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As Queer People, Do We Have To Be Influencers To Heal Our Community?

It might be time to start living our most authentic lives — just for ourselves.

Author Bex Mui (left) with partner Cheryna Guzman (right).

Last spring, my fiancée, Cheryna, and I took a cross-country journey the best way lesbians know how: by adding an air mattress to our Jeep Wrangler. I was celebrating the release of “House of Our Queer,” a memoir-meets-advice-book that details my experience being raised culturally Catholic by my Polish mom, with Buddhist influences from my Chinese father — and how all of that informed the creation of my own spiritual rituals. We decided to spend three months leaving the queer city life of Oakland to host talks in queer-friendly indie bookshops across the country.

A few months after our return, I was left wondering, was it work? Was it a break? Was it one of those Gen Z-style hybrid work-ations?

Whatever it was, the trip served as a major turning point for my career. For years, I’d been focusing on national LGBTQ advocacy through nonprofit and consulting work, tracking anti-LGBTQ policies, and working with school and business leaders to make more inclusive and affirming spaces. When COVID restrictions raged in the spring of 2020, I wasn’t able to perform the tasks that involved a lot of travel.

And so, in that forced grounding, that quiet, I shifted gears and finally listened to the work that I felt was calling me. At the start of 2021, I launched House Of Our Queer, a spiritual playspace and project where I could share healing offerings and build community. The book tour was my pivot to completely focusing on spiritual organizing.

Over the years, I’ve grown so accustomed to sharing my story and talking about my identities through public-facing work that this turning point didn’t feel like much of a pivot at first. I’ve called myself a “professional queer” since 2016, an ironic twist since my parents’ major fear for my coming out was never being able to be hired (a typical concern for immigrant parents of a certain generation). There was a rush of immense relief when I was hired into LGBTQ advocacy as the education manager of a national nonprofit. I was hired because of who I was. Suddenly my story and my life were professional assets. I was living proudly and publicly.

For five years in this work, I was able to share my story and be “on brand.” Working within an organization helped me to be me, but within guidelines and codes of conduct. I had my personal opinion, but when I spoke or wrote publicly, I had a mission statement to guide me. It was me, and it wasn’t all me. There was comfort in this container. And there were challenges to my own authenticity and who I was allowed to be to remain “professional.”

Looking back to that era of my life now, I see that much of that editing was self-imposed and part of my own perfectionism, my socialization to be a “good Chinese girl” and the safety that I felt as someone else’s representative.

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