Joy is Power: How Queer Flourishing Creates Strength


"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." said Maya Angelou. And so it is with joy.

We need joy more than ever right now because it is a powerful antidote to apathy, hopelessness, and inaction.

When I see the horrors of the Gaza genocide, or the murder of another trans teenager, it is easy for me to slip into a muted, paralysed inaction. I feel so overwhelmed and crushed that I do..nothing. I don’t help, I don’t engage, I don’t do anything.

Joy does not feel like this. Joy is filled with its own perpetual engine. When I feel joy I feel open, a strong appetite to connect, to look people and things in the face and find out more. It is a sensation that is laced with action and power.

Because of this, spaces where queer folx can cultivate joy become barracks of resistance.

Finding, nurturing, and inventing places where we cultivate joy online takes on an even greater importance when we look through the lens of accessibility. Plenty of queer folx are differently abled, doing care work, being chronically ill, and being super tired.

This is a known and researched phenomena known as "queer battle fatigue," which refers to the everyday exhaustion experienced by LGBTQIA+ people and communities due to anti-queer norms and values.

Data shows us that people who feel happier and more connected live longer and for more disease-free years. We also know that queer folx, black and brown folx, and women and femmes do the lionshare of social activism on the planet.

Taken together, the equation looks like this to me:

More queer joy = queers living longer happier lives and getting up to more antics*.

This feels like a priority.

I am a soft-masc queer academic from a working class family, now working as a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton on a project called Queer Joy as a Digital Good. The project is life-affirming and brilliant for three main reasons.

The first is that the entire research team is comprised of lgbtqia+ people and allies. I have never worked in a team like this before. There is a level of care and generosity of spirit in our meetings that I have just never experienced on a work Zoom until now. There are important lessons to be taken from this in terms of how we can learn from queer culture to make other spaces more warm, humane, and supporting.

The second is that a national funding body is overtly prioritising queer joy by giving us money to research it. Given the increasing emergence of far-right rhetoric and the influence of right-wing thinking within mainstream politics in the UK, we take this as a strong and important signal that powerful institutions and the people within them do care about us.

Gandalf said it best:

“There are other forces at work in this world, besides the will of evil.”

The third is that the project itself is looking at important and fascinating things. We held an interactive, craft-based workshop where queer folx got together and talked about queer joy and made cool art.

Even if nothing else ever happened with this project, that would be an outcome worth celebrating.

We will take our ongoing findings to the policy level with the intention of influencing ongoing legislative formation around digital spaces and online life. These are grand ambitions, but we are fuelled by joy.

*Antics including but not limited to needle felting, full scale uprising, eating snacks, looking cute, and rebelling against the state.

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