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The Politics of Unhappiness

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Yesterday, somebody on a nonbinary Facebook group that I am a part of asked a question:

“If you had the chance, would you have chosen not to be queer/nonbinary?”

Beneath that were a barrage of “no” answers.

There’s this little thing called respectability politics, where minorities have to live up to certain anti-stereotypical traits in order to be acceptable to the mainstream. Gay men cannot be too camp. Black women must not be sassy. And so on.

The cardinal sin for any queer person, of course, is not to have pride. We are not supposed to resent our lack of basic rights, our reduced access to vital services, our role as social pariahs. Because we’re supposed to be proud. In Queer As Folk (UK), Rosalie hurls homophobic abuse at Vince. She later condones her actions- Vince is not “proud”, so how can he complain?

I don’t really want to go into the reasons why queer people must be visibly happy in order to be acceptable. I haven’t researched it. So, although I have a theory that it might be necessary to assuage the guilt of privileged but sympathetic allies, I cannot say for certain.

So, what then for those who are unhappy with their lot? What then for those who are long-term unemployed, lonely, estranged from their family? What then for those to whom a pride parade is nothing more than shrouding their genuine, justified pain in all the colours of the rainbow?

Being unhappy in a culture of “pride” is agony. Not everyone has the same journey- some people’s parents are supportive, some people have a strong network of friends, some people have a stable job with an accommodating company. And others don’t. The latter are the ones that need support the most, and yet, because they don’t fit with the respectable model of what a queer person is supposed to be, they’re sidelined.

Why do we think suicide rates are so high for queer and especially trans people? Could it be that never getting to say, “I am unhappy,” might take its toll on someone?

When asked if I would have chosen to be born straight and cis, I said yes. Because although I know I am a better person because of it (more open-minded, for example), I am tired. I’m tired of fighting the good fight, of writing to my MP and MEPs, to various governing bodies, to banks, supermarkets… and for what reward? An Mx on my railcard? It’s just not enough.

Not enough when I’m so tired of slowly martyring myself so that the next generation of nonbinary people can grow up with all the privileges I grew old too quickly to enjoy.

And you know what surprised me? That my reply, the only admission of weakness in a string of proud, happy messages, got the most likes. From people who hadn’t replied on the thread themselves.

These people were watching this thread, this tirade of unending, unrelenting pride. Thinking, “what the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy?” So the second someone stood up and said, “I am unhappy. And I have a right to be unhappy,” that broke the levee. Their pain was valid.

So, think about that this pride season. How not being proud is seen as a failing not of a society that refuses to grant gender recognition to many trans people, but of those people themselves. Respect shame.

About Big Rook

Chess coaching and events in the north-west of England

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