“The escape to our nowhere is our shared somewhere” – Karen Tongson, Author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries
At our annual Adjust Your Lens conference we opened with an incredible panel of keynote speakers. Ryan Persadie, LLana James, and Alison Baine. I wanted to share my personal reflection on this theme of center versus the periphery that Alison touched upon in sharing her research on queer suburbs in Canada.
For the past couple weeks, I have spent my weekday driving onto the freeway to my workplace in Brampton. It was only this past summer where I was living in downtown Toronto finishing grad school. Not only have I moved out of the city, but I moved back in with my parents. This disjuncture in terms of my past and present location (urban versus the suburban) would often to be interpreted as a kind of queer fall from grace. I now have some distance to what is considered to be the epicenter of queer life and culture in Canada. It would be expected that I frame my current post grad school suburban life as an unfortunate footnote in my life story. I would have to reassure urban queers that I will be back in the city, as if the one and only destination for all queers is the metropolis.
I believe the suburban holds out surprises that are lost and unimaginable when it is written off as hopelessly heterosexual. Accounting for the unexpected allows us to shift how we view and talk about queer life beyond the city.
It is in my own relocation that I have gained a deeper appreciation for the ways that queers navigate the contradictions of home, family, and community. I suggest that many of us queers who live in the suburbs and/or with our parents are exemplars of the creativity and resilience in our community. We exist outside the normative narrative of growth that requires we get out and never look back. In our everyday negotiations in the home and or the public we not only make life liveable but, enjoyable.
The longer I live and work in the context of Peel the more I am attuned to different ways of seeing and recognizing our creative practices and the ways we carve out spaces of belonging. For myself, eating Korean food and walking my dog is as much a part of my day as attending a queer and trans book club at the Brampton Library. I have learned to live with contradiction.
While saying this, I acknowledge my own privilege that allows me to consider my family as a place of ambivalence. While it is filled with trauma, failure, and disappointment it is a still a place where I can return to, for some this is simply impossible. I want to resist romanticizing biological family and the suburban life but recognize that for many of us it is simply a part of our queerness and should not be dismissed. If we can get beyond seeing queerness as only oriented towards the city, we can appreciate ourselves and our practices of worldmaking. While Peel may be deemed as a ‘nowhere’ it is still our queer somewhere.
Sam Yoon (He/Him), 2SLGBTQ+ Training and Capacity Coordinator, Moyo Health & Community Services