Pride month 2023 | This website celebrates queer memories from across the world

Lucas LaRochelle, the founder of Queering The Map, says that there has been a stark rise in the number of Desi queer stories on their site. This spot on the internet helps the LGBTQIA+ community find solidarity through anonymous, heartening anecdotes.

June 26, 2023 01:27 pm | Updated 02:41 pm IST

Queering the map.

Queering the map. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

There is a pin on Palestine’s Gaza strip that Lucas LaRochelle (they/them), the founder of the website Queering The Map, regularly goes back to.

It reads: “I’ve always imagined you and me sitting out in the sun, hand and hand , free at last. We spoke of all the places we would go if we could. Yet you are gone now. If I had known that bombs raining down on us would take you from me, I would have gladly told the world how I adored you more than anything. I’m sorry I was a coward (sic).”

This is only one of half a million heartening stories on Lucas’ Queering The Map. A simple swipe through this interactive website painted in pink, shows queer persons recounting memories of love, lust, and loathing, from all seven continents.

Lucas who began working on the website six years ago when they were 21, says that they are full of gratitude because of the response. This web designer and media artist would regularly pass by a tree in Montreal, Canada. It is where they fell in love with their partner, an instrumental part of them discovering and coming out as trans non-binary. This was only one of the several such spaces that Lucas found important in their pursuit. However, they were all not conventionally considered places inhabited by members of the LGBTQIA+ community exclusively.

Members and supporters of LGBTIQ+ celebrating pride month at  Langs Garden road, Egmore in Chennai, India on Sunday.

Members and supporters of LGBTIQ+ celebrating pride month at Langs Garden road, Egmore in Chennai, India on Sunday. | Photo Credit: Akhila Easwaran

It hence motived them to ask some important questions. “What would it feel like to move through a world animated by queer and trans pasts and presents, and how might that inform the kinds of futures we can imagine for ourselves and our communities?” 

Queering The Map was born and shared within a small circle in the beginning. Very quickly though, it gained several thousand pins and became popular on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

“I got bored thinking about my own queer and trans experiences, and was cognisant of how they were framed through being a white, western, middle-class, university-educated person. I became interested in building an infrastructure for publishing and circulating queer and trans stories from broader geographies and subject positions” they say. 

Lucas says that pins on the site have been recorded in 28 languages. There is a group of 60 volunteers who moderate the submissions. The website remains completely anonymous and no data attached to the user is stored. “People write to us from places where the risk to lives and livelihoods are high. This is why the moderation has to be very meticulous,” they say. 

Lucas LaRochelle, the founder of Queering The Map–a website that celebrates queer memories from across the world

Lucas LaRochelle, the founder of Queering The Map–a website that celebrates queer memories from across the world | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Since its inception, Lucas says that the site periodically goes viral on social media, inviting a barrage of pin submissions. Since they do not have a budget for the project, all traction is organic.

In the last year, with sporadic promotions of the site on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of submissions from the desi queers, both abroad and in the Indian subcontinent. In the last week alone, the website received over 25,000 new submissions, particularly from India, Pakistan, parts of the middle East and North Africa.

An endearing example from Chennai reads: “Circa 2002: You were riding towards Kalakshetra on your bicycle, radiant in your Bharatanatyam dance practice attire, perfect posture, eyes straight ahead, a calmness and composure about you. The first infatuation of a then-baby dyke.”

Lucas is looking to make Queering The Map more inclusive in the future by including a number of languages to the site. They are also looking to expand the discussion about queerness through podcasts and an interactive exhibit in Montreal soon.

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