There is something magical about queer spaces. An undeniable energy shift the minute you cross the threshold. We are no longer ‘other’. In these spaces, we are free from harassment, free from stigma, free from the heteronormative constraints of mainstream culture. Not only do I crave this feeling, I need this feeling.
In search of spaces that allow me to bask in this beautiful, transformative energy, I packed my car and drove south to Palm Springs, California. An annual getaway and music festival, Dinah Shore Weekend, and its newly competing party, Krave Spring Break, collectively cater to over 20,000 queer women-identified folks from across the globe. A truly magical queer experience.
I made my way through the crowds; goosebumps traversed my body as I witnessed the pure joy and liberation on each person’s face. Although this was my first time here, I felt as if I were finally home.
In my head, a space filled with thousands of queer women could only mean unequivocally progressive, feminist ideals, and pure queer badassery. It breaks my heart to admit that during my weekend getaway, I encountered enough of the opposite to prove this untrue.
The objectification and non-consensual sexualization of my body by a handful of people in this space was unexpected, overwhelming and emotionally damaging. Time and time again, women invaded my body, violated basic boundaries of consent, and groped the most intimate parts of me.
The glorification of masculinity by some transcended apparel or style, and crossed a dangerous line into an oppressive territory often occupied by men in hetero spaces. As the traditional oppressor was removed, a segment of the oppressed group took their place. And to make matters worse, the invasion of my body was deemed acceptable, and even defended, by some around me ― as if the fact that we shared a gender made it any less heinous.
This shift in power from oppressed to oppressor can occur in virtually any community that exists on the margins. The danger of experiencing this new form of oppression is even more prevalent for individuals with overlapping marginalized identity categories.
“As a community, it is our duty to ensure that we do not mirror toxic masculine behavior."”
For me, this type of oppression, this dismissal of basic human decency, carried a different type of pain. Where I sought comfort, freedom and allyship, I instead met the very same oppressive experiences I was so desperate to escape.
Queer spaces are sacred and occupied by fierce resistance and love. They have been my shelter, introduced me to the most beautiful family and have been the setting for some of my favorite memories. I want to acknowledge the beauty, the power, the transformative experience that most women felt while surrounded by thousands just like them that weekend. I want each and every one of us to feel that joy. We deserve to feel that joy. It is because these spaces are instrumental to each of our experiences that I feel the need to shed light on aspects of our community that require difficult conversation and necessary action.
As a community, it is our duty to ensure that we do not mirror toxic masculine behavior, and that we call out all types of lateral violence; that we empower and uplift female sexuality, not objectify or undermine it; that we reject harassment of any kind, and never invalidate another woman’s experience; and that we never utter the words “she was asking for it.”
It is our collective duty to preserve our queer sanctuaries. In Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde reminds us that “as outsiders, we need each other for support and connection and all the other necessities of living on the borders.” I am grateful to the women who met me with acceptance and love and empowerment. My ask is that you continue to welcome others as you have welcomed me, and continue to cherish our spaces and the beautiful connections fostered there. And most importantly, that you never condone or turn a blind eye to even the slightest form of injurious behavior that attempts to penetrate our home.
There is something magical about queer spaces, and it’s our responsibility to keep it that way.