Queerantine Letters: Jessenia on how her Pride has changed

Dear Queerantine is an intersectional archive of queer stories created during the pandemic

From a young age, harboring feelings for female classmates was Jessenia’s “dirty laundry.” For years, she tried to silence them. As she wrote in a letter, “Straight was normal and I just wanted to fit in.”

Jessenia is now a 22-year-old teacher based in Chicago. It took time, but she was able to grow these early feelings into a safe identity: “I think the moment I began to accept myself was my very first Pride. I was like 13, but I went and saw so many people who were just unapologetically happy and loud and in love. Seeing people who also looked like me, really instilled in me that it’s fine to be exactly who I am.”


Jessenia

Pride looks different in 2020. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and, in the United States, a critical reckoning with racism. In mid-June, tens of thousands across the country came together to protest the disproportionate levels of violence faced by Black trans folks. Any notion of Pride needs to acknowledge that, in terms of safety and visibility, being LGBTQ+ is fundamentally different for each letter and shade of the acronym. 

Growing up, Jessenia dealt with “being hated for being Queer on top of being hated for being Black” and never felt fully accepted by the queer community. Over the years, she’s fought to stay true to herself. “I always remember the exact taste of being loved. When we were together, I felt so free and just on cloud 9,” she reflected on her first serious relationship. 

The letter that Jessenia penned one night this June is not a physical one. You can read it here. It forms part of Dear Queerantine, a virtual archive for women, non-binary, and trans people who are queer, questioning, or curious.

We created Dear Queerantine while quarantined in April, inspired by the scattered accounts of others to share our own and build a unified community around them. Our mission is to crowdsource stories from around the world through writing prompts on our website. Anyone who writes a letter receives one from someone else in the community, and everyone can read excerpts on our Instagram and newsletter.

When we followed up with Jessenia, we asked her to share an object she holds meaningful to her identity.


Jessenia’s ribbon

She wrote, “This ribbon is pretty important to me because I got it when I was questioning my sexuality and it’s a good reminder of how proud I am whenever I look at it. I’ve had it for years.” Her advice to others: “It's okay to feel emotions that are new! Take time to actually feel them!”

The first batch of letters on Dear Queerantine arrived from South America, Asia, Australia, and both coasts of the United States. One theme we noted universally was that of initial doubt. Each of us breached barriers to accept our feelings and act on them, whether in childhood or later in life. And for many of us, coming out felt like a confession. 

We know from personal experience that desire is complicated. And feelings often strike well before we have words to describe them. Our goal with Dear Queerantine is to make space for these words, in all their rawness, beauty, and intersectionality. We can’t be what we can’t see, and it’s hard to express what we don’t know we can feel.  We want this to grow into a collaborative resource for all of us, now and in the future. But we need your stories first.   

Want to join the Dear Queerantine community?

-Write a letter and receive one back (more prompts here)

-Subscribe to our newsletter

-Follow our Instagram to read story snippets. DM us to collaborate!

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Artwork by Tanya, inspired by a Dear Queerantine story

About us: We are Meghan and Wa, a video journalist and data analyst based in New York. Writing is one of the best ways we know to feel grounded in times of uncertainty. That’s why we think now is an especially good time to give space to the stories we don’t often get to read.