Kelsey Rhodes unravels the inherent power of Pride, its history, and collective community’s capacity for diversifying modes of care

When I coalesce with loved ones in my queer community, they often ask if my partner and I are exhausted. Burned-out. Fear-filled. “How do you keep going when things are so bleak?”

As a loud advocate for abortion access, life-romance-soul-partnered to an abortion provider; as a queer resident of a state led by fascist politicians; as a chronically-ill person, navigating a society hell-bent on resisting real wellness; that question is warranted. We’re certainly tired of attempts to erase the parts of living that make it all worthwhile—like self-determination and freedom and a deep, liberatory knowing of self.

When we take time to know ourselves and show our authentic selves to others, infinite opportunity presents itself. We heal our traumas and soul-wounds. We build sustaining community connections. That is key to addressing burnout and to facing the systemic fires we’re living in.

When I coalesce with loved ones in my community, I am living. To coalesce is to come together to form one mass or whole: I am leveraging my vulnerability as a queer person, and as a sick person, to admit I need you. By coalescing, I am celebrating inevitable and necessary interdependence. By coalescing, I learn the inherent power of queer community, and the way that it disrupts the intentional isolation of the lies of capitalistic, American-Dream, boot-strap bullshit.

“Queerness is a sustainable model for staying alive even when fascist forces wish we’d fall silent, or better yet, that queerness would erase itself altogether.”

Queerness, and the collective community that comes with it, is healing. The care that comes with queerness—in its tenderness, its familial structure, its endless interrogation of self, its curiosity of needs and of pleasure—is radical.

My coming into queerness was not a linear path. After a long relationship and short marriage to a cis man, a grief-filled interrogation of sexuality and pleasure, a cross-country coming-out, and a settling down in an unfamiliar conservative state, isolation felt loud and alluring. Hiding from the shame and stigma of divorce, I over-therapized and under-communed. As I met sparkling queers through my partner’s work at the abortion clinic, and then, by extension, the broader community of Kansas City, the attraction of loneliness faded. I poured into my queers, and they poured into me.

To be queer is to hold and be held—to diversify where we look for, receive, and give care. Queerness is a sustainable model for staying alive even when fascist forces wish we’d fall silent, or better yet, that queerness would erase itself altogether.

Aliveness as resistance even when the political ideologues behind hateful talking points and misleading headlines don’t want us to remain that way. In an age of demonizing, of violence against queer people, it’s understandable why close-minded folks believe that queerness is new.

Really, though, it’s ancient medicine. People have been queer since the dawn of time.

“Because we are the earth, queerness is, in and of itself, eternally resilient.”

This eternalness has been studied, and written into existence, as a model of queer theory. adrienne maree brown, organizer and author of Emergent Strategy, writes: “There is an art to flocking: staying separate enough not to crowd each other, aligned enough to maintain a shared direction, and cohesive enough to always move towards each other.” Throughout her book, she makes an impassioned case for the argument that we have much to learn from the complex systems and patterns of the earth, and the cooperative ways of communities of the past. brown argues that the only constant we can be certain of throughout life is change, like the ever-moving ever-shifting shapes of water.

brown reminds us readily that nature is resilient, that in spite of treacherous forces—colonization, climate change, and evolution—it carries on. Mycology teaches us that toxicity can be nourishment. Cellular division and the physics of vibration offer lessons on how micro-changes make macro-possibilities.

Because we are the earth, queerness is, in and of itself, eternally resilient. Queers today exist because of the queers of yesterday. And queers of today are paving the way for the queers of tomorrow, merely by existing, surviving, and being.

One of brown’s self-declared teachers is the Black lesbian theorist Audre Lorde. From Lorde, we carry knowledge of our disruptive power, paving the path to a better future. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House looks to the ways that power, individualism, capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy fail to meet any of our needs to build healthy and safe communities. That, in order to heal the pains of systemic hate, we must (as a way to avoid extinction) battle with softness. Battle with loving kindness. Battle with collectivism and decolonized action.

“By being, we are queering the boxes dominant systems put us in. Blurring the lines between self and other. Slother. We are not new, we are ancient.”

What if Pride were more than corporate boasting, of how deeply rainbow they can wash their branding (which we more often see as an opportunity to double down on queer abandonment, instead of queer support and celebration)? What if Pride could be a month of astute dedication to unlearning individualism, and trying collectivism and care?

Staunch fascist thinkers often purport that queers are a threat to society’s safety. What if we queers are instead the holders of something so powerful, so close to liberation, that the very smell of freedom is what has them shaking and small in their Amazon Prime same-day-delivery boots?

The late author, LGBTQ activist, and lawyer Urvashi Vaid knew this power well. She knew queer community could shake systems, and open doors to futures we have not yet created: “We stand for freedom as we have yet to know it. And we will not be denied.” Our future is inevitable. We must remember that Pride is an opportunity for the collective unlearning of the lies of Big White America™.

By being, we are queering the boxes dominant systems put us in. Blurring the lines between self and other. Slother. We are not new, we are ancient. We have ancestors. We are rooted in past and present.

We queers are the way of the future. We are the reproducers. We are the evolvers. We are the parents and the children. We are so much larger than a month. We are so much louder than a month. Queerness as eternity. Queerness as the feeling of joyful song in the chest, come alive. Queerness as the song itself, never over, always choral.