Pride Month Through a Quest Student’s Eyes
Gerhardt Troan (he/she/they) is a fourth-year student at Quest, originally from Langley, British Columbia. In their years at Quest, Gerhardt has been coordinator to the Lumen Room, performer at Cabaret, both to the Quest Annual Drag Show, and speaker alongside Pride Squamish on the Squamish Welcome Centre’s panel on LGBTQ2S+ and Queer Experiences in Squamish.
Statement from Gerhardt:
When I spoke about LGBTQIA+ experiences, or as I prefer, queer experiences of gender and sexuality, I investigated the meaning of the phrase “queer experience”. I was curious to untangle it and what it could mean to experience the world queerly and be experienced as queer.
Today my focus lies on Quest. The place where I first glimpsed my own queerness, and in that all that I might ever be, four years and near as many worlds ago. Since 2018, my pursuit of philosophy in Quest’s classrooms and my realization of my own queerness upon its stages have been inextricable.
In September 2018, I was a first-year student at Quest, though then I did not know myself. I haunted queer spaces and befriended queer people. Yet the thought of my own queerness was an impossibility, and so I heavy-heartedly hung the labels “cis” and “man” and “straight” upon myself. I felt a burgeoning interest in philosophy; yet again I did not realize why. I could not see the self buried within me, yearning for any language, any logic, which would allow them to speak at last.
That December 15th, twenty minutes before my first drag show performance, I looked into the mirror and saw a queer self stare back. I remember staring past the makeup and the costume and thinking: “This feels right. Why the fuck does this feel right?” I didn’t have time to dissect those feelings then. For as soon as they came, I was swept onto the stage, and beneath the hazy neon glow of the stage lights, I came to life as something unreal, impossible, blatantly artificial and yet realer than every self I had ever been.
One month later, on January 27th, I acknowledged a truth I’d tried all my life to bury: that I am not a man. Or at least, not merely one. With this declaration came both ecstasy and agony. Joy and sorrow and love and terror all at once. For though casting off the mask allowed me to enter a world beyond any I had dreamed of, it also required the negation of every self I had ever known.
Yet I did not enter this queer new world alone. For just as they cheered at the drag show, the LGBTQIA+ communities of Quest and Squamish have shown me empathy, strength, and kindness as I continue to unravel and reckon with who I am, have been, and may yet be. Philosophy gave me the vocabulary and the daring to step beyond the limits of the world I knew and embrace what I found waiting there. It allowed me to gesture to the infinitely many worlds that may yet lie ahead, and all the selves that cannot speak until those spaces are found.
For all my life leading up to 2019, my unspoken queerness, my silent and nameless burden rendered me impossible, illegible, invisible and thereby unrelatable even to myself. And yet, through creating queer art, studying queer philosophy and existing in the queer community, an experience which was once illegible is now legible, once unknowable now knowable, and once unrealizable forevermore devastatingly and undeniably real.
It is for the sake of all those who are still unable, that I find my question: “How can we relate to othered worlds?” For just as the world I have come to embrace is vaster and more real and more complex than any I could ever know, I know it still does not have room for everyone. For many still remain unnamable, who are unthinkable, who have neither the language nor the willpower to imagine themselves within the present ontology, and it is for them, as much as us, that the work of queer theory and queer community must persist. For in the words of the immortal, Judith Butler: “One might wonder what use ‘opening up possibilities’ finally is, but no one who has understood what it is to live in the social world as what is ‘impossible’, illegible, unrealizable, unreal, and illegitimate is likely to pose that question”.
So to all those named impossible, illegitimate, other, outsider, and queer. To those without names, and those who never want them. I see you, and I love you, for all that you are. And someday, everyone will. For though the limits of what we know seem impenetrable, they are not. We have not yet even begun to glimpse the totality of all that lies beyond. There will yet be queerer worlds than these.”