When The Incumbent Queen of Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen, released 2015's E•MO•TION, my queer renaissance truly began.
'Call Me Maybe' was a bop back in 2012, no question, but at the time I felt a lot of pressure to devalue pop songwriting. A lifetime of challenging gender expectations led me to internalise much of the prejudice with which I was met, and this manifested as disdain for conventionally feminine music.
In the intervening years, I learned to be more open in my love of pop songs. By the time E•MO•TION landed, I was ready for something fun and upbeat. From the iconic opening saxophone on 'Run Away with Me' to the glorious groove of 'Boy Problems', Carly Rae delivered. I danced without monitoring how it read to others. I didn't try to limit my enthusiasm. It wasn't until later I recognised it was the first time I gave myself permission to fully embrace femininity in emotional expression. And for once that emotion was joyous.
If E•MO•TION heralded my queer renaissance, Life is Strange brought it to my attention. With its timeline-hopping gameplay, Life is Strange presented a heightened version of a familiar adolescence. The complicated dynamic of Max and Chloe's friendship was one I recognised but hadn't been able to reconcile with being assigned a masculine place in the world.
But as Max, I made decisions from the perspective of a young, queer woman, and the world around me perceived me as such. My own experiences and those in the game converged in the act of playing, and I felt the disconnect between my inner life and the world around me grow smaller for a while.
My renaissance in full flight, I came across Hayley Kiyoko's song 'Sleepover'. Through its lyrics my feelings were articulated with strange specificity. I've long felt uncomfortable explicitly identifying with lesbian representation. I worry sharing how much it resonates with me isn't worth the risk of being subjected to the transphobic vitriol I've seen directed at others.
But regardless of whom I share that knowledge with, the sense of connection I feel is no less real, and no less powerful. All the TERFs in the world can block my entry to queer women's spaces, but no one can deny me the validation I find in the words of Lesbian Jesus herself.
Perhaps the most personal part of my renaissance came from a screening of The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Much like Life is Strange, the quiet story of Cameron Post's experience at a gay conversion camp was sharply recognisable to me. But where Max's story perhaps showed me what I wanted my life to have been, Cameron's showed me what it already is.
The film details Cameron's experience with the lateral violence and compassion that co-exist in the queer community, all the while resisting an aggressively intolerant system. There is no revelation, no full stop in her story, just an ellipsis. I see myself in this obscured path, and in Cameron's uncertainty in her queerness. I relate to her quiet defiance. When asked what she thinks of herself as, I hear myself in Cameron's earnest response: "I don't really think of myself as anything."
What I feel about myself, though, I could see in those moments of her story, just as I could in those I've seen before.
Coming out isn't linear. It happens across moments, and in conversation with other realisations. A transition timeline doesn't capture how it feels to relearn who I am.
But maybe a Carly Rae Jepsen song can.