I recently watched a short film that was on the lines of imagining a better world by being LGBTQIA+ inclusive, and surprise surprise, I was not satisfied with how low the bar was for our collective queer future. Now before you call me greedy, insatiable, and any of those other choice words that countless people have hurled at me, a bisexual person who is often clocked as a woman, let me acknowledge that I appreciate my queer peers who showed up to document and reimagine the micro-aggressions that they face on a daily basis.
However, given my own experiences, some of it fell short of the queer liberation that I imagine for myself. This Pride Month, we invited people to share stories of how they imagined a safer queer future with Gaysi. Some contributors wrote about wanting a revolution that liberated queer folx from systemic oppression, while others wrote about the intersectionality of queer liberation, and still others emphasized on the need to build communities, families, and systems of solidarity that went beyond compulsorily romantic monogamy that has been peddled to use as the epitome of love. Having read and edited these stories, you’ll have to pardon me for thinking that watching a mother trying to persuade her son to consider a rishta from another man or someone clocking a trans-feminine person as a woman while directing them to the appropriately-gendered washroom, is as far as we can imagine a better future for ourselves.
The bit that particularly bothered me was when a school-going child is berated for not polishing their shoes. While the scene seems to indicate that the child is relieved to not be scolded for their gender-expression, it goes that there nonetheless exists a power dynamic in the school that causes students to live in fear of invalidation. There are also undertones of religious dogmatism, casteism, ableism, and couple’s privilege that peak through most of the narratives in this short.
Which brings me to my larger question: who among us really has the agency to broadcast our queer aspirations? As an avid sci-fi reader, i would often find myself disappointed at how the genre was dominated by the gaze of cis-white-men, who often equated queer sexuality with biblical depravity (think Barbarella). So imagine how cathartic it was for me to read Octavia Butler’s Patternist series, wherein she wove an intricate tale around race relations, genderqueerness, mind control and extra terrestrial plague. When I read the first book, it was as if I was allowing myself to breathe out and relax into my body, nudging it to take up space, while embracing all that had been labelled as eccentric voodoo. Yes, this was allowed to be sci-fi, I reassured myself.
Then why must I shrink my imagination in the face of fascism, systemic patriarchy, casteism & religious tensions that keep me separated from those I love so fiercely, and white supremacy? Why can I not imagine a world where queer folx do not walk around on eggshells, only to be allowed a morsel of acceptance. I want a world where gender-neutral bathrooms are commonplace, with facilities for menstruators and one that prioritizes accessibility for disabled users and their aids, big and small, furry or otherwise. I want a world where queerness does not wait to be accepted by cis-het systems, but where it participates in world-building, actively, enthusiastically, and sometimes makes its own mis-steps, without it being blamed on queerness. I imagine a world where queer villains exist amidst the constellation of queer characters in the universe of the story. I imagine a disabled superhero taking on the corrupt municipality in the Global South, but not before they go on their own journey to find disabled joy (lots of stimming scenes!) and community, before the municipality folx realize the futility of their exploits. I want to dream big without being told that it’s too big and that I should make a meal out of breadcrumbs. To be audaciously queer, and nothing short of it.