Conceiving of a Queer Utopia: Finding answers within

Writer Stephen Moloney, photographer Babs Daly and model John Mangru team up for an incredible project - creating a Queer Utopia.

A man with makeup and long hair holding a rose over his eye

Photographer Babs Daly and writer Stephen Moloney were tasked by GCN with conceiving a Queer Utopia, with incredible results. Stephen’s glorious essay found its beginning by actually addressing the difficulties of conceiving a utopian ideal, but in the reading you’ll find it thankfully confirms that utopia is indeed achievable, and offers how the answer can be found within yourself. 

Babs, inspired by Stephen’s idea of self reflection, created a stunning photoshoot with portraits of John Mangru. While Stephen’s essay ruminates on how we might create utopia, Babs shares this insight into her own creation: “We spend too much time looking at our reflection and not enough time focusing within.” Babs continues, “John is a beautiful man, and in my utopia a man can say another man is beautiful, it doesn’t matter what gender anyone is, we should feel comfortable within ourselves to recognise beauty. Figure out the inside and the outside comes along with it.”

Stephen Moloney – Conceiving of a queer utopia is a daunting prospect.

The trouble with something imagined is that it is likely destined to stay somewhere ‘over there’, unrealised, in the realm of its own fantastic ideals. A grand and worthy ambition rendered out of reach, by virtue of its very definition, no matter how admirable, desirable and, above all, necessary its aspirations are. 

But when the world feels like it is balancing on a knife edge, and as our community teeters on the tip of the blade, contemplating the notion of a queer utopia and considering its application to our queer here and now takes on a new urgency. There is a fresh potency to what’s possible. 

Although a queer utopia might sit squarely and forever unmoving at some point on a far distant horizon, rather than just gazing longingly towards it, which feels both futile and indulgent, I feel compelled to take a running jump. And this is where I have found myself land. 

A queer utopia can be hard to pin down; overwhelming for all its limitlessness, impenetrable in its vast potential, stretching as it can beyond this universe and the next, as far as we let it. But I believe it originates in the self, within the reflection we encounter everyday. Rather than a place or a moment, it is a way of seeing ourselves and the world, a state of mind, a way of being: a sensibility. 

A queer utopia exists in each one of us, in this very instant and in this very breath. It is ours for the taking, ready to be grasped and held close. It rests on and is unlocked by the acceptance of a foundational truth. A truth that we, as queer people, can too often, too readily, forget or overlook: that we are worthy of love and belonging. 

Many of us have embraced this truth, many of us have not. Many of us falter somewhere between those two poles. And who could blame us? But, by accepting that truth unconditionally, by seeing it drawn on the face that stares back at us in the mirror, so much can flow: vulnerability, compassion, healing, understanding and empathy, for ourselves and for those around us. 

When we see ourselves as worthy of love and belonging, we become abundant in those resources, equipped to view our queer siblings through that same tinted lens, as equally worthy of those two precious things, without condition. If this sounds overly sentimental, it’s not. The sustainability and welfare of our queer community is contingent on it. We have never needed each other more.

There is instruction hidden in this truth of love and belonging. It asks us to acknowledge that some of us have been dealt a harder hand than you or I, while accepting that all struggle is relative. It asks that we keep sight of, and honour those central concerns of queerness: who is speaking and who is centred. To do so is to help cultivate love and belonging through the medium of inclusion, regardless of gender identity, gender expression, ethnicity, class, ability or HIV status.

Queerness is inherently collective, a powerful communion. It is deeply personal also. Sometimes, it can be gate-kept, an unnecessary hindrance to our queer potential. But by living by this truth, we can side-step that gatekeeper and free ourselves to live a life on our own terms: in how we move, how we talk, how we present, how we fuck, how we love, how we whatever. As messy, contradictory, changing or unreconciled as your queerness might be, just as mine might be, it is nonetheless legitimate and beautifully so. 

To know that we are all worthy of love and belonging, to hold that truth close, to take it into the open, to live in and through it as queer people, untrammelled, is an intoxicating and joyful thought. Utopian, even. Not just for ourselves, but for anyone who feels licensed to follow our lead, to draw from our historical resilience, our traditional defiance, our overriding desire and deep seated intuition that tells us to strive to ‘do us’. 

It is a truth with all the potential of a chain reaction. A loop of queer energy, diffuse and everywhere, reverberating far and wide, catalysing endlessly through kindness and authenticity. A bright and truthful light that reveals new parts of ourselves, that illuminates other ways of relating to each other and to the world, and that leads us from the straight and narrow into the queer expanse. 

To pursue and nurture a sense of love and belonging within ourselves, and to encourage it in others, makes very possible a vision of a more equitable and shared queer here and now. In your reflection, see a portal into this queer dimension. Step into it. This is as close a thing to describing a queer utopia, and how it can be realised, as I can manage right now. 

It feels possible and enough.

This article originally appeared in GCN Issue 366. 

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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