For Your Reflection: Camp Pride
2019’s Pride Month sadly transitioned into July last week, but, as we’ve said time and time again here at Camp Thirlby, we celebrate year long. Through this celebration, we were able to share the stories of various queer individuals and their nuanced journeys and identities as seen through their individual memoirs, recorded stories, and even a deeply personal and political comic. As we draw this series to a close, we remember that we’re not drawing Pride to a close; we’re rather opening the door for further celebration, contemplation, and resistance.
To commemorate this continuation, some of our Camp Counselors have shared with us that one moment—from a film, from their repressed childhoods, from that one lyric of that one song they heard on the radio in 8th grade—that helped shape their understandings of their queer sexualities and identities.
After finally understanding I was a lesbian a few years ago, I realize now that so many moments I had as a kid and teen were so gay. Yet, as a true Buffy fan, I have to say that my first time seeing the character of Faith made me feel some type of way at age 15. I was more obviously impacted when Willow and Tara became the first fully fleshed-out lesbian couple I was exposed to on television, yet looking back on the character of Faith, who was never canonically queer, I realize that she sparked something inside me. Not only is she crush material in a dark, bad girl kind of way, her character was readably queer, whether through her constant flirting with Buffy, her whole-hearted resistance to the patriarchy, or her obsession with leather.
There’s this one scene in an episode I’ve watched at least ten times called “Bad Girls” where Faith and Buffy are slaying together during the day, and it immediately cuts to a scene of them dancing together at The Bronze at night. I still, to this day, believe they had sex in this gap, and although I may have not realized it at 15, it may have been my first exposure to the idea of two women being together, even if this happened only in the minds of all gay Buffy fans. She is also, to this day, my ultimate crush, so yes, Faith Lehane did, in fact, make me gay.
Had I seen the representation of queer femme and lesbian people that we do now when I was growing up, I believe that my journey to self love and confidence would have begun much earlier. This lack of self reflection I experienced in consuming early 2000s media has made me realize that my first crush on a girl at age 16 drastically shaped my sexuality and identity. She opened up doors for me that I truly had no idea existed.
The curiosity, maturity and openness of a pansexual polyamorous socialist book lover always open to learn about the most taboo topics of society turned my head upside down in the best way possible. Suddenly, I saw that the gayness, as well as the resistant and questioning being within me, was there the whole time. I just didn’t know where the key to that door was hiding.
I think the first real, canon nonbinary rep I ever saw was Stevonnie from Steven Universe (who I adore). But before that, I was finding little pieces of my nonbinariness in other gender non conforming figures. Besides Stevonnie, seeing someone wearing a binder as a crop top on Instagram actually did blow my mind a little.
At the time I was under the impression that binders were so ugly and uncomfortable that they should stay hidden, and just do their job to create the illusion of a flat chest. (Not to mention my internalized transphobia telling me that wearing one was something to be ashamed of.) But seeing someone just...wear it as a SHIRT and look amazing made me really want to do the same thing and take being visibly and proudly trans to a new level.
Although Jo March is not necessarily canonically sapphic, I will always remember her as my first “real” crush. The first time I watched Little Women at age 12, long before I realized the truth of my own sexuality, I felt incredibly validated when Winona Ryder turned down Christian Bale's proposal of marriage. Of course, when the story ended with Jo marrying a strange old professor, I was heartbroken. Why did this wonderfully strong and independent character have to end up with a man? It made no sense to me.
Now, six years later and confident in my sexuality, Little Women remains one of my favourite stories. I like to think that, had Louisa May Alcott written the novel today, Jo would have ended up with a woman. No matter what anyone says, she will always be my queer icon.
When I was younger I watched The Devil Wears Prada hundreds of times. I also watched Ratatouille and 27 Dresses a lot, but we’re not here to talk about Remy cooking sweetbread or James Marsden singing “Benny and the Jets.” We’re here to talk about literally every woman who starred in The Devil Wears Prada.
Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt both get partial credit for my gay awakening, because I would still let both of these characters stomp on my neck. They were both wildly rude and looked devastatingly hot, which exudes some serious femme-top energy. But I digress.
The gay pièce de résistance in this movie is Anne Hathaway, who was honestly and truly that bitch. She was serving looks and professionally surpassing her shitty boyfriend, and I was here for it. I didn’t realize at the time that I had a crush on her; I just thought that I wanted to undergo an iconic transformation (aided by Stanley Tucci, obviously) to look just like her. Now I’m much wiser, and I know that though I will never look good with bangs, I can date people with flawless piecey bangs.
So anyway, if you’re a gay girl you should go rewatch The Devil Wears Prada. All of the straight men in this movie are wack as hell, but all of the women are incredible, and I promise they’re sporting plently of iconic queer looks.
I remember distinctly seeing a cover of New York Magazine on my kitchen table at around age eight—one with two shirtless and buff white dudes cheesing for an idyllic barbecue-themed photoshoot. My mom sat me down and explained what gay meant when she noticed me lingering looking at the cover. After that talk, my brain basically understood gay as a word for men, and I fully did not know or understand that women could be gay until years ahead.
Maybe I understood women could be gay when porn came into my life, but did I get that romance was a piece? That it wasn’t just girls kissing for men to watch, but women falling in love for no one but themselves? I don’t remember when I found out women could be gay in the same way—maybe it’s because I remember the stings more than the things that felt familiar (perhaps also because I rejected the fact that the concept of gay women could feel familiar at all).
As embarrassed 21-year-old me is to say this, Glee, was my first exposure to queerness on television that made me go hmmm...women who like women? I'm into that. When Santana and Brittany—cheerleaders, Glee club members and best friends—got together, the most unlikely pairing to happen in the show, my mind was blown. They didn't look like lesbians, right? That's heterosexuality at its finest.
The prince and princess principle. The pretty cheerleader ends up with the hot football player, and little girls like young me grew up thinking that while also thinking queer people were the outcasts, the goth girl or nerdy theater girl. Funnily enough, I fully realized I was queer when I, like Brittany and Santana, fell in love with a girl I'd called a platonic friend for several years. I spent years denying the feelings of closeness I had with her, how I'd get excited when she texted me, how I always went off with her when we hung out in groups. That's also heteronormativity!
I remember feeling something weird when I saw Brittany and Santana kiss on TV. 12-year-old me thought "wow, I hope I don't end up liking girls" and being surprised by two beautiful, popular cheerleaders ending up with each other rather than the quarterback. 21-year-old me, though, is thrilled to love women. Now that I've finished binge-watching The L Word, I'm actually irritated by the lack of queer femme content available, and loved every second of those lovely women loving each other.