Inside the bedrooms of the UK's queer youth

Instagram account Queer Night Stands gives us a voyeuristic look at the salt lamps and nick-nacks in our safest, cosiest happy places.

by Dani Ran
13 October 2020, 9:06am

Imagery via Queer Night Stands Instagram

The past several months have seen us all become very well acquainted with our bedrooms and the items that fill them. Bedrooms are deeply personal, and for most, a microcosm of our wider interests and identity. Whether you choose to fill your space with eclectic tat à la cluttercore, books, records, houseplants, candles, or those awful foam mirrors (soz, TikTok), every individual’s bedroom is telling in some way.

For queer people like myself, our bedrooms are where we feel safest. It’s in our bedrooms that we’re able to be our truest self, tucked away from societal constraints, the pressure of performativity and heteronormativity, and outdoor threats of violence and abuse. With one in five LGBTQ+ people and two in five trans people reporting hate crimes in the last 12 months, it makes sense that queer people find solace in their bedrooms.

In our bedrooms we’re able to surround ourselves with items that make us feel safe. It’s also where we display personal items that represent who we are. That being said, there are many bedroom staples that connect all queers around the world, and Instagram account Queer Night Stands perfectly captures and celebrates them.

Set up by 27-year-old writer and influencer Molly-Margaret Johnson earlier this year, Queer Night Stands posts one image of a queer person’s bedside table every day, which typically looks like every bedside table ever, but with some exclusively queer staples. The account initially started as somewhat of a joke. “I cleaned my night stand in my room and I actually laughed out loud because there was a salt lamp, a plant, a dildo and some old grandma hand lotion,” Molly says, “and I was just like ‘this is such a comedy version of a queer night stand — this is making fun of itself.’”

Molly sent a photo of her nightstand to friends, receiving theirs back, and realised there might be something more to the images they were exchanging. “I took a picture of it and was like, ‘Lol, this is so funny’, but also I think it’s very sweet and intimate and romantic, and so perfectly who I am,” she explains. “My friends then sent me theirs and it was almost like being able to read someone else’s love letters. You can get to know someone very intimately, earnestly and sweetly. Like, ‘Wow, this person uses this butt plug!’ or ‘Wow, this person is on these meds!’”

The Queer Night Stands grid is chock full of queer clichés — enough of them to prompt me to question whether I should pop my pink Himalayan salt lamp and copy of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl under my bed. No one likes to be told they’re cliché, but these bedroom staples — books on queer and feminist theory, journals, house plants, ceramics, art pieces, healing crystals, and sex toys — are cliché for a reason, and are part of what unites us as queer people.

“A running joke on the account is that salt lamps are like, The Thing, which I never even thought would be a queer thing,” Molly says of the account’s most common submissions. Exclusively queer or not, salt lamps are just one of the common items peppered throughout the Queer Night Stands account, perhaps as a result of their soothing aesthetic, which queer people might be drawn to in a bid to chill out and switch off from the outside world.

Our rooms are a place for tenderness, softness, and vulnerability. “It’s this place where you don’t have to be gay a certain way, or be gay the ‘right’ way,” Molly says. “It’s a place where I can exist in my queerness comfortably.” A space in which we can reflect, unwind, and look introspectively. Many queer people embrace these qualities within their safest four walls, with their possessions, trinkets and sentimental knick-knacks there to aid the process. “Our stuff is often the last thing we see before we go to bed and the first thing we see in the morning. It’s the things that make us feel most cosy and seen, and also what we want nearest and dearest,” says Molly.

In such polarising times, Queer Night Stands is offering an outlet to people around the world to broadcast their queerness, switch off, and connect with one another in a beautifully sweet, simple way.