Direct Engagement 3: Unhappy Queers!?


For my third Direct engagement, I want to consider the idea of happiness and unhappiness, specifically, the unhappiness of the queer. In Sara Ahmed's "The Promise of Happiness", we begin to think more critically about what it means to be happy and who actually gets to be happy. We have all heard and spoken the phrase "I just want you to be happy", and this seems like a genuine concern for another person's happiness. Ahmed dissects it though to mean something very different. What we are truly saying when we use that phrase is that "my happiness is dependent on your happiness and if you are not happy than I cannot be either, which means that you have control over my happiness". How can another person have control over your own happiness? That to me is disconcerting since I know that I for one would not like to have control over another's happiness and most certainly vice versa. Or looking at it from another angle, "my happiness is dependent on yours and I want to be happy so you have an obligation to be happy for me". It seems to me that there are many expectations and demands placed on the idea of happiness when should it not be up to the individual alone to decide what their happiness should be base upon? This brings me to my next question of the unhappy queer. I for one am familiar with the coming out conversation and hearing that concerned response escape the lips of your parents, "I just want you to be happy and I think this is going to make your life harder". Which life is being made harder? Looking at the novel Annie on My Mind, the father says to his daughter, "but I want you to be happy in other ways, too, as your mother is, to have a husband and children". Is this the only way any of us can truly find happiness? By marrying someone that is biologically the opposite sex and starting a family? I sure hope not. Is the happiness that I have felt over my lifetime just a meaningless fa├žade because I have not followed this path?


I thought this particular chapter in Ahmed's book was very interesting. It did bring up a lot of questions as to who controls our happiness. Surprisingly enough, our happiness does not depend only on another person, but another thing or object. Happiness can be defined in a lot of different ways based on the individual and I feel that there is no true definition of what it is. I feel that happiness is something that we consciously created in order to strive for something more than what we can see or physically hold onto. When it comes to the unhappy queer, the right to one's happiness is often restricted because their happiness is not the type of happiness that may be shared by a majority of the population. There is not only the issue of attraction with the same sex, but of finding happiness in marriage. Marriage does not always lead to the final destination of happiness, nor does being in a queer relationship (according to some people). However, it all trickles down to finding what happiness means to the individual before projecting their views onto others.

"I just want you to be happy and I think this is going to make your life harder".

I engaged with Ahmed also, and it is interesting to think about how we are taught to put aside our happiness or put on a happy face for the sake of other people. I think your above quote demonstrates this. Living a queer life is seen as hard. Every parent wants their child to live the easiest life, because no parent wants to see their child struggle. But doesn't one struggle more when they cannot fully express themselves and don't feel as though they are being understood. Yes, it may be hard on the child but that's who they are and not acknowledging that, or feeling like they should suppress it is even more detrimental. Sometimes parents don't want to complicate their own lives by something as "inconvenient" as a gay child. God forbid! But I have many people in my life who have gone through this exact experience, myself included. My parents were "thankful" that I identified as bisexual instead of lesbian since my first relationship was with a female. They assumed I would become a lesbian, but were relieved when I was only "bisexual" because to them, I could still pass.

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