In the 2000s and the early 2010s, marriage equality was not yet legalised, breaking the gender binary was nowhere near becoming a mainstream conversation and the progressive representation of queer storylines from the likes of Pose and Euphoria hadn’t hit the telly box yet.
But, despite all this, we forged our identities in opposition to the world around us. By the time we finished secondary school in 2012, over 30 people in our year group had either come out or were openly crushing on the same sex without feeling the need to assign themselves to a particular label.
To live in a small, not particularly progressive town at this time and to live with this sort of fluidity was pretty unique.
As time went on, our teenage years became a constant swing back and forth, in and out of safety.
One moment we’d be vogueing on the school treadmill, the next counting out everyone’s lunch money to buy boxes of ramen noodles for a friend who’d been kicked out after coming out to less-than-accepting parents.
On one particularly scary night, my best friend and I frantically cycled down a pitch-black road and cut rope down from a tree as a gay person in another year group tried to hang themselves. It became clear that we were each other’s bubbles of safety and couldn’t always rely on an outside world that was older, nastier, and unwilling to understand.
My friend Josh describes the moment of change that bubbled up at school when someone yelled a homophobic slur at our friend Kathleen and her girlfriend, and what felt like our entire year group piled on him to shut him up.
From that moment on, there was a sense of needing to protect those that were queer, whether out or not, and to be on guard for the many other same-sex couples that followed Kathleen and her girlfriend.
What I’ve come to realise over the last decade is that community shapes how you see yourself, and the bonds you form can make or break the way you move through the world.
I’ve seen first-hand how having people in your corner, willing to speak up and protect you can be the difference between life and death.
In the opening moments of my new short documentary, Twinkleberry, Josh, and Harvey reminisce on how “we were just kids from a little rinky-dink home town” and just how “bizarre that we all found each other.”
Who knows what twist of fate and good fortune meant that we did, but I’ll be eternally grateful for our beautifully unique, weird and wonderful upbringing.
Twinkleberry was developed and created as part of The Netflix Documentary Talent Fund.
You can watch Twinkleberry via a Netflix TikTok Live, taking place at 7 pm on Friday 19 February (Follow Netflix on TikTok to watch, here).
The films will then drop on Netflix’s YouTube Channel, Still Watching, on Sunday 21 February at 2 pm.
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