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A Survival Guide for Navigating Queer Unfriendly Spaces

Queer people often have to navigate heteronormative, cis-centric spaces that can be hostile or simply uninviting. Here are 10 basic tips for doing so with ease:

1. First and foremost, remember that you are not alone! Often, the feeling of being alone in a queer-unfriendly spaces can be overwhelming. There are many other queer people, however, who have navigated, and are currently navigating, similar spaces.

2. Be confident in who you are. You have the right to exist in the spaces you find yourself in and choose to be in, even if these spaces aren't specifically designed for queer people. Hold your head up high! You are brave just for sporting your authentic self!

3. Take advantage of queer networks. If you know any other queer individuals who have navigated the same or similar spaces, reach out to them for tips and advice. Having these connections could be life-changing.

4. Find allies. These can be heterosexual or cisgender individuals who are supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community or other queer persons who can at least offer support and advice.

5. Use your voice. If you feel comfortable doing so, use your voice to speak up for yourself and other queer people. This can be done in a number of ways, such as calling out homophobic or transphobic language, making suggestions so spaces can be more inclusive, and educating others on the LGBTQIA+ population.

6. Set healthy boundaries. It’s important to remember that you don’t owe anyone your time, energy, or presence in spaces that make you feel unsafe or unwelcome. Set boundaries for yourself and don’t be afraid to walk away if things start to feel too overwhelming.

7. Practice self-care. Anxiety, fear, and stress can all be triggered when dealing with queer-unfriendly spaces. Invest in your own self-care by doing things that make you happy, such as watching your favorite movie, spending some time in nature, playing a bit with your pets, indulging in a bubble bath, or going out for dinner with supportive friends and family members.

8. This might sound a bit off the wall, but educate yourself. Familiarizing yourself with the language, both past and present, as well as the history of the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, is a great way to start managing queer-unfriendly spaces. The more knowledge you have about the struggles and subsequent progress of the queer community, the better equipped you will be to handle whatever comes your way! Those that paved the way can often offer us great insight and motivation to keep pushing forward and fighting for spaces that allow us to be ourselves.

9. Seek out and take full advantage of supportive communities. Look for queer-friendly/safe spaces such as bars, coffee shops, non-profits, restaurants, and other organizations that offer connection, resources, advice, and support. These communities can provide a much-needed sense of belonging and affirmation in cases where family and traditional friends are not available or are unsupportive.

10. Reach out for help. If anxiety or fears begin to limit your daily life, it’s okay to reach out for help. You were never meant to navigate this life alone. Professional counselors can offer guidance and emotional support in navigating queer-unfriendly spaces. Here at Kiese Counseling, we pride ourselves in supporting those who often go without support. If you're feeling like you need additional support, feel free to schedule a free initial consultation today!

Sometimes, the abovementioned tips may not be super helpful.

We live in a world that is often very hostile towards queer persons. Thus, understanding your triggers is also very important when you are navigating unfriendly spaces for queer individuals. If you know what makes you feel uncomfortable in a space, you can be prepared to either avoid those situations or have a game plan for how to deal with them.

It is important to understand what makes you feel uncomfortable in queer-unfriendly spaces. And part of understanding your triggers is being aware that they can appear in all forms, even if they are unexpected. For example, you may experience discomfort when someone says something seemingly innocent. It is important to recognize these triggers and understand why they are making you feel uncomfortable. Triggers also vary from person to person. Some common triggers include microaggressions, negative comments, stares, and hostile behavior. Having a few strategies for how to handle each of these triggers is definitely important.

It is also important to take the necessary precautions to prepare yourself when you know you will be entering a space that may be hostile towards queer persons. A great way to do this is to have a contingency plan. Identify people you can contact if a situation becomes too intense and practice self-care methods that work for you and make you feel safe.

It can be important to be mindful of who you speak to. In public spaces, it can be intimidating to engage with people who might be homophobic or transphobic. If you feel it is safe to do so, you can choose to politely and respectfully engage in conversations with these individuals. However, it is crucial to remember that it is okay to disengage if you feel the conversation is unhealthy or if it is making you feel unsafe. Additionally, it is important to be mindful of people who you talk to about your identity. Not everyone is going to be an ally and it is important to respect other people’s identities and their decision on who they decide to share this information with.

Know and assert your rights. It is important to know your rights as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community as you navigate queer-unfriendly spaces. Knowing your rights includes understanding the laws in your area and the national level laws in regards to the LGBTQIA+ community. It is also important to know how to assert your rights if and when they are violated. Having an idea of who you can reach out to if this happens can help you feel safe and more comfortable in public spaces.

If all else fails, let's consider creating our own safe spaces.

If you’re in a queer-unfriendly environment, community, or town, it may be vital to create your own space – your own safe haven. This could be a space or an activity that makes you feel comfortable and is away from any oppressive or judgmental perspectives. You don’t even need to leave the environment you find yourself in – just create your own little queer-friendly corner.

For example, if you are in a public place (such as a park or public transportation), you could wear noise-blocking headphones so that you are in your own little world. If you are in a group setting, you can find ways to connect with like-minded people about the topics you feel most comfortable discussing, especially if these topics are LGBTQ+ related. This could involve small talk about current events in the queer community, cultural snapshots, and more.

Creating your own space allows you to feel safe and to continue to embrace your identity without fear of judgment. Choose a space that makes you feel empowered and secure, and do not be apologetic for doing so. Your own room, your own corner, your own organization – no matter where you are – let it always be an option.

Thank you for reading and don't forget to check out our LGBTQ+ supportive resources. You can find them in the resources page of this website!
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