Discover more from Small Town, Queer Life
Into Queerer Spaces
These current digital spaces I'm rolling with just doesn't work for me...
Here's how my usual morning goes: I wake up at 4 AM, journal, prepare to go to the store, walk to the store. I'm greeted with an angry meow by the orange stray cat that I successfully befriended. I unlock the backdoor and another meow, longing and desperate, greets me. My cat. They're lovers. My cat just gave birth to three kitrens and Orange Stray is the father. I close the door with the both of them outside and prepare their breakfast. But not before I prepare my own choco, usually paired with the first cigarette… Scroll my phone. TikTok's usually first.
Then it's Twitter. Current trend: Jared Leto wearing a cat costume. Karl Lagerfeld's cat, Chouppete. Lagerfeld is being honored at this year's Met Gala. He isn't the one trending though. It's Leto, Hathaway, Doja Cat and Rihanna.
Then it's Instagram, where my friends basically reside. I deactivated my Instagram for the longest time. When I reopened it, it's as if I went on a long vacation and came back to find that things were exactly— I mean exactly— where I left them. My K-Pop fanatic friend still displaying her fanaticism, my toxic protester friend still protesting to the multiverses— really though, everything in the world is wrong with this person. And my histrionic friend still… histrionizing? And all this, just before the last embers of my fag.
I get up, feed the cats, check the kittens, get the broom and the cleaning cloth and start sweeping and wiping the dust. I rearrange the cans, put out the chips for display, check the inventory, check the expenses, make the grocery list and while waiting for the sun beam to reach my desk, for the first public jeepney to pass, for the city to wake, I scroll and scroll some more.
And it's TikTok, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, YouTube. And it's TikTok, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Youtube. And to add some variety, TikTok, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, YouTube and Google News.
…Google News, where all the world's catastrophes are neatly arranged in a column. Some group in a far away continent committed genocide— read now? Save for later?
As a gay/queer man, I'm inclined to focus on the gay aspects of these platforms, the cracks where the queer community have infiltrated and thrived in. Instagram's WussyMag for example, or the Queer Theory Reddit page. And while I benefit immensely from these platforms, I've been feeling a disconnect these past months. Substack, like email, is of course a form of social media. While there are always queer spaces within these platforms, I've been longing for something more, somewhere deeper. I must have thought about half a dozen meaningful stories to share here. Yet, they never left my journal nor my mind. They're either amoebic thoughts, devoid of form or structure, or scratches on a page.
I've been ruminating why that is and perhaps one of the answers is simply that these spaces are not for me. While I have searched for people with like souls, interests, fighting freedoms worth fighting for, I can't help but think they're spreading it in places whose owners don't much care for us. To be clear, I do not mean to belittle the enormous efforts of the queer, trans, indigenous, marginalized communities protesting for our equality and lives. What I'm saying rather, is that there these places and there are the other places. The Queer Spaces.
To be queer is to be whoever we want to be. A queer space therefore, is a place of freedom. Freedom, by definition of the great Nina Simone, as “NO FEAR.” Freedom from absurd platform policies, freedom of thought, freedom from hateful criticism, freedom from online hate. Furthermore and technically, freedom of design, fonts,layout, rules, texture, ads. Even algorithm. Such concepts are rarely ever found in mainstream.
.... And anonymity. Because I sorely miss sharing comments with an unknown whose indentity and history I may never know. So that I can concentrate solely on the ideas they want to express and convey.
At the moment, I have all my social media accounts are open. I like that I am able to send stories as jokes, make my friends laugh, and also instantly message the people I miss. Apart from that, within the many times I do not wish to make them laugh, and the many times that I do not miss them, I am left with endless scrollings of, as one presenter said, “content we did not ask for.”
The writings of Terre Thaemlitz are what I look for at times like these. Her writings and wisdom guide me as to what to do. However, I am not as strong as her. There are times when I sorely miss my connection to friends through social media.
What do I want? What am I saying?
I'm saying I want to be both visible and invisible at the same time. I'm saying I wish to navigate in places where queer people meet that's outside Google search. And even I would like to escape from those queer spaces too. I'm saying I'm sick and tired of things. I'm saying that when I'm in those queer places, I feel a sense of relief, and at the same time long for the mainstream content. I'm saying I'm not totally a recluse and niether would I want to be in these popular/populist sites/apps for too long. I'm saying even my friends get tired of me. I of them. I'm saying I'm human and sometimes don't want to be.
Susan Sontag had this to say regarding “modern communication systems”
I also found this is Thaemlitz’s website. In 1979, Sontag said that. Isn't that what's going on now? What's been going on for decades? Weeks and weeks these thoughts circled my mind like vultures on dead carcass. There's nothing to do in this town. The net is where I go to to get lost. But lost to places with spotlights glaring towards my online information and identity?
Further reading into Thaemlitz's writings, I discovered two concepts that shot clarity into my heart:
1. "Terre wishes to keep 'queer' audio and media functioning queerly, contextually, and with smallness."
2. "Protect the unusual and minor!"
Even while preaching that nothing is binary, the essense of queerness, in the heteronormative circles online and in reality that engulf me, a switch that has not been turned off since arriving in my hometown 2 years ago, I seem to have forgotten the concept myself. Is it my fault that I have forgotten? Do I need to be on guard all the time?
Whether we have fame, get fame, or even infamy, for what we post online, do we really want to be famous? Do I want my works to overflow without much control over them? I do not think so...
Just a few days ago, I found two particular queer spaces. And while I will continue to post here and the other platforms, infrequently they may come, I think I want to spend some time there, flit in and out of it, in and out of here, for as long as I can. I do not wish to share those spaces, even to an inquiring queer person. The search for them is also worthwhile, I assure you. But no matter how enormous the sea of Social Media (in the mainstream sense) are, it's been a relief that I found these scattered little queer islands, independent of institutions.
Love you always :)