Queering my space: Pirates and Pride flags

Amiya Nagpal 18 February 2017

I’ve never felt comfortable being subtle about my identity – that’s always made me feel like I’m trying to hide something. From the day I came out, I’ve been as obnoxiously, obviously queer as possible. Nobody, upon entering my room, would mistake it for the room of a straight person. If  the ‘Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners’ t-shirt hanging up to dry or the ‘Nobody Knows I’m Gay’ mug on my desk weren’t enough, then there are two Pride flags to remove any ambiguity.

The most obvious one is the rainbow flag. You can see it from the window and, since my room overlooks Newnham’s main bike shed, I imagine most people walking past would have noticed it. It’s a proper flag, by which I mean it’s made of fabric and has a stick, and I keep it in my desk tidy. I bought it at Exeter Pride after unintentionally picking the weekend of the parade as the first time to visit my friend at university. We didn’t join in with the parade, but I stil got far too excited by all the rainbow merchandise and only the sky-high prices stopped me leaving with more than just the flag. I’ve loved rainbow and multi-coloured things since long before they had any Pride connotations for me: I still own the elbow-length rainbow gloves I bought from Claire’s when I was twelve, for example.

The flag lived in my kitchen at home from early May until I came back to Cambridge in October, propped in a jar I was using to store spaghetti. My parents weren’t thrilled, but they didn’t ask me to move the flag, which felt like a victory in and of itself. So I left it there. It wasn’t exactly a deliberate statement, but it made it very clear to any visitors passing through the kitchen that somebody living there was queer. That is, if my stereotypical short hair and plaid shirts hadn’t already made that point for me.

My other flag has less of a story behind it. I printed it off in first year, partly to test my printer, and it’s been pinned to my college noticeboards ever since. It’s an asexual pride flag, but, as well as the usual stripes, it features a skull and crossbones with the slogan ‘Asexual Pirates are not interested in your booty.’ It always seemed kind of unimpressive that my only ace flag was printed off the Internet, but George Norman’s talk on asexual history earlier this month made me realise how appropriate that actually is. The asexual community is unique in how much it has been shaped by the Internet and by online interactions: the design of the flag was decided by online vote, and one of the considerations was the ease with which it could be printed.

The fact that I came across this terrible piratical pun online and thought, ‘yes, I need that on my wall,’ is about as in keeping with the history of the asexual community as acquiring my rainbow flag at Pride is with the LGBTQ community as a whole. I also think this flag says more about me than just the fact that I’m asexual: it says I like pirates, and that bad puns make me laugh far more than they should when I’ve seen them every day for two years – I have another, smaller copy of the flag on my wall at home, too. It’s easier than coming out to everybody I meet, and it’s been the catalyst for a few conversations about asexuality, with the added levity of puns to put people at ease.

My room is unapologetically queer. And as for my ‘Nobody Knows I’m Gay’ mug? Well, it’s technically untrue on multiple levels, but it made me laugh and it’s brightly coloured, which is all I care about.