Here’s How I Express Queer Joy in My Home
The funny thing about coming out at the beginning of a pandemic is that you and everyone you love are in quarantine. When I came out as bisexual, it was April 2020, and by June that year, Pride month wasn’t exactly a time for celebration. Despite the lack of hugs or pats on the back, I was missing more than physical affection and affirmation for my new identity. I wanted to invite people into my life, specifically into my home.
After almost 25 years of staying confined within gender roles and heteronormative expectations, I looked for COVID-safe ways to explore myself on the internet. Around this time, everyone and their mother were starting hobbies or sourdough starters. The home improvement industry experienced a boom of interest from people who thought it was the perfect time to paint their bedroom a new color or tackle that DIY kitchen renovation.
I reached an epiphany as I scrolled on social media: Quarantine could allow me to face my queerness and apartment like a blank canvas. Without external expectations, I could shape my home to represent an honest version of myself. Looking around my studio — about the shape and size of a freight shipping container — it felt like I could only move up from here. So I did.
Taking advantage of the drop in rental prices in New York City, my partner and I started a lease on a larger space down the street from the studio. The night before we moved in, I stayed up late to paint the living room wall Backdrop’s Surf Camp, a dark blue with green undertones. This color felt liberating. I didn’t feel pressured to stick to a brighter, traditionally labeled as “feminine” color.
That paint’s now the foundation of a gallery wall of collected art that hints at my interests and personality: an anonymous oil painting of two nude women laying on a rug together, a vinyl of Patti Smith’s album “Horses” (who is queer in spirit, if not in sexual orientation), and the colorful prints of JP Brammer, one of my favorite queer artists.
Of course, the pièce de résistance (shown just above) is not on the gallery wall but hung solo between the two windows that face the street: a large (22-inch by 28-inch), limited edition print of a sapphic embrace by Girl Knew York. The cherry red frame emphasizes the leaves sketched around the couple, creating an illusion of flames licking at bare skin within the piece. When you walk into our home, it’s hard not to make direct eye contact with the woman staring protectively over her lover’s shoulder. The piece is unmistakably queer. While it isn’t the first piece of art that depicts nude women lounging with each other, this print hangs center stage in a space that I share with a cishet man.
My relationships will always be queer because I am queer, but the reality is my partner is a straight cishet man. Instead of relegating this art to a corner though, he has always expressed his love for my queerness. To have a representation of something you found shameful your whole life — and for someone to look directly at it and consider it art — is an experience I wish I could share with my younger self.
Our shared bedroom is where I do most of my writing. Above my desk, I’ve framed a quote by Lidia Yuknavitch on the omnipresence of sexuality. On the opposite wall is a mounted bookcase filled with textbooks on gay history, essays that tackle queerness, and sapphic love poems (a reminder that I share an identity with many). Behind the shelves is a removable mural from Minted called “Dawnlight” by artist Lise Gulassa. While the original design is abstract, the colorful lines intersect on my wall like a rainbow.
After I got vaccinated, my eagerness to invite people into my home only grew. Ideas of a housewarming party filled my head, making it tempting to fall back into old habits — to design my space for other people. In our old place, I’d push the furniture around to create a layout perfect for socializing, even if it didn’t work for our day-to-day lifestyle. Perhaps this is why it took so long for me to come out: I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable, even if it sacrificed my own comfort.
Looking at my home, with all of its knickknacks, holistically, I find comfort in the fact that they exist in plain sight. They have become my treasures, and I feel treasured. It’s almost enough to feel — and please, forgive me for this cliché — proud.
We recently renewed our lease, and while I still love the stark contrast of the dark blue with the warm tan of our couch, I recognize that I didn’t need to run so far in the opposite direction of my femininity to embrace my bisexuality. I think the fear of being outed as a child had transformed into a fear of not being “queer enough.” Now, I don’t feel like I need to overcompensate by selecting colors based on their gendered hidden meanings. (Though I will admit to buying a watercolor painting of fishes because it gave off just the right amount of “Dad Energy.”)
I’m not a minimalist, and as long as I don’t have neutral tones or beige walls in my home, I know I’m staying true to myself. My queerness is loud and colorful and takes up space. It’s also warm and inviting. I’ve always deserved a home that is a true reflection of myself, and now I have one.