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The New Queer Conscience

Author Adam Eli
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
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A 2021 Sydney Taylor Notable Book

"The new manifesto for how we as queer people could and should navigate the world. It's the holding hand I never had--but wish I did."--Troye Sivan, Golden Globe nominated-singer, songwriter, and actor

"With the persistence of queerphobia all around the world, this book is absolutely necessary, even vital."--Édouard Louis, internationally bestselling author of History of Violence

"To Eli's credit, all of the rules are rooted in considerations of conscience and kindness and, if observed, will make a
better world--as will this book."--Booklist, starred review

"A must-read that highlights the importance of radical empathy, community building, and solidarity."--School Library Journal, starred review

In The New Queer Conscience, LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli argues the urgent need for queer responsibility -- that queers anywhere are responsible for queers everywhere.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today's leading activists and artists. In this installment, The New Queer Conscience, Voices4 Founder and LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli offers a candid and compassionate introduction to queer responsibility. Eli calls on his Jewish faith to underline how kindness and support within the queer community can lead to a stronger global consciousness. More importantly, he reassures us that we're not alone. In fact, we never were. Because if you mess with one queer, you mess with us all.
Adam Eli is a community organizer and writer in New York City. He is the founder of Voices4, a nonviolent direct-action activist group committed to advancing global queer liberation and was included in Out Magazine's 100 most influential queer people of 2018. He believes that when you mess with one queer, you mess with us all. View titles by Adam Eli
Ashley Lukashevsky is an illustrator and visual artist born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, currently based in Los Angeles. Ashley uses illustration and art as tools to strengthen social movements against systemic racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant policy. She aims to tear down these systems of oppression through first envisioning and drawing a world without them.

Her clients include Refinery29, Broadly, The Washington Post, Planned Parenthood, Girls Who Code, GOOD Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, ACLU, Red Bull, Snapchat, Air Jordan, and Logo TV. View titles by Ashley Lukashevsky
Prologue

 
On October 27, 2018, a gunman burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed eleven people. Within hours, the global Jewish community mobilized into action. Jews across the world raised money to cover funeral costs. Rallies and memorials were held in every major city. The global Jewish community expressed public sympathy and outrage, while volunteers flocked to Pittsburgh to serve the community hot meals and attend the funerals. The message was clear: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
 
In general, the global queer community does not respond like this in times of crisis. On January 14, 2019, just two and a half months after the synagogue shooting, news broke that a new wave of queer “purges” were taking place in Chechnya, a small Russian republic. Forty queer people were detained and two were killed. But there was no effective global call to action. Between October 27 and January 14, at least three Black trans women were murdered in the United States. As usual, the epidemic of violence against Black trans women did not prompt any kind of unified or helpful communal outrage.
 
As a queer Jew, I watched these attacks on my two communities unfold parallel to each other. Distraught, I thought of a quote from the Talmud, a piece of ancient Jewish scripture, that says, “All Jewish people are responsible for one another.” We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—­what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience. The Global Queer Conscience is an attitude that repositions how we see ourselves as queer people and how we fit into the world.
 
I cannot, and will not, speak for the community at large—­no one person can. But I believe that this dream will become reality if we come to this simple understanding:
 
Queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere.
 

The New Queer Conscience


 
I wish someone had told me that being queer means you are never alone.
 
It is 10:15 p.m. I am sixteen years old and in the worst pain of my life. I am in love with my straight best friend. I am standing at a party in total shock as he gives me a play-­by-­play of his first hookup with his new girlfriend. I act curious and excited, demanding all the details.
 
At some point, I grab his shoulder, eager for any kind of contact with him. He shrugs me off, and I disappear toward the train home.
 
My heart rate rises. I can no longer speak. I’m standing at the train station. Flashes of our conversation: his face, her hands, his zipper. I double over clutching my stomach. I tell myself, as I always I do, that if I replay the scene in my mind it will eventually hurt less.
 
Pulse, mind, and tears racing, I’m sure she doesn’t see his beauty the way I do. But a wave of nausea and pain forces me to refocus. Her hand, his Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, a zipper . . . and blackout.
 
The next day in algebra he throws me an encouraging wink as our teacher distributes a midterm. An unintentional kick to the stomach. I flee to the bathroom and lock the door.
 
Big picture, I don’t know anyone queer who can tell me that these feelings are normal. And from a practical perspective, nobody can tell me anything because I just locked myself in the bathroom.
 
So, I turn on the tap and speak to myself. I look in the mirror and say out loud, for the first time, “Adam Eli, you are gay . . .” I let that sentence echo a little in the bathroom, for the drama. Then I hear words not of my making, but out loud, in my own voice, address the mirror:
 
“. . . and it’s going to be okay.”
 
What does queer mean?
 
I am gay because I primarily experience same-­sex attraction, and, by my own definition, that also makes me queer. Many people have their own definition of what queer means, and one is no more valid than another, but here is mine:
 
Queer: different, or other
 
If there are three blue chairs and one pink chair—­the pink chair is queer. Queerness only exists in opposition to what’s perceived as “normal.” When it comes to gender and sexuality, our society’s “normal” is defined by one cisgender man and one cisgender woman who experience opposite-­sex attraction and live comfortably in their gender roles. If you deviate from any part of that norm, welcome and pull up a seat. In my book, you are queer!
 
When describing our community, I always say LGBTQIAA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, ally, plus). The most important of these symbols is the plus sign. The plus sign opens the door for everyone. Perhaps you do not identify with any of these letters. Perhaps how you feel or how you are has not been verbalized to the world yet.  You are loved, and you are welcome here.
 
The word queer and the community it describes are both evolving—­and that’s a good thing. I hope our community continues to expand and becomes more inclusive in ways that I cannot predict. I imagine, and hope, that one day my definition will be outdated.
 
When I was younger, I knew I was different because all my interests were “meant for” girls. I was obsessed with Disney princesses and had a huge crush on Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. If I could have pressed a button to become more like my female friends, I would have in a heartbeat.
 
I was resentful and confused. Uncomfortable with boys and forbidden to be one of the girls, I existed in the margins, in a space between spaces.
 
 
 
  • HONOR | 2021
    Sydney Taylor Book Award, Association of Jewish Libraries
"The new manifesto for how we as queer people could and should navigate the world. It's the holding hand I never had--but wish I did." —Troye Sivan, Golden Globe nominated–singer, songwriter, and actor

"With the persistence of queerphobia all around the world, this book is absolutely necessary, even vital." —Édouard Louis, internationally bestselling author of History of Violence

"To Eli's credit, all of the rules are rooted in considerations of conscience and kindness and, if observed, will make abetter world--as will this book."--Booklist, starred review

"A must-read that highlights the importance of radical empathy, community building, and solidarity." -- School Library Journal, starred review

"Small but mighty necessary reading."-- Kirkus Reviews


About

A 2021 Sydney Taylor Notable Book

"The new manifesto for how we as queer people could and should navigate the world. It's the holding hand I never had--but wish I did."--Troye Sivan, Golden Globe nominated-singer, songwriter, and actor

"With the persistence of queerphobia all around the world, this book is absolutely necessary, even vital."--Édouard Louis, internationally bestselling author of History of Violence

"To Eli's credit, all of the rules are rooted in considerations of conscience and kindness and, if observed, will make a
better world--as will this book."--Booklist, starred review

"A must-read that highlights the importance of radical empathy, community building, and solidarity."--School Library Journal, starred review

In The New Queer Conscience, LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli argues the urgent need for queer responsibility -- that queers anywhere are responsible for queers everywhere.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today's leading activists and artists. In this installment, The New Queer Conscience, Voices4 Founder and LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli offers a candid and compassionate introduction to queer responsibility. Eli calls on his Jewish faith to underline how kindness and support within the queer community can lead to a stronger global consciousness. More importantly, he reassures us that we're not alone. In fact, we never were. Because if you mess with one queer, you mess with us all.

Author

Adam Eli is a community organizer and writer in New York City. He is the founder of Voices4, a nonviolent direct-action activist group committed to advancing global queer liberation and was included in Out Magazine's 100 most influential queer people of 2018. He believes that when you mess with one queer, you mess with us all. View titles by Adam Eli
Ashley Lukashevsky is an illustrator and visual artist born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, currently based in Los Angeles. Ashley uses illustration and art as tools to strengthen social movements against systemic racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant policy. She aims to tear down these systems of oppression through first envisioning and drawing a world without them.

Her clients include Refinery29, Broadly, The Washington Post, Planned Parenthood, Girls Who Code, GOOD Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, ACLU, Red Bull, Snapchat, Air Jordan, and Logo TV. View titles by Ashley Lukashevsky

Excerpt

Prologue

 
On October 27, 2018, a gunman burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed eleven people. Within hours, the global Jewish community mobilized into action. Jews across the world raised money to cover funeral costs. Rallies and memorials were held in every major city. The global Jewish community expressed public sympathy and outrage, while volunteers flocked to Pittsburgh to serve the community hot meals and attend the funerals. The message was clear: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
 
In general, the global queer community does not respond like this in times of crisis. On January 14, 2019, just two and a half months after the synagogue shooting, news broke that a new wave of queer “purges” were taking place in Chechnya, a small Russian republic. Forty queer people were detained and two were killed. But there was no effective global call to action. Between October 27 and January 14, at least three Black trans women were murdered in the United States. As usual, the epidemic of violence against Black trans women did not prompt any kind of unified or helpful communal outrage.
 
As a queer Jew, I watched these attacks on my two communities unfold parallel to each other. Distraught, I thought of a quote from the Talmud, a piece of ancient Jewish scripture, that says, “All Jewish people are responsible for one another.” We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—­what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience. The Global Queer Conscience is an attitude that repositions how we see ourselves as queer people and how we fit into the world.
 
I cannot, and will not, speak for the community at large—­no one person can. But I believe that this dream will become reality if we come to this simple understanding:
 
Queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere.
 

The New Queer Conscience


 
I wish someone had told me that being queer means you are never alone.
 
It is 10:15 p.m. I am sixteen years old and in the worst pain of my life. I am in love with my straight best friend. I am standing at a party in total shock as he gives me a play-­by-­play of his first hookup with his new girlfriend. I act curious and excited, demanding all the details.
 
At some point, I grab his shoulder, eager for any kind of contact with him. He shrugs me off, and I disappear toward the train home.
 
My heart rate rises. I can no longer speak. I’m standing at the train station. Flashes of our conversation: his face, her hands, his zipper. I double over clutching my stomach. I tell myself, as I always I do, that if I replay the scene in my mind it will eventually hurt less.
 
Pulse, mind, and tears racing, I’m sure she doesn’t see his beauty the way I do. But a wave of nausea and pain forces me to refocus. Her hand, his Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, a zipper . . . and blackout.
 
The next day in algebra he throws me an encouraging wink as our teacher distributes a midterm. An unintentional kick to the stomach. I flee to the bathroom and lock the door.
 
Big picture, I don’t know anyone queer who can tell me that these feelings are normal. And from a practical perspective, nobody can tell me anything because I just locked myself in the bathroom.
 
So, I turn on the tap and speak to myself. I look in the mirror and say out loud, for the first time, “Adam Eli, you are gay . . .” I let that sentence echo a little in the bathroom, for the drama. Then I hear words not of my making, but out loud, in my own voice, address the mirror:
 
“. . . and it’s going to be okay.”
 
What does queer mean?
 
I am gay because I primarily experience same-­sex attraction, and, by my own definition, that also makes me queer. Many people have their own definition of what queer means, and one is no more valid than another, but here is mine:
 
Queer: different, or other
 
If there are three blue chairs and one pink chair—­the pink chair is queer. Queerness only exists in opposition to what’s perceived as “normal.” When it comes to gender and sexuality, our society’s “normal” is defined by one cisgender man and one cisgender woman who experience opposite-­sex attraction and live comfortably in their gender roles. If you deviate from any part of that norm, welcome and pull up a seat. In my book, you are queer!
 
When describing our community, I always say LGBTQIAA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, ally, plus). The most important of these symbols is the plus sign. The plus sign opens the door for everyone. Perhaps you do not identify with any of these letters. Perhaps how you feel or how you are has not been verbalized to the world yet.  You are loved, and you are welcome here.
 
The word queer and the community it describes are both evolving—­and that’s a good thing. I hope our community continues to expand and becomes more inclusive in ways that I cannot predict. I imagine, and hope, that one day my definition will be outdated.
 
When I was younger, I knew I was different because all my interests were “meant for” girls. I was obsessed with Disney princesses and had a huge crush on Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. If I could have pressed a button to become more like my female friends, I would have in a heartbeat.
 
I was resentful and confused. Uncomfortable with boys and forbidden to be one of the girls, I existed in the margins, in a space between spaces.
 
 
 

Awards

  • HONOR | 2021
    Sydney Taylor Book Award, Association of Jewish Libraries

Praise

"The new manifesto for how we as queer people could and should navigate the world. It's the holding hand I never had--but wish I did." —Troye Sivan, Golden Globe nominated–singer, songwriter, and actor

"With the persistence of queerphobia all around the world, this book is absolutely necessary, even vital." —Édouard Louis, internationally bestselling author of History of Violence

"To Eli's credit, all of the rules are rooted in considerations of conscience and kindness and, if observed, will make abetter world--as will this book."--Booklist, starred review

"A must-read that highlights the importance of radical empathy, community building, and solidarity." -- School Library Journal, starred review

"Small but mighty necessary reading."-- Kirkus Reviews


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