How I Have Been Reconnecting With My Queer Inner Child During Quarantine
Find a greater sense of peace…
By Rowan O’Brien
About a year ago, I took a long-overdue step and went to my first therapy appointment. As it turns out, I couldn’t have timed it more perfectly, as my days would soon be full of free time to reflect on my past and spiral into existential crises. I chose a queer therapist who was able to understand the specific struggles that I have encountered and, through her, I was introduced to the idea of an “inner child.”
If you haven’t seen this term floating around the mental health and wellness side of social media recently, an inner child is defined as “the childlike usually hidden part of a person’s personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.” The idea is that by engaging with and comforting your inner child, you will be able to heal deep-buried hurt and find a greater sense of peace.
Childhood can be especially tough for queer people. We quickly learn that we must conceal certain parts of ourselves to avoid ridicule or chastisement, which can lead to a lot of anxiety and a need to mature faster as a form of self-protection. This is why I think inner child work is especially important for queer adults, so I have put together a list of corona-friendly activities for reconnecting with your inner child in a queer-positive way.
Reading queer YA novels
As a child, I was an avid reader, using worlds of fantasy and science-fiction as an escape from my everyday life. Unfortunately, as my reading for class increased, my reading for pleasure plummeted, and I only recently reconnected with my love of literature due to quarantine.
If I was lucky, the books I read in middle school might have one or two queer side characters, and I would live vicariously through their demon-slaying adventures. Fast forward ten years and I have discovered that there is now a wealth of YA books featuring queer and trans main characters. A quick Google search will provide you with endless lists of new queer and trans YA novels. You can also take this opportunity to dive into queer “bookstagram” where every account has a ton of YA recommendations. My current favourites are You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, and These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling.
There have also been a number of picture books published with queer and trans themes, such as And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. Reading one of these books with a cup of tea could be a comforting addition to your bedtime ritual.
(Queer) Saturday-morning cartoons
Once a week, I pour myself a bowl of sugary cereal and snuggle up on the couch to watch queer-positive cartoons. This is a treat for me as much as it is for my inner child, as I rarely allowed sugary cereal growing up, except for our yearly tradition of a Lucky Charms breakfast on St. Patrick’s Day.
However, after one of my friends convinced me to start watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, I decided to make a weekly tradition out of this staple childhood experience. While watching, I can’t help but think about how much I would have loved to see queer and trans representation normalized when I was younger. Other queer cartoons you can check out are Steven Universe and The Owl House, or you can turn to old queer favourites like Sailor Moon. If you are more interested in live-action, Julie and the Phantoms is a super cute new Netflix show, think a supernatural version of High School Musical, with an awesome soundtrack.
I hate exercise. I usually get bored before finishing a workout and most sports don’t interest me, even if they weren’t all currently cancelled. However, I needed to do something to blow off steam while I was trapped in my house during quarantine, which led to me wiping the dust off my old Just Dance 4 game and firing up my Xbox 360.
Since then, I’ve been playing Just Dance almost daily, not only for exercise but also out of pure enjoyment. Through Depop, I have collected three more editions of the video game, and plan to continue expanding my collection. Playing Just Dance allows me to enjoy my queer love of pop music as well as connect with my body in a creatively expressive way. The campy avatars also provide some outfit inspiration and alternating between them allows me to explore gender in the safety of my living room.
If you can’t access the Just Dance games, don’t worry! You can usually find the dances on YouTube, or just make a queer-infused playlist and have a dance party in your bedroom.
Movie nights with friends
Every couple of weeks, I organize a TeleParty with a group of my best gays to watch an LGBTQ+ film. I love watching queer or queer-coded kids’ films, such as Bend It Like Beckham, She’s the Man, or Love, Simon, while reminiscing about gay awakenings my friends. Honestly, the movie doesn’t even have to be explicitly queer, because you and your friends will MAKE it queer in the chat.
An important step of this plan is to stock up on childhood favourite snacks, like Fruit Roll-Ups, Gushers, or Cheese Strings. (Unfortunately, Dunkaroos were discontinued in 2018!) Alternatively, you can order movie theatre food from UberEats, and recreate the theatre-going experience by ordering a Kid’s Combo.
Buy your inner child a gift
One of the best parts of connecting with your inner child is allowing yourself to indulge in childhood wishes that were denied. In this case, I would encourage you to purchase items that adults refused to purchase for you because they were “too girly” or, on the flip side, “not for girls.” This can include barbies, mini dump trucks, or costume pieces like a pair of glittery wings or a pirate hat.
You could also purchase a toy is that specifically designed to be inclusive, like the newly rebranded Potato Head toys, Mattel’s new gender-neutral dolls, or pride-themed plushies, which can be a great comfort during the inevitable loneliness of quarantine. You don’t necessarily have to play with these toys (despite how fun it would be!) as just owning them can be fulfilling enough.
I have a lot more free time to kill these days, so I found myself buying craft supplies for the first time in years. In a quick trip to Michael’s or Dollarama, you can acquire all the supplies you need to get queer and crafty. Personally, I gravitate towards painting and collaging, two art forms that are really easy to “queerify” by choosing a queer theme, pride colours, or queer source materials.
As we all know, wacky earrings have become a queer fashion staple, and there are a lot of tutorials online that can teach you how to create your own. You can complement your earrings with other homemade jewellery, such as pride-themed friendship bracelets. To complete the outfit, consider breathing life into an old piece of clothing through colourful tie-dye.
If you’re looking for a more low-effort craft option, you can grab a handful of markers or pencil crayons and get to work on a queer colouring book, like Drag Race Coloring Book.
These crafts can be great self-centring activities, or if you want to invite your friends to participate through a Zoom call, you can relive your Kindergarten craft table fantasy.
Queer game night
In middle school, Dungeons and Dragons was an amazing tool for me as I explored my identity. I could navigate these feelings through my characters without risking anything in the real world. At the beginning of quarantine, this same friend group rekindled our game and it has been an amazing experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of us have come out as some form of LGBTQ+ since we last played, so our game gets very gay. Since our characters attend a magic high school, this adventure has allowed me to participate in the queer high school experience I wish I had through my character.
While I highly recommend D&D, it is not the only game you can play to connect with your inner queer child. You could try incorporating queerness into staple board games like The Game of Life or explore some queer-coded board games such as Too Many Cinderellas or Unstable Unicorns.
Writing letters to your childhood self
A lot of the activities that I’ve outlined are really fun to indulge in, but I wanted to end with something that may take a little more emotional effort but is still extremely fulfilling. When looking back on my childhood, the clarity of my memory is fogged by repression and denial. I can’t confidently say at what point I knew I was queer, and, honestly, it probably wasn’t a straight line from Point A to Point B, but a journey with progress and regression. The one thing I do know is that I could have used an adult telling me that it was okay for me, Little Rowan, to be queer and that they will love me unconditionally. I think even Big Rowan needs to hear this sometimes.
This will probably seem like a difficult task at first, but I think once you etch out those first couple of sentences, the rest will come pouring out like a waterfall. I would also say to keep a Kleenex box nearby and proceed with care, as it can be a very emotional process and it might be wise to take a break instead of pushing yourself forward.
Hopefully, this list has given you a bunch of new ideas to fill your time as quarantine trudges on. Not only will these activities keep you busy, but they will also help you heal your inner child and find more joy in your own queerness. These exercises can be bittersweet because, along with the delight of having fun and feeling safe, comes the sorrow that all this couldn’t have happened earlier, in your own childhood. While this reflection is important to acknowledge, comforting our inner child will be the closest we can come to time-travelling and setting things right.