On The Importance Of Queering Your Living Space
My world, my words
Photos by Hayden Manders; Illustrated by Ji Lim
What kind of space do you take up in the world? What do you fill it with? How do you move through that space? How do others move through it? These aren't just questions that I was taught to ask in architecture school, but questions I've grown to ask myself the further into my twenties I get. Now that I'm in the latter half of these pivotal years (though, aren't all years pivotal?), the pressure to make myself into something worthwhile (whatever that means) has never felt more intense and, frankly, focused. Questions like "Who am I?" don't simply mean questioning character, but style, as well; like, how you walk through the world and present yourself, and how you make a home. Screw the idea of your eyes being windows to your soul, what becomes more and more clear is the ways in which your home's actual windows say something about who you are, and who you want to be.
I recently packed up my life into more boxes than I imagined and moved my life into a new apartment. It goes without saying that moving blows. It's faintly masochistic and disturbingly sobering. Where did all this stuff come from? How did it all fit in this shoebox of an apartment? Did Marie Kondo's wisdom fail me or did I fail Marie Kondo's wisdom? Am I truly the minimalist I thought I was? All existential crises out of the way (and because I'm trying this new thing of looking on the bright side), there is a silver lining to moving: a blank space—well, for the most part. Like a first date, moving is a chance to reclaim your identity; it's the mini-start over life doesn't often offer up. As a queer-identifying person, the need for my space to reflect my identity has become vital in growing into myself.
Some of the most profound places in the world are the homes of LGBTQIA-identifying people. From the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles, which is headquartered out of the infamous erotic artist's home, to Gertrude Stein's even more infamous salon, queer spaces are mini-museums of queer history and the queer experience, intimate and personal. The homes of queer people I've spent time in and observed are rich with art, books, and music that have shaped our collective narrative. A former professor of mine has art their lovers made them on their walls, and shelves filled with phallic creations of their own—all things that helped (and still help) them discover the person they are meant to be. Their space celebrates their queerness in subtle—okay, the erotic stuff may not be so subtle—and profound ways. Each piece has a story and a place within their truth.
Your home is a sanctuary for you, but also of you: your joy, your sadness, your turn-ons, your turn-offs, your madness, your hunger, your rest. It's precious and special. The older you get, I've realized, the fewer things you need; rather, you need to surround yourself with what's necessary for you to feel you. That could involve having a lot of things, but it doesn't have to be. A queer space functions in two ways: as the aforementioned sanctuary of you and as a sanctuary of queerness itself—a time capsule, if you will. It is essential queer history—the plights, the sickness, the pride, the brother- and sisterhood—is not forgotten or become common place, and a queer person living out their truth is a part of that. The community needs it as intersectionality rightfully becomes more and more prevalent. Where the community has been directly informs where it is going. I've come to understand, through this shift in age and location, that carving out a queer space of my own is one way of keeping that history alive because the personal is political these days.
So go forth, queer humans and queer up your space. Fill it with your icons, your anthems, your books, your memories, and your pride. Start conversations through your space and tell your story through it. There is, to riff on Judy Garland's classic Wizard of Oz line, no place like a (queer) home.