Joey Comeau was my introduction to queer theory.
Back in the early days of the Internet, when all was chaos and social networks weren’t even a thing, one of my big Internet finds was webcomics.
Per the name, it was comics published on the web. For free. To my broke, nerdy teenage self, there was a kind of magic in suddenly being able to read my fill of all the stories that interested me. I started with Dominic Deegan, of course, but quickly expanded my RSS feed to include anything from xkcd to Girl Genius.
At some point, I don’t know exactly how or when, I started following A Softer World. Three panels, sometimes just the same photograph broken and jumbled, and some text over them. Sounds simple, right? But those words over those pictures! Man, they would fuck me up for days.
At some point, the author of the words started writing more words and publishing them as well, also for free. I drank them all in, like a sailor lost at sea. They made me sick, of course: too much too fast after too long a draught.
You see, I was an isolated weird kid, questioning my sexuality and even my gender at a time when my peers were fucking in parking lots and getting the morning after pill every other Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t relate to the cookie-cutter “smart” kids and the “rebels” bullied me. I was also poor, an immigrant, and angry. So, so angry.
Joey Comeau writes with anger and sex dripping from every sentence. His characters may be polite, but would rather shatter your knee caps than make small talk. There’s a violence to them, some feral scream against the stupidity, the injustice of it all, that very much appealed to my fifteen-years-old self.
I translated The Girl Who Couldn’t Come just so I could read it to my crush. When Lockpick Pornography came out, I made photocopies of gay porn and convinced my friends to stick them in post boxes in the city’s affluent parts. On Christmas Eve. I wrote an Overqualified styled letter for every job I applied to after graduating. I still have some of them. I raged and raged at everything, because I felt like if I didn’t, it meant I’d given up.
It’s not my turn to set the gay agenda, but I might burn it down. I am so sick of normal. I am so sick of normalising, of bringing queerness up to standard.
Queerness isn’t about being, just as feminism isn’t about being. It’s about doing, and what the fuck is even queer or feminist about a queer CEO or queer people in the army or gay marriage? What’s so revolutionary about getting married? Do people even realise how much was lost with the advent of “gay is not a lifestyle choice”? I’d rather it was, thank you very much, and it be respected as much as any other choice I could make. Naturalising and biologising brought us TERFs and nazis and whatever the fuck incels are doing.
For me, queer theory, feminist academia, even politics, they all came a bit later. In the beginning, there was Joey Comeau and his bright, searing anger. I breathed it in and I guess it stuck around, because I’m still angry. My flag is still black. And feeding the hungry is still better than spending useless hours debating what qualifies as hungry.