists, and journalists — from “Girlfriend” singer Rebecca Black and author Gabrielle Alexa Noel to Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride — about what causes, emotions, or personal goals they’re claiming space for in 2021. Read their answers below.
I am claiming space for less self-doubt. I know that there’s so much of a conversation around having the confidence of a straight white man, and obviously there are additional layers for someone who is of color or someone who is Black specifically. For someone who is queer and Black and a woman, all of those things collaborate to impact the way people see you and the way that you’re treated. I’ve been encouraged pretty much my whole life to be humble, and now that I’m birthing this book project among other projects, I have this feeling of, don’t talk too much about the book, people will think you’re bragging, or don’t seem too happy or successful, especially during the pandemic. I’m fearful of being read the wrong way, and it just clicked for me recently that I don’t want to subscribe to that anymore. I want to be super proud of the work that I put in to birth a book during the pandemic, and of all of the pre-work that went into securing a book deal in the first place. It took a lot of writing and learning to be one of very few Black people — much less Black women, much less Black queer women — to publish a book this year.
YouTuber, influencer, and singer-songwriter
This year has brought so much to the forefront — so many discrepancies in our society and the way that we treat people, our government, and so many aspects of the world that I know can be really difficult to talk about sometimes, and a little bit uncomfortable to talk about. But I am really committed to continuing not only understanding, but finding ways to support those communities right now. Because while of course I miss going to gay clubs, and I miss the parts of my life that everybody misses, so many people are at the mercy of really unfortunate circumstances. Whatever I can do to uplift queer and trans people of color — the Latinx community, something that I am really tied to because of my family — I’m going to do. Trying to find ways to be there for them and support them is a goal for me not just for this year, but for the rest of my life. It’s become really important to me.
Executive Director of National Center for Lesbian Rights
This Women’s History Month, I’m claiming space for those learning to lead with authenticity. In a time when we are beginning to credit authentic conversations for the change we hope to see, and honor authenticity in our leaders, it becomes increasingly more important to recognize that women and people from underrepresented backgrounds haven’t always been allowed to share every part of us. For this reason, sharing authentic experiences is a practice that many of us have had to learn, because early on, we were taught that radical honesty like that was not something that was afforded to us and all of our identities. For many of us, our authenticity had no place in our professional world, and withholding it was one of the first things we practiced. So I am claiming space for the community members who are spending their time living and learning to share their authentic selves so that everyone can feel a bit more like themselves.
This year, I’m claiming space and time for determining how I will participate in and help bring attention to the difficult and necessary conversations around anti-Asian racism and violent acts committed against members of Asian and Asian-American communities throughout the country. How do we begin and continue talking about what’s happening? What do we all do besides just condemn this violence? How do we get people to see that the jeering, taunting, dismissive anti-Asian rhetoric that many would deem innocuous can lead to a kind of dehumanization of groups of people that can then lead to violence against them? How do we keep action productive and not divisive? I’m grateful to Jay Caspian Kang for his New York Times op-ed. His piece quite deftly lays out the challenges of the discourse and organizing before us, as well as the urgency with which we much thoughtfully act.
Interim Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle
I am claiming space for queer and trans writers and creators, especially queer and trans people of color. The website where I’m currently serving as Interim Editor-in-Chief, Autostraddle, works with a team of roughly 40-50 different queer and trans writers, illustrators, graphic designers, and tech team every month. We prioritize documenting and telling the stories that matter most to our community from our own point of view, with humor and grit and enthusiasm. Intentional queer spaces that focus on women and trans people have always been vulnerable to closure, and the pandemic has made the existence of spaces like Autostraddle even more precarious. We’ve survived because of community support, and in fact we’re fundraising right this very moment to stay afloat and we always welcome people who believe in queer media to join our A+ membership program — which has been key to our sustainability. But despite the hardships we’re facing, I know this work is valuable, not just for queer people looking for a welcoming safe space as they make their way out of the closet, or for adults looking for genuine hopefulness and camaraderie as we keep muddling through life, but because in prioritizing and developing queer talent we are actively taking part in creating the world that we most want to see ourselves reflected in. That’s an important reminder as we remake this world anew coming out of the pandemic, it’s an important reminder during Women’s History Month, and you know what? It’s an important reminder, always.
Writer and host of the podcast Big Calf
This year, I’m claiming space for all the current and former fat kids in the world, myself included. I’m still working through the process of coming out, which I only did about two-and-a-half years ago. I’ve realized me staying closeted for so long had a lot to do with me not feeling valuable in the body that I lived in for most of my young life. For my entire childhood, my weight felt like it was at the center of everything I did — every single experience I had was filtered through the lens of fatness, for better or worse but mostly for worse, and it overshadowed everything else I needed to figure out about myself (my queerness included).
That led me to creating the podcast I just launched. It’s called Big Calf, named for a term of endearment my dad had for me as a kid that I used to think was absolutely horrifying but now appreciate the sweetness behind it. The podcast tells stories about what it’s like to grow up as the fat kid. Popular culture doesn’t really leave a ton of room for nuance in the fat person’s experience, which is wild because living and attempting to thrive in a fat body is an incredibly nuanced position to be in. But we’re most often reduced to the punchline or the sad sack or the before/after photo or whatever. I realized recently we don’t get to hear stories about the real, lived experiences of what it was like to grow in a world where being fat is considered one of the absolute worst things you can be. Fat kid stories are complicated, they’re funny, they’re traumatizing, they’re sad and joyful and weird and embarrassing and gross and surprising and heartwarming and contrary to how much of the world sees us: human. And most of all, they deserve a safe place where they can live and be heard. Fat kids are constantly told that they’re too big for the world; my hope is that people realize that in a lot of ways, the world has just been too small for us.
Delaware state senator and LGBTQ activist
I am claiming space for passage of a paid family and medical leave bill here in Delaware. I ran my campaign focused on addressing the cruel status quo of forcing people to choose between their health and their job. Far too many Delawareans, when welcoming a child into their family or diagnosed with a serious illness, are faced with impossible choices. I am working with colleagues, advocates, and stakeholders here in Delaware to add Delaware to the nine states plus Washington, D.C., that have a paid family and medical leave program for working families, so that no one has to give up their income in the face of illness or in welcoming a new child to their family.
I think one of the lessons of this current public health crisis is that no one should have to give up their income in the face of illness. In states across the country, we have responded to this crisis by expanding our unemployment insurance programs to create in essence a temporary COVID-related paid leave program. But whether someone’s dealing with COVID-19 or cancer, whether it’s a global public health crisis or an individual health crisis, the same principle applies. That is why I believe that in order to honor the lives we’ve lost, honor the families who are mourning loved ones… the only way to honor the sacrifice of so many people throughout this crisis is to meet this moment with meaningful action, like paid family and medical leave at the state and federal level.