Queer Solidarity in Times of Hardship

Alison Bechdel created the comic Dykes to Watch Out For and in the process created queer joy in a time of devastation for the queer community because of the AIDS epidemic. She does so while also sharing relatable experiences for queer people in this time period, including bringing up the sexual history of someone’s past partners to try and safeguard from contracting HIV/AIDS. However, she also shares moments of joy and solidarity within the community during these years – most notably in the comic strip titled “Bringing it Home.” In this comic, Mo is sharing her experiences from the March on Washington. One panel includes her saying that “for one weekend we had a glimpse of real freedom. It was like being 100% queer and proud of it, but at the same time not being queer at all anymore…y’know?” (Bechdel 18). In this moment she is sharing the joy and freedom that she felt by being surrounded by other queer people and how freeing the solidarity of this was – but it is also important to note the overshadowing sadness in this joy as well. This feeling of freedom and solidarity is present in so many queer spaces and can feel so empowering and freeing, but underneath this is the acknowledgement that so many spaces are not safe and liberating like this and that the feelings experienced in these spaces are often rare.
Furthermore, the quote that it was like being queer and proud but “also not being queer at all anymore” stood out because of the idea that queerness is something that sets community members apart from other people but would not be present if everybody was queer. This feeling can only be experienced by members of a minority community in the sense that people who are not oppressed or separated by their identity will never know the feeling of not fitting in in most places, whereas when there are these spaces for queer people it is a rare thing that is appreciated and not taken for granted. This speaks to the bigger idea that most queer people learn to accept and celebrate their identities because with that identity comes the community of people who share similar experiences. Finding these spaces brings joy and comfort into the lives of queer people, and it is incredibly important that Bechdel chose to share these moments of queer celebration and joy rather than only sharing moments of anxiety and fear in a time where queer communities were being torn apart by both the epidemic and the homophobia that came with it.

2 thoughts on “Queer Solidarity in Times of Hardship”

  1. I have thought a lot recently about what defines a space as safe for the queer community, mostly because of our reading of Tim Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel Delany. These spaces, such as the march featured in Dykes to Watch Out For, are almost if not entirely populated and habited solely by queer people. Although this is not a negative thing by any means, I think that safe spaces can be extended and universalized by educating the public about the marginalization and discrimination directed towards the queer community to nullify the borders between safe and unsafe spaces. The idyllic nature of pride parades and the euphoric comfort felt by Mo can be universally actualized if we continue to educate and advocate the heteronormative community, and although this is indeed a large goal, eventually safe spaces won’t be defined by escapism.

  2. I admire that you pointed out this theme of queer joy because moments of queer joy in media are so rare. This was especially true during the height of the AIDS crisis. Your post reminded me of other media forms that depict queer joy and community. Movies like “But I’m a Cheerleader” and “Love, Simon” show queer characters who find love and are alive by the end of the movie. Both movies have their flaws, but they are revolutionary for their respective times in representing LGBTQ+ pride. However, despite the similarities between current media and “Dykes to Watch Out For”, the depths that the latter reaches are beyond what current media provides. The themes of AIDS, rural queerness, and the meaning of “queer” are far more complex than ideas in media today.

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