The question was simple, and my answer was immediate: Do you want to see King Princess in concert? Within seconds, I responded with Yes. My reply probably included a thousand unnecessary exclamation marks, because I can't seem to send a single text or message or email without including at least one (!) to indicate how excitable (!) I can be (!). I've become a Millennial stereotype. Over-relying on punctuation marks and emojis and the occasional gif to get my point across.
Months go by, and it's Valentine's Day. Cold enough outside I could see my breath, cold enough I no longer felt silly wearing my heavy winter coat every day to work (just in case). The doors to the venue were scheduled to open at 7 o'clock, and by the time we arrived, it was nearly 8 p.m. The line of people waiting to see King Princess stretched halfway down the block. What song are you most excited to see live? she asked, the car's heating system providing a few more minutes of comfort before we decided to brave the cold. "Prophet", obviously, I replied.
There was the click and slam of car doors opening, and closing. The rush of frigid air to the lungs. A few shrieks of complaint, teeth chattering, hands shoved into the pockets of coats, handing over IDs to prove just how much older we were than most of the other people attending the concert, and then, finally, we were inside. I'm not sure what I was expecting. King Princess isn't exactly subtle. She wears her sexuality and her identity as a badge of genuine pride, with her relationship woes inhabiting the lyrics and theme of her debut studio album Cheap Queen.
But it's one thing knowing the kind of audience she attracts, and it's another thing seeing them. Bright pink cowboy hats. Feminist t-shirts. An abundance of flannel and undercuts. Floral dresses. Lipstick in every shade imaginable. High heels worn by humans of any gender expression. Hands held in the dark. Couples dancing with one another, surrounded by other people just like them without fear of being discriminated against because of the person you just happen to fall in love with. Or the person you just happen to go to a concert with. Friends and lovers and total strangers, all dancing along to the same beat.
I don't think I have ever been in such a blatantly queer space in my entire life. I don't think I have ever felt so blatantly queer in my entire life. Knowing that - my pulse beginning to race to the bass rhythm - I turned to the lovely friend at my side, and shouted to be heard over the music, I think I know what my next blog post will be about.
When you're part of a marginalized group - especially one that is regularly targeted and invalidated by those in power who propose and enact laws that make it so that it is dangerous to even exist in certain areas of the world - it's integral to find a safe space where you feel like you belong. This is why I surround myself with individuals who are accepting and understanding. Why I almost exclusively consume queer content because I want to see a part of myself in the books I read and the TV shows I watch. It's why I was so excited (!) to see King Princess live in the first place.
And it's the main reason why I decided to take on a new project at work: Queer Book Club.
What is Queer Book Club, you ask? Well, it's a relatively new book club that does exactly what it says on the tin: we're a group that meets once a month to discuss books in a variety of genres, from fantasy to contemporary fiction, memoirs to graphic novels, and more. What these stories share in common is that they feature authors or characters with queer identities, because representation is important. Everyone should feel like they have a space where they belong.
If you're interested, or if you're looking for a few LGTBQIA+ reading suggestions, check out this list, or look below.
March 1. When two teenagers meet, they form an unlikely friendship that changes everything.
April 5. Janet Mock's ground-breaking memoir of her life growing up as a trans black woman.
May 3. Portal fantasy that answers the age old question of, "what happens after the fairy tale?"
June 7. A heartbreaking retelling of the Trojan War that centers Patroclus's importance to Achilles.
July 5. Ursula K. Le Guin's timeless science fiction story that tackles gender and identity.
August 2. A unique and exciting superhero origin story featuring a main protagonist who's trans.
September 6. A difficult, but important, book about accepting yourself and overcoming adversity.
October 4. Rivers Solomon's sci-fi debut that discusses gender, sexuality, race, disability, and class.
November 1. The Pulitzer novel about a gay author who would do anything to avoid his problems.
December 6. An own voices graphic memoir that explores the experience of being non-binary.
(Queer Book Club meets the first Sunday of every month, at 4 p.m. in Meeting Room C.)
-Kimberly Lopez is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.