What I Want From My Queer Community: Inspired By An Autostraddle London Meetup

Since Autostraddle dot com got started back in the day, our eventual goal has been to create real tangible three dimensional communities where queer women can connect and love and support one another. The bigger we get, the more we are able to facilitate the creation of these communities: we host international meetups regularly, we run weekly interviews with readers, we created A-Camp… the list goes on and on. Our hopes and dreams include the idea that one day, every single Straddler will have a real-life community to call their own. We’re running a revolution, but the thing about a revolution is that we’re nothing without each other. So in the spirit of loving each other and creating bonds that are real, we’re going to start running some community-based submissions every so often. Think of these submissions as a peek into your fellow Straddlers’ diaries, scrapbooks, homemade collages. It’s like sitting on someone else’s bedroom floor and listening to them describe what the inside of their soul looks like. We know it’s scary to put on your cutest shoes and brush your hair and get out there when we host a meetup weekend, but we want you to be brave and do it because it is always worth it. Community is everything. This is what can happen when you meet Straddlers in real life. This is what the beginning of the revolution looks like. – Vanessa


What I Want From My Queer Community: Inspired By An Autostraddle London Meetup

By Hattie

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful… and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.” – Zadie Smith

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I want a group of fiercely loving queers around me.

I want to laugh about the amount of us called Alice and Kate, for some unexplained reason.

I want them to tell me to suck up my fear and send my writing off to Autostraddle even if it sucks, and that it probably doesn’t suck. I want them to offer to edit it for me.

I want us to be each other’s cheerleaders. To be unashamedly clapping from the sidelines of our lives. I want that movie night. That popcorn. I want to pick it out of my teeth for days afterwards because that’s what popcorn does to me and it’s why I don’t eat it but I’d eat it for these queers and I’d want the reminder of the night for longer. I want to show them the kind of friend I can be. I want to lure them with promises of baked goods but hope secretly that they can see my worth beneath that.

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I want people who admit they’ve felt loneliness. I want people who’ve never thought it’s possible to have too many friends and they just don’t quite have space for me, who turn away once I’ve blurted out things I should keep to myself. I never did know how to keep my mouth shut. I want people who also don’t know how to keep their mouths shut and who never tell me I should shut mine.

I want queers who feel familiar, who I find myself looking at and laughing with and wondering if we’ve met before because it’s like I know them already. I want to wonder if we knew each other in a past life. I want them to be serious and silly and deep and strong and funny and unexpected and tough and weird and different and hopeful and on the verge of becoming. I want it to be real.

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I want us to get it wrong. I want there to be silences and awkward pauses. I want us to figure each other out. I want us to hug when we become aunts for the first time. I want us to tell stories, but also to build them together. I want the sisters, and brothers, and mothers, and teachers, and I want us to pass on those stories, to tell them around campfires, to toast marshmallows and champagne glasses. I want people to run with, bounding through forests as thick as memories, knowing the way through or just guessing which way to go but holding hands and doing it together.

I want people who quote poetry and TV shows and have opinions and argue and travel to places and make me jealous with the amount of things they’ve seen or times they’ve been to A-Camp. I want friends I can look up to.

I want them to understand when I talk about Her and know the feelings that curl in my throat when She buys me sunflowers to remind me to turn towards the sun and make u-haul lesbian jokes and not say things like, “but if you had to choose between a guy and a girl…” and, “is that stuff even satisfying though, what do girls do in bed?”

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I want us to take over coffee shop sofas and pub benches and be visible for all the times we’ve felt invisible. I want us to talk about guitars and soap making and philosophy and haircuts and coming out and all the small town drama our friends seem to perpetuate and we chose to move away from. I want them to tell me the best places to get fish and chips, how they met their girlfriends (OKCupid, the girlfriend of an ex best friend, OKCupid, OKCupid), to show me pictures of their vintage dresses.

I want them to tell me I’m still femme even though I shaved my head and I’m not wearing lipstick tonight. I want us to laugh at dirty jokes and convince each other to go to orgies and serve cookies topless and then come back and talk about it. I want sex positivity. I want stiletto femmes who love me in my crocs and wear boots and still consider themselves stiletto femmes. I want an inclusive experience. People who never tell me I’m too much, too little and all the wrong things. I want four hour long brunches and the beginnings of friendships where we forget we’re all here because we’re queer get used to it and might just stay because something in us connects through the shy awkwardness of performing yourself to people who don’t know you yet.

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I want us to become the kind of friends who hold each other through the really bad stuff. And then go for afternoon tea and ice cream and hot chocolate and cupcakes and cocktails and pizza and more cupcakes and vintage shopping. I want it not to matter who we love. I want love to be love to be love to be love.

I want to learn from the baby dykes who already know who they are and show them how proud I am of them for getting here way before me, and ask them their secret and what it’s like because I still don’t know who I am fully. I want a group of queers with whom I can eat burgers, drink cocktails and make the gayest screen-printed tea towels on a Monday night. I want people who make me think of the sea, and remind me to breathe.

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Hattie writes poetry, film reviews and reveals too much information about her life doing blog-style-journalism. She spends a lot of time hiding from the things she’s afraid of under a duvet and through the power of comfort food. She lives in North London with the worst tuned Gay-dar ever… her Jew-dar is pretty good though. She hosted a four hour brunch in London during Autostraddle International Brunch Weekend 2013 and was so inspired by the event that she wrote this essay.

Profile photo of Hattie

Hattie writes poetry, film reviews and reveals too much information about her life doing blog-style-journalism. She spends a lot of time hiding from the things she's afraid of under a duvet and through the power of comfort food. She lives in North London with a friendly windowsill pigeon called Malcolm.

Hattie has written 2 articles for us.

84 Comments

  1. Thumb up 9

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    This is awesome and seriously made me tear up at work. I just moved to southern New Mexico with my girlfriend for an internship and I’m definitely homesick and lonely. This really summed up all the things I am looking for and hoping for. So someone please host a NM meetup ASAP!

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      you can expect a LOT of meetups come october…i can’t give anything else away just yet, but consider this a not-so-secret hint…october is going to be a month of many straddler meetups. by the power vested in me as the straddleverse editor, this i promise you. get ready. <3

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    This is really beautiful and I’m so happy you wrote this. I want this too, and at the QC’s best, I think it is this. At it’s worst, it’s something much bleaker and sadder and less hopeful. But I think by putting the best of it into something like this, you’ve preserved a sentiment that I think a lot of people have, and that’s so inspiring to me. Thanks.

    And that tea towel is so gay.

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    “I want people who admit they’ve felt loneliness. I want people who’ve never thought it’s possible to have too many friends and they just don’t quite have space for me, who turn away once I’ve blurted out things I should keep to myself. I never did know how to keep my mouth shut. I want people who also don’t know how to keep their mouths shut and who never tell me I should shut mine.”

    ::snaps all day::

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    This makes me even more sad that I couldn’t come to the screen printing :( Maybe soon I will be permanently settled in London and can try to be part of a community like the one you describe, because you make it sound truly wonderful.

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    I think this describes all the reasons why I miss my cozy little cocoon of queers and allies at Smith College. But since that chapter is over, maybe it’s time for me to find other rainbow-bright butterflies to frolic with? I wish these things for all of us. Thanks, Hattie, for such a great reminder of all that community can aspire to be!

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    This was so lovely. And as a nervous, recently-out-waaaay-late-in-lifer, it just made me way less insecure about A-Camp and any meetups in NYC. This is exactly what everyone wants and deserves. So beautifully articulated.

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    Hattie, this is beautiful, and I definitely teared up a bit while reading it.

    I’m fortunate in that a do have a queer community that I have found in my law school. However, it is not the perfect haven you’ve described, not by a long shot. What I wish most for in my queer community is to eliminate the hierarchy that seems to develop, where some queers seem to think that they are the authority on everything queer, and that if you don’t do certain things and believe certain things and hate certain things, you aren’t as good of a queer as they are. I want my queer community to be a place of unity, not one of judgement. I want us to stop challenging and attacking each other and start supporting and embracing each other. This may be the one-upmanship inherent in any completive environment, as law school inevitably is. BUt I can’t help but wish that my queer community would be more sunshine and rainbows and kittens and hugs and less infighting and backstabbing and snarkiness.

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    This was amazing. I want all of this.

    Also, I joined the AS London group on Facebook recently. I actually live in Devon but I couldn’t find any similar groups for the South West, so for now I’m just watching your posts about exciting London meet-ups, and hoping that one weekend soon, i’ll not be working and have enough money to travel up and join you!

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      Ah I totally know that feeling, being from the South – I grew up in Bournemouth and most of my friends were at uni in Southampton or Portsmouth so I spent a lot of time in both. Especially that feeling of everyone having moved to London or Brighton and I was left feeling really isolated and bored in Dorset.

      But you know what, I moved to London, which was really scary and for a while even more isolated. But slowly I met so many amazing new friends and found all these awesome supportive queer communities (I recently went to my first London AS meet up – THANK YOU HATTIE! – and it was incredible!) – and then I realised loads of these people had also had the same experience as me, of living in towns slightly too far away from the big cities and feeling out of the loop. It just took us seeking out the same spaces that we found each other. Going out and meeting new people doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to force myself to do it, but so far it’s worked out really well :-)

      Anyway Portsmouth isn’t so far from London that you can’t come up for an AS event some time! Join the Facebook group (Hattie linked it here somewhere in the comments), you would always be very welcome.

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    I haven’t logged in a long while, and don’t comment very often, but I had to here.

    This community — I have looked for it, and haven’t found it. I looked among the activists, the poets, the scientists, inside of college and outside of it.

    I have collected good, solid queer friends along the way, but I’ve never felt welcomed into a larger queer community. I’m either not queer enough, or not artistic enough, or not loud enough, or not in shape enough.

    I want all the things above, too. I’m glad it exists, and I’ll continue to look for it.

    I also want people who hug me from all sides. I want people who crack me open and don’t mind that the pieces don’t always fit together. I want people who don’t see what they expect or want me to be, but who I am, really, and who I want to be. I want people who push me to be brave and pick me up when I fail. I want people who express themselves so loudly that the world stops when they enter, but can be quiet enough to hear me when I speak softly. I want patience and kindness and understanding and someone who is as confused as me in this larger place, and others who are so certain, so that sometimes I can say, “Wait, stop, look again” and sometimes I might not have the answers either, but I want us to be willing to explore. I want lots and lots of talk of cats and sometimes tea and sometimes this cool thing I saw on the Discovery Challenge. I want debates about politics and RuPaul Drag Race and sometimes, even Glee.

    I want not to have to defend myself, to think that I am lesser than, because it’s never been about gender for me, and your battles are my battles, and coming out to my immigrant parents was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and my girlfriend breaking up with me was the second hardest, regardless of whether I appreciate Johnny Depp’s cheekbones.

    And I want a community who looks at me, and really listens, while I explain why the line “She buys me sunflowers to remind me to turn towards the sun” breaks my heart and breaks it again and again.

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    I live in Australia and yesterday a sexist, homophobic, racist man became our Prime Minister. I was feeling really alone and sad about this but then I read this piece. I still feel sad, but I realised no matter what I always have Autostraddle and my wonderful community of like-minded queers. <3

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    “I want to learn from the baby dykes who already know who they are and show them how proud I am of them for getting here way before me”

    this is why i love AS so much, and everyone involved who writes, comments, contributes, reads or whatever. I just always want to tell you how proud I am of your courage and how you put us older queers to shame!

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    I am so so thankful for this website. When I’m feeling lonely or overwhelmed or like I can’t breathe, I read things like this and know there are other people in the world who move through the world like I do. This article, and this website as a whole, make me feel visible and heard and valued and my god what a gift that is.

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    This piece is insanely beautiful, please take a bow Hattie. But I have a question. I’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to go to an AS London meet-up for so long, but here’s the thing: I’m 19, and I’m kind of concerned everyone there will be way older than me and I’ll just end up cramping everyone’s mature-older-person groove. Do a variety of ages go to the AS meet-ups? Thanks guys :3

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      It’s a real mix! The majority are probably early-mid-late twenties, then we’ve got a couple plus 30’s and a couple 18/19year olds I believe. Each one I’ve been to there’s been different people as well so I like to think that each time there’s a whole bunch of new faces to see (as well as a couple familiar ones). Come along- are you in the fb group?

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      speaking as one of the 19 year olds in question here I can confirm that being young shouldn’t put you off at all… if talking about queer things with a bunch of queer people while doing queer activities sounds like fun to you, you can’t really go wrong with an AS London meet up, and everyone is super friendly :D

      (if the worst comes to the worst you could always just come and talk to me about 19yo things but I think in reality the only difference between me and the twenties/thirties people is they all have cool adult jobs that I’m jealous of)

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    This was beautiful to read. Thank you. I think I want all of these things too, but mostly I want to know what I want. I didn’t even know there were AS meet-ups in London. Now that I do know, I think that I want to try and gather the courage to come along to a meeting one day. Thank you for that as well.

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    Well said! This is every way I have felt for so many years. For a few years in my early twenties, I had a glimpse. Being over 30, it seems pretty impossible to find these kind of relationships. It seems like ever one I have met would be afraid to tell me I had spinach in my teeth, much less talk seriously about how I might have made the wrong decision in my last relationship. Its easier to find a hookup than an actual friend. I don’t want to be a part of a “click”. I just want a group of honest friends who are a joy to call mine. It saddens me that nothing AutoStraddle does will ever be on the east coast as it seems the community of on these boards would be exactly what I’m looking for!

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      hi hi! fear not — just because a-camp is on the west coast, doesn’t mean we don’t do anything on the east coast! like i said above, you can expect a LOT of meetups to be organized in the month of october (it’s a surprise for now but GET EXCITED IT IS GONNA BE RAD), and we try our best to hype events in new york, boston, etc. all the time as well. most big cities have straddler groups on facebook that organize events on their own, and some small towns do, too.

      if you’d like to get something started wherever you are you should email me at vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com and we can work together to create a thing. seriously, the autostraddle community extends to australia, europe, africa, and beyond…we are definitely not just based in the west coast of the united states of america. i promise! i hope you find your community here — we want you! xo.

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        I love that you guys are all over the place! Unfortunately I am in the South East. Probably the closest large city would be Atlanta at 4 hours away. It can get truly lonely living so far away from a major city such as Boston or NY. Thanks so much for the kind response!!

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    Lately I’ve been saying I need more queer friends that I haven’t dated and will never date and I’ve been trying to make that happen. Several straight people, friends and coworkers, have asked in response “Why do you need a queer community?” Except they don’t say “queer community” they say “like, a, you know…community of…people?”

    I don’t know why it’s so hard for them to comprehend. But then again, it’s hard for me to articulate what I want and why. Community in the land of adults is hard to cultivate. I want a group of queers to hang out with and forget we’re all together because we’re queer. I think you articulate nicely the growing aspect of it all. Sometimes there will be weird silences and false starts and it will be worth it because of the brunch.

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    This was such a beautiful piece, Hattie! I got a big smile on my face when I saw it on AS this morning and all the fuzzy feelings I got from joining your London brunch came flooding back. You hit the nail on the head so perfectly and have done it with such an eloquent voice.

    I hope your group in London continues to grow and it looks like you guys have had some fun times already. Crossing my fingers that I’ll find the same here in Madrid!

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    This is such a gorgeous piece. So beautifully set out and mfopikf,lks,fdoswihjm,d lots of feelings!
    On another note altogether, I had no clue of the amount of Londoners on here! Surprised and thrilled all at once. Just a pity I’m a fair bit younger than the general crowd but once I’m of age I’d love to be a part of it. Wonderful community no doubt!

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    Well done Hattie, this piece is amazing!

    If anybody is reading this in London or from nearby and hasn’t come along to an AS London meet up, be brave and come along. I promise you won’t regret it.

    I went to the screen printing one that Hattie organised, and I got to meet loads of really interesting inspiring queer women who made me feel really welcome, and discovered a great cafe/venue that I will definitely go back to, AND I have an awesome tote-bag that I made myself… serious sense of achievement. Also I’ve seen some of the people I met there again since and have plans to hang out again soon. So all in all not bad for a Monday night!

    – From yet another one of the Alices!

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