Growing up in the '90s, being gay/queer wasn't widely accepted, especially in Saskatchewan. I've carried a lot of the shame I experienced in my teenage years into my adult life. It's manifested in a lot of really unhealthy ways. I became a workaholic primarily because I had an insatiable need to be validated by others. The harder I worked, the more praise I got, and that seemed to make me happy. The joke was that it was never enough. I was always just an arm's length away from true fulfillment.
In the past few years, things have changed. I've grown to accept myself exactly as I am right now in this moment. I don't define my worth by my level of productivity anymore. I've also come to terms with my gender identity as a non-binary person. So what has this journey meant to me as a creator, someone who tells stories for a living? I felt more open to sharing and was curious to see how I could make a difference.
Many people and businesses want to support the 2SLGBTQ+ community, but it can be a messy situation when it comes to how allies show that support. As queer creators, people come to us during Pride month and want us to tell our stories, give talks and create content. I have to admit the first time I was approached to share; I felt so honoured that somebody wanted to hear about my life. Especially since society told me to hide that part of myself for a long time to stay employable. Suddenly, it seemed like my queerness was not only welcomed but a hot commodity that I could leverage to make more money. I felt like I became more marketable as a content creator and a queer individual.
At first, this really felt like acceptance. So, where is the messy part? The thing about being objectified is that it somehow misses the humanity of it all. I felt more lonely and less understood than before. I started to resent the questions and invitations. People would get excited if I spoke with a lisp or threw around queer slang, feeding any stereotype. I felt like some dancing gay sideshow, becoming more of a thing than a person. So, I stopped because it all made me feel worthless, which is the exact feeling I'd spent many years overcoming.
I'm a storyteller, a dreamer, and a queer person. My cautious optimism helps me keep an open heart and healthy curiosity about how I can continue to be part of the 2SLGBTQ+ conversation. I'm compassionate to our allies' learning process, but honest about my capacity for emotional labour. I'm here for the education at my comfort level and always hold a vision for a more inclusive world.
So here are a few things I have learned about working with collaborators during Pride month and navigating some tricky conversations.
Money Isn't Everything.
Yes, you should be compensated fairly for your work, but it has to be attached to more than a dollar sign when it comes down to sharing your personal story. Find organizations that align with your values. Seek out companies that treat their queer employees/customers with respect all year and don't just wave a flag in June. You want to collaborate with people who are doing the work. Then look at the opportunity and decide if that's the right platform for your voice.
You Are Not an Afterthought.
You know what your timelines look like to write a blog or edit a video. Just because a company didn't plan ahead and wants you to create something for them last minute isn't a reason for you to work 24-hour days to accommodate their lack of planning. A true ally will respect that Pride month is busy for 2SLGBTQ+ people and have the foresight to make these requests well in advance. If you take on a project in the 11th hour, make sure you feel good about it or don't do it. Period.
Know Your Value.
Ask yourself why you want to share your story in the first place. You do not owe anyone a single thing. Pride month is a time to celebrate our brilliance and honour those who have fought (and continue to fight) for our rights. So, whatever you create in June do it with joy and intention. And make time to appreciate other queer stories, connect with the community and spread some love.
We need your stories, every last one of them. They are important because you are important. Your photos, videos and words are part of our collective narrative as 2SLGBTQ+ people. How you share them is up to you. Who you share them with needs to be on your terms. But there is one thing I can tell you for sure; your queer life is not for sale. Happy Pride Everyone!
Written by Tyler B (he/they)
Photos by Gavin (he/him)
Pride Tee by Social Made Local
Glitter by Lit Cosmetics