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"'queer space' as concerts i’ve been 2" by Amelia (they/them)

queer space is a kind of a myth to me. “queer space” is like “true love” or “the perfect college”: everyone is like “you’re just gonna know” which is kind of not true at all. i think almost every time i’ve been in queer space - true, fulfilling queer space - i didn’t know it in the moment.

working definition of queer space that i made up: a space in which i felt held, seen, and loved in my queerness.

working definition of queerness that i made up: the way i love others and myself, which for me is loving a lotta different people and loving myself not as a woman but as a person.

working definition of space that i made up: the place where my body is or the state in which my brain is. sometimes they are together, but a lot of the time they’re not.

i’ve been in lots of rooms full of queer people where I felt wholly alone in my queerness. i’ve been completely alone and felt more at home in and in touch with my queerness than ever before. i don’t really get it, but i do know that my favorite feeling in the world and the places where i feel most alive and most in touch with my emotional and queer self is a live concert. these are three stories of three concerts where i got to be queer.




MARCH 16TH 2019

listen – night shift

pearl street is a dingy, sticky, dark club on a side street in northampton. i’d never been to a concert on my own before, but i was seventeen years old, nursing a broken heart, and lucy dacus was coming to my hometown. my friend and i shoved our backpacks behind a trashcan at the back of the club and jammed our phones and keys and lip balm into our jean pockets. the opening act strummed their guitar loudly and wailed into the microphone about being trans and in love and i didn’t even know that they were singing right to me. i just watched in awe.

northampton is a textbook “queer space”. if you address a letter to “lesbianville usa” the us postal service will deliver it to northampton, massachusetts. i imprinted on this town H A R D. my high school girlfriend and i would loll about on the quads of smith college, fantasizing about being adults in love. we made lists of the queer women we wanted to see perform live. little did i know, she would dump me december 2017 in the basement of a café and attend a different historically women’s college the next fall. march 2019 and i still hadn’t moved on. it was because of this imprint i’d made on this town, declaring it my own city of love. i couldn’t see myself in my own hometown if i wasn’t in love.

lucy commanded the stage with a calm grace. she looked effortless and removed, but the words she was crooning into the microphone cut deep. when she played night shift i screamed and cried and through my tears i saw my ex’s new girlfriend. she had a curly bob and was wearing overalls and couldn’t stop herself from looking over her shoulder to see what i was feeling. i flashed a smile and kept screaming – “in five years i hope these songs feel like covers/dedicated to new lovers."




OCTOBER 10th 2020

listen – fast as i can

i grew up down the street from my college professor. i have distinct memories of her eating dinner at our kitchen island in her neon orange beanie and work boots, effortlessly butch but i didn’t even know what that meant. i listened to her music like a lesbian dog whistle throughout high school. she’s best friends with my dad. i’m not sure if she knows how much i want to be like her.

my partner and i moved in together during a global pandemic and now we’ve been together for a year. this fall, we were invited to a show in my professor’s backyard, in my hometown. we drove from our little house to the town where i grew up. i pointed out all my childhood haunts on the way. we sat around, bathed in campfire light, a taut and perfect silence, as my professor sang the songs of my teenage joys and sorrows. i held my partner tightly. my professor burned the dress she wore in the album cover photo shoot in front of us, dangling the singed remnants over the fire until every fiber had disappeared. my mom hated it.

we were the last to leave. my professor and i stood on opposite sides of the fire while she asked me about love and school. i know we must have been masked and six feet apart but this could have happened at any point in my childhood. it could have happened at my kitchen table. it could have happened in a car ride home from a field trip weeks before the world closed.




JANUARY 10th 2020

listen – two weeks

one of the two shows i played with my band during my first year of college was a homecoming dance we threw ourselves. my partner was there but they weren’t my partner yet. we turned the fourth floor of the hawks and reed performing arts center into a high school dance that none of us had ever gotten to have: bowls of chips, a photo booth, streamers and balloons. the room was dark but then it was purple and red and blue. the opening act wailed into the microphone about being trans and loving yourself and maybe i understood it a little bit more.

the audience showed up in prom dresses and t shirts and everything in between. they crowded the photo booth in paper crowns and wide smiles and i watched quietly. all of our friends and their friends and people i’d never met. the crowd screamed a song id written four years ago about a person who really broke my heart, or as much heart as i had at seventeen. they all felt it and i realized that i didn’t anymore. after the show someone came up to me and shared their chosen name with us, the title of one of our songs. their hair was a deep magenta and their eyes sparkled. their name is nebraska. we still talk.

there is something that really gets me about baby dykes singing love songs to women. i’ve been that baby dyke and i’ve seen that baby dyke and we are important. i’m not even a woman anymore but watching all these queer kids scream words i wrote like “summer girl” and “she says i can’t love as hard” does something to me.

at a concert i am in my body. my senses are engaged. i can smell the sweat emanating off of the bodies around me, i can feel tears dripping down my cheeks, i can taste the communion i share with the people to my left and right, people who i’ve never met, i can see people who shaped me into the person i am today, who will never know they did this, and i can hear. i can listen.

another definition of queer space: pearl street nightclub

another definition of queer: work boots and an orange beanie

another definition of space: something i make