Art speaks to different people in very different ways, and has a multitude of impacts almost too varied to count. What art means for one person is often enormously different from what it means to another, and that leaves many uncertain about what art’s impacts are, or what it means. This is particularly true for queer art, which often addresses complex themes and explores the meaning of love, sexuality, and gender from different angles.
Queer art has many impacts on the world, but perhaps the most important is the way that it enhances understanding, both for queer individuals and for others. It gives voices to those often on the fringes of society, and encourages new insights. There is no single impact of queer art because it is as varied and multitudinous as other forms of art, but most come with the goal of establishing understanding.
With that in mind, let’s check out some of the impacts that queer art can have on individuals and the world, allowing us to enhance how we understand and respond to it.
It Raises Awareness
One of the first impacts of queer art is to raise awareness and increase the visibility of queer individuals, groups of people who have traditionally been undervalued and erased throughout history and across the globe. The creation and display of queer art is an opportunity for this group to start telling their stories to the world as a whole.
Not only this, but the availability of queer art helps to promote acceptance and to normalize that which has often been labeled “abnormal.” It can allow young people to recognize that they are not alone, and can help closeted individuals feel welcomed and accepted by the wider community, even if they don’t have this acceptance in their everyday lives.
The erasure of queer individuals has created widespread problems, misunderstanding, fear, and hatred, and queer art seeks to combat that by creating a space where it is safe for queer individuals to talk, spread their messages, and reach out to each other. By making the world as a whole more aware of the existence of queerness, this kind of art empowers and elevates the voices that have historically been ignored.
This is a key function of queer art, and one of the many reasons that we should all celebrate and support it. Even when it creates controversy, queer art is performing a very important role in raising awareness and giving voices to people who might otherwise have been silenced.
It Enhances Understanding
Almost all art aims to make the viewer understand something better (although this certainly isn’t the exclusive goal). However, when it comes to a community that has faced enormous amounts of misunderstanding and persecution from the majority of the world, the goal of enhancing understanding becomes even more critical.
The impact of this can be astronomical, allowing people across the world, across languages, and across cultures to start gaining insights into the queer community, and start understanding the richness, beauty, and vibrancy that exists here.
Queer art can cover a vast range of different topics. It often looks at love between queer couples, but it can explore many other themes too, including love of the self, explorations of gender and gender fluidity, visibility, censorship, and more. It is often full of emotion, expressing grief, happiness, hope, faith, joy, despair, sorrow, longing, loss, and more.
In doing so, it aims to help viewers from all walks of life start to recognize and understand those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, and invites them to treat these people as they would themselves. It is like an invitation, extending a hand and offering to teach and explain to everybody – whether that’s individuals who are part of this world and want to understand it more deeply, or those who are outsiders.
Understanding is a fundamental need of any community of people; we all want to feel accepted and seen by the rest of the world. The creation of queer art is an attempt at communicating and reaching out, and the impact it has had has been profound and deep.
Remember, art can cover all kinds of mediums; queer books, queer paintings, queer sculptures, queer photographs, and more. Think how many of these have provoked strong reactions throughout history, ending up banned or burned or otherwise rejected – and yet think too about how these have helped societies to change their views and become more accepting.
Humans naturally reject concepts and ideas that they do not understand, treating them as suspicious. By creating understanding through art, the queer community has helped gain acceptance and allies among cis, straight groups, and opened up a dialogue with them.
Creating An Identity
The article “an” may be misleading here, because queer art does not create one single identity, but countless identities – and yet it gives an overarching sense of self to many queer people. It creates a group, a sense of belonging, for many who have been othered and made to feel alien by the rest of the world.
Queer art helps people to recognize themselves, and speaks to different parts of individuality. If you can identify with a piece of art, you often feel warm and fulfilled, getting the sense that somebody else understands you and “sees” you. For many people who have struggled to establish their sense of identity, this experience can be invaluable.
It Builds Similarities
Very often, the pieces of art that move us most deeply are the ones we can see ourselves in, the ones we can relate to and reflect upon. If a piece of art does not speak to some part of your emotions, it often has less impact; you need to be able to respond to it with feeling for it to be successful (in the vast majority of cases).
That doesn’t mean you have to be queer in order to enjoy queer art; all it means is that queer art helps people to reflect upon their similarities, rather than their differences, regardless of how they identify themselves.
Imagine a straight individual standing in an art gallery and viewing a painting of two gay men in love. Though the straight individual may not relate directly to the people in the painting, they can relate to the emotion portrayed in the painting, the love. This gives them new insight into the way that homosexuals feel, and helps them to understand and empathize with those feelings.
This can work with any emotion, not just love. Queer art helps cis, straight individuals relate to a community that they may otherwise feel they cannot empathize with effectively. It helps everybody to recognize that we share the same feelings.
We all feel love, happiness, fear, sorrow, doubt, anger, jealousy, uncertainty, joy, and the whole gamut of emotions, and by expressing these things in their art, queer artists help the rest of the world to remember this. If you can see yourself in another person’s art, you gain connections with those people and their stories, even if they are fictional – and this builds bonds and creates a sense of sameness.
Humans respond very well when they feel this sameness; we like things that feel familiar, because we associate them with safety. Therefore, creating a sense of empathy and a sense of companionship through art is a very effective way to increase acceptance of the queer community, and to build connections both within this community and outside of it.
This helps everybody to enhance their understanding and maximize the connections that are created. It helps lesbians understand transgender individuals, it helps asexuals understand bisexuals, and it helps tell intersectional stories that are otherwise often forgotten – which is what we will look at next.
It Recognizes Intersectionality
When considering this impact, it’s very important to remember that there is an enormous amount of diversity within the community itself. There is an unfortunate tendency to label things as either “queer” or “not queer,” and to forget that queerness encompasses a vast range of individuals with unique stories and different approaches to the world.
Queer people are not all alike, and art allows them to give voice to this very important reminder – both for themselves and for the world as a whole.
The LGBTQ+ community is resplendent with varied, unique individuals, all of whom have different experiences and different approaches to the world. Art encourages the expression of this individuality, and recognizes the marginalized within the community, as well as the community as a whole. It invites people to tell their unique stories and elevates these.
This creates a stronger sense of identity for the individuals and for the community, allowing it to exist as its vibrant, multifaceted self. It reminds us that a black, gay man who grew up in Texas will have a different story from a white, asexual woman. It recognizes the many different aspects that make up people’s characters and stories, and gives these the space to be realized.
This approach is an important reminder for everybody that the queer community is not a conglomerate, with a single experience shared by everybody. Instead, it is thousands of threads that all have stories to tell, which we should celebrate and respect as thoroughly as we respect non-queer artists’ stories.
It Pushes Boundaries
In today’s world, queer art is still generally considered outside of the cultural narrative, even in relatively forward-thinking countries. It is often intended to challenge the viewer, to take them out of their comfort zone and ask them to face difficult truths about themselves and about others. It is key to the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and to the acceptance of individuals who fit into this category.
We desperately need this; the boundaries have shifted, but even now, LGBTQ+ individuals are frequently sidelined, ignored, silenced, or threatened for being who they are. In many parts of the world, being queer can result in death, imprisonment, shunning, loss of work, loss of rights, etc.
Queer art challenges this and fights for the rights of queer individuals to exist. Like any art, it has the power to be moving and to change hearts and minds, as it has been doing throughout the centuries while queer individuals have fought for acceptance. There is still a long way to go, but we cannot question what value queer art has given to the world.
Queer art has many different impacts, as you can see! Like other forms of art, it seeks to familiarize, evoke empathy, raise awareness, and enhance understanding, but it is also aimed at pushing boundaries and striking back against inequity and injustice. Queer art tells a myriad of stories, helping to elevate queer individuals and give them the right to speak in a world that is too often hostile.