How to Keep Fighting: Fostering Queer Joy at One Iowa
Lindsey Stubbs is the Office & Grants Coordinator at One Iowa.
If there is one thing the LGBTQ+ community knows, it’s that we’re in for a fight. A record number of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in the 2023 legislative session – most of which targeted LGBTQ+ youth. The four successfully signed into law were some of the most devastating we’ve seen so far.
As we brace ourselves for 2024 – we see the shape of the fight ahead, and we know the work will be grueling. We know it will be hard for our staff, and we know it will be hard for our community members across the state. Existing as a transgender person in a state legislating against your right to live authentically wears on one’s heart day by day. We know this harm will continue to manifest as long as transgender youth are barred from accessing the care they need. As an organization looking forward, we had to ask ourselves: how do we stay in this fight without burning out? How do we bring loving care into our communities when we all need it the most?
The answer, as it turns out, is our Queer Joy Initiative.
Our End of Summer Pizza Party had this singular goal: foster an afternoon of queer joy for our community members. There would be no legislative recap, and there would be no call to action. For the afternoon, we would simply be community members relishing a beautiful day in the park.
We rented a shelter and asked folks to share food and good company. We spoke with community members we’d never met before. Over pizza and breadsticks, we chatted about the things we were looking forward to or about the video games we were playing. Community members picked up free banned books from our friends at Annie’s Foundation and took home free clothes from our friends at CommonLove. Folks showed up in their gayest outfits, in their favorite dresses, and they knew they were safe.
At One Iowa, we work to bring queer joy into everything we can. Queer joy is the centerpiece of our annual Gala. Queer joy is at every pride celebration throughout the state – big and small. As an organization, we know that queer joy works as a buoy of respite for our most vulnerable and tired community members. Queer joy is radical in its very existence, in its perseverance, and it has the tenacity to blossom at the most unlikely moments.
When we look back, we recognize the queer joy in the Stonewall Riots when fed-up trans women formed a Rockette-style high-kick line while the police stood before them, batons in hand. Like those who came before us, we have a right to this joy, and we will fight for it.
Queer joy is the thing that helps me put one foot in front of the other. When I need it most, I think of the joy I’ve been able to share with my community in my time so far at One Iowa. I close my eyes and picture a warm Sunday in September where giant DoughCo pizzas are spread along picnic tables. I picture 6 week old puppies from Midwest Golden Canines stumbling over the laps of my friends and coworkers. I picture our annual Gala and I can still see the crowd of queer and trans folks dancing to DJ Disc Nixon’s remix of “Barbie Girl.” It is an honor and a privilege to share in these moments with my LGBTQ+ community.
Yes, when you support One Iowa, you are supporting our fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Iowa. You’re also supporting the joy we will continue to foster for our community members wherever possible. Like anything, this will require funds and collaboration from the larger communities and businesses of Iowa.