This is a talk I gave late last year at An Evening of Queer Joy hosted by Stanford Medicine (formerly known as the LGBTQ+ Forum. A few folks had asked me to post it publicly at some point, so here it is.

Hello everyone — I would like to share with you today a few examples of what queer joy is to me.
Queer joy is chanting “one of us” in your head at every other queer person. It’s being annoyed when your cis friend assumes you know someone only because they’re trans—and you do. It’s just a girl, standing in front of another girl, telling her very platonically that she is so gorgeous—but also, like, in a homosexual way. It’s placing bets on which letter your transmasculine friend will pick for a name. It’s naming them Catastrophe and watching the Boba Guys cashier balk at reading out the order. Queer joy is the sound of giggles two rooms down you can almost hear, the thick-thrum boom of Beyoncé through the walls. It’s not knowing if you’re meeting up with someone as friends or as a date or both or neither. It’s asking one friend if you look too straight on the way to pride, and asking another if you look too gay on the way to your parents’ house. Queer joy is dosas and samosas, wheelchairs and white canes, Tumblr blogs and Twitter shitposts. Queer joy is the imposter syndrome of your trans big sister telling you that she wishes she were more like you since you just seem so confident in your identity. Queer joy is dancing to music nobody else hears.
Queer joy is crying on the Amtrak after reading Laura Jane Grace’s memoir, muttering expletives to yourself as you read Nevada, pulling Stone Butch Blues off the shelf. It’s the gaseous ooze of your parents’ voices echoing from the phone after you come out, the kaleidoscope horror when they show up on your doorstep hours later to talk you out of transitioning. It’s a compliment on a cardigan you bought in a rush on the way to your friend’s funeral six months ago. It’s a broken sob limping out an open window, bricks crashing through glass, fires rioting through the night, the exhausted victory of a gender neutral restroom. Queer joy is the burning of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute, Stonewall and the Lavender Scare, Obergefell and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It’s Nancy Reagan in a bolshevik dress leaning over an AIDS victim and whispering piously in his ears: “Just Say No.” Queer joy is a spore floating through inhospitable air. Queer joy is the rhizomatic liberation to want by any means what you can no longer have.
Queer joy is shampoo and conditioner and moisturizer and makeup and sunscreen and razor blades and running late because you aren’t used to it taking this long in the morning. It’s the smell of gym clothes on a chair, comfy socks and throw blankets, a laundry hamper that feels like your own. Queer joy is a pair of chacos lying on a dusk-lit porch, a crop top crocheted from yarn bought at Goodwill, frogs and mushrooms and lilacs and swamps. Queer joy is cat scratch claw scars on your arm, the Sesame Street bandages you use to cover your hormone shots, catching your reflection in a window and actually liking what you see.
Queer joy is the naked musty smell of sweat, the awkward grunt of moving legs, breath clouding on the window. It’s leather and furs, saliva beading on a ball gag, the seditious seductive flare of a silicone base, whips and chains, the mothballed cage-bright knowledge that we will always be freaks. Queer joy is the catechismic burning of a crush burrowing into your chest. Queer joy is the extended adolescence of the late bloomer, the afternoon sun that refuses to let the evening breeze settle in. It’s the yawning orange light above the couch the first time you come out. It’s staring into the Joker-wide eyes of a trans man asking if you want to see these scars. It’s leather dykes on motorbikes and gay bears in lawn chairs, otters and twinks and himbos and studs, power bottoms and service doms, nail extensions everywhere but the index and middle, thank you very much.
Queer joy is never found. It is gnawed, ripped, stolen, and scavenged. Queer joy is lips around a strawberry, tooth biting sweet flesh, memory’s fading bacchanal aftertaste, the joyful turning step of life, the ephemeral booming eon when foot hits floor, the hidden eternity between sense and sensation where we are, forever, free.