The world is not always a kind place for queer individuals like myself. A lot of the time, I feel hurt, anxious, and concerned when I see the depictions of our community in national media. These headlines show a lot of sadness, but at the heart of the queer community is joy. We are just a group of individuals all seeking to find little slices of queer joy in our lives. The world deserves to see this side of the queer experience.

For me, this joy can be simply feeling comfortable wearing the clothes I want, attending Oxford pride wrapped in my flag, or passionately writing articles about the things that affect my community. Simply, queer joy is found in all sorts of places, especially in Oxford. We have such an amazing depth and breadth of queer individuals in this city, who constantly prove by their very existence the beauty and joy that is found in queerness. We have collected a few of their stories, to provide just a tiny example of what queer joy means to people here. I am so happy to share a tiny subsection of the hundreds of us in this city and show that queerness in Oxford is truly beautiful.

 – Evie, English Literature (she/her)

Benjamin (he/him) aka Joanne Ben Dovah (she/her), Synthesis for Biology and Medicine (EPSRC CDT)

My name is Benjamin Danet (he/him), but most people in Oxford probably know me as Joanne Ben Dovah (she/her). As you can probably tell by my name/pronoun combination, I am a drag queen, precisely a cis man whose drag persona is a woman. I was born and raised in France, in the Paris area, and it if weren’t for me coming to study for my PhD in Oxford when I was around 22, I’d probably never have been able to introduce myself like this. The many friends I met here all encouraged me to pursue something that they knew, maybe even before I knew it, would make me truly happy. Oxford is a place where being openly queer felt incredibly safe, and being able to play around with the expression of myself: a male scientist and fitness instructor during the day and a female “glamazon” at night, truly brought joy and happiness to me. I can be Ben and handle his work problems, his relationship issues, his rent, and his bills during the day but when I’m Joanne, I leave all those worries at the door. Then I am just a performer bringing smiles to people’s faces, looking back at me with bedazzled eyes. It is pure joy being a queer performer. In Oxford, you get to meet tons of people who’re starting a journey to find their true selves, or who’re already well on their way, and exchange, laugh, share, and feel safe. I wouldn’t trade being queer for anything, it’s my main source of happiness!

Spike, Owner of The Jolly Farmers (he/him)

Oxford is a Queer city in every sense of the word. It’s odd, it’s curious, it’s happy for you to reinvent yourself and it wraps its arms around you and welcomes you into any tribe you like if you let it and are willing to put the effort in! I arrived here 24 years ago, knowing no one and having nothing but my backpack. I worked in various LGBTQ+ venues and met friends who I now count as family. I’m in the very strange position of eventually owning the Queer Embassy – The Jolly Farmers, that I first walked into a quarter of a century ago. We take our responsibility to be a welcoming, friendly hub VERY seriously, whilst absolutely refusing to take the rest of life seriously at all. Oxford’s Queerness is there to be enjoyed, nourished, and celebrated in whatever way you want. It’s your city after all!

Ameal, English Language and Literature (they/them)

For me, queer joy comes from being around other queer people and knowing that we have all fought, and are still fighting, in our own unique ways to exist as we are in the world, but can still rejoice in our existence in the present. Queer joy comes from knowing that we can appreciate each other’s company, safe in our identities, and learn new things about each other whilst enthusing over the things we already have in common. In my case, small moments of joy also come from people using my preferred pronouns, which have definitely been a journey for me to come to terms with. My queerness, whether it be that I am sapphic or outside the gender binary, has been something that I have been slowly growing to understand over the years, and I have learned that the way I present does not invalidate any part of my identity—instead, it enhances it. Coming to Oxford has been great in terms of my experience of queer joy—I’ve met so many wonderful queer people from so many different places, and I’ve even been to an LGBTQ+ formal at my college which was amazing.

Callie, Maths (she/they)

My experiences of queer joy have been simply being able to express myself as who I am. Being a trans girl, a lot of my queer joy mostly revolves around gender euphoria, which can be as simple as being referred to as ‘she’ or by my given name (which I am lowkey obsessed with ever since I chose it in 2020). Oxford has been a very helpful step in my journey to queerness. I might have had a whole new group of people to come out to – but when I did, I was able to co-exist in most parts of university society as a girl without ever having to hide it. I haven’t ever been able to do this in my hometown, except in my own home. Some of the biggest moments in my queer journey were events like my college ball where I got to wear some really pretty dresses and was able to really feel like a girl.

Charlie, History (he/him)

Growing up, the media I consumed and the social environment I found myself in meant that by the time I went on my own path of discovering my queerness, my world was already full of positive queer role models, both real life friends and in figures from popular culture. Still, since I realised I was queer later than some, I came to Oxford feeling slightly out of my depth in terms of real-world experience. I figured that the longer I waited to do certain things which could be considered queer rites of passage, like going out to a gay bar or having a queer relationship, the more I would have to catch up with others around me. What being at Oxford surrounded by so many different types of people has taught me is that finding yourself as a queer person is not a competition and should be taken at your own pace. I considered coming out at 18 to be ‘late’ which, considering I was barely six months into adulthood at the time, is quite ridiculous. I have now gone to queer events and expanded my horizons a bit, but I no longer feel pressured by my brain to do things before I’m comfortable. My kind of queer joy is not necessarily located where other people’s is, and that is totally fine, and my time at Oxford so far has helped me realise that. We’re all on our own journeys and there’s no use in worrying about whether you’re ‘really’ queer if you haven’t done XYZ. Just try to bask in your own uniqueness and the things you love to do and that queer joy will come to you.

Bella, Maths, Hertford LGBTQ+ Rep (she/they)

I haven’t spoken much about my identity as a queer person apart from my close friends, and even then, it’s mostly just gushing to each other about hot celebrities. My favourite character in Phineas and Ferb has always been Vanessa (Dr. Doofenschmirtz’s sexy evil daughter) and I think everyone should have known at this point. I started thinking about my sexuality at 13 and, even in private, it was a very nerve-wracking experience. You’d think an all-girls school might be more welcoming for this kind of thing, but unfortunately, many people treat your identity as gossip and entertainment for themselves. I still remember someone telling me they should have separate changing rooms for all the gay students… now how do you think this would have turned out?

After battling internalised homophobia for at least 5 years, I decided to come out as a queer person in the middle of a chapel service, in the hope that some of the younger students would feel seen. Receiving heartfelt messages afterward made all of it worth it and I was filled with joy.

This encouraged me to start an LGBTQ+ society in school despite extreme amounts of resistance, with some teachers thinking that “gay” and “trans” were offensive words that parents would complain about. I‘m so proud of everything I have achieved, and honestly, I still have a long way to go on a personal level. Oxford has really helped me feel comfortable within myself and it feels so good to live in a welcoming environment at last.

Finn, Music (they/them)

Queer joy is not something I ever remember being aware of as a younger child. In fact, I was so sheltered from queerness in its entirety that it never occurred to me that it could help me approach answering some of the deeper questions I had always had about myself. It seemed like something someone else did, somewhere else. Over the past few years though, I have learned so much by just gradually allowing myself the space to be, and accepting whatever form that might take. I think one of my first experiences of genuine queer joy was crying happy tears in the office of one of the 6th-form staff members at my school, who was just so unquestioningly and unconditionally supportive. Applying to Oxford while still fairly recently out definitely made me question what attitudes would be like here, but pretty much everyone I’ve come across has just gone above and beyond what I could have hoped for. So now, queer joy for me is knowing I can wear whatever I want; it’s that feeling when someone uses my preferred pronouns; it’s just simply existing as myself. Oxford feels like such a safe and open-minded place, which has really helped me to grow and flourish.