The Queer Language of Flowers and Geek Girl Con 2018

Image: the cover of The Queer Language of Flowers. Two dandies clasp hands as they recline on a love seat facing each other. One with short dark hair is wearing knee breeches, a jacket and waistcoat, and the other wears their hair longer and has heels, long pants, and a double-breasted coat on. There is a large vase of sunflowers in the background and a smaller vase of roses, golden rod, and hydrangeas. 

Robin and I have a new zine coming to you this month: The Queer Language of Flowers!* The zine will debut at Geek Girl Con 2018 on October 27-28, and my $25 Patrons will receive a copy around this time as well.

The Queer Language of Flowers

From the introduction:

Flower dictionaries are collections of the cultural meanings of different plants, sometimes referred to as “the language of flowers” or “floriography.” They serve the purpose of teaching the reader what flowers are appropriate for certain occasions or how to send messages with flowers….

We often discuss the Language of Flowers in terms of heteronormative courtship, but queer folks also use flowers to send messages to each other. Green carnations and violets, as we’ll discuss, have held significance in queer communities for over 100 years, particularly as a way to indicate interest covertly…. Queer coding, in the sense of queer folks using secret signals, symbols, language, and clothing to signify to others like us who we are and what we like, is critical to surviving and thriving in a society where we are almost always considered non-normative, if not abnormal or aberrant…. Our coded signals to each other can be overt signs of pride or somewhat covert nods to each other….

We’ve collected some of the historical flower meanings as well as invented some of our own to create a language of flowers for contemporary queer culture with nods to art, literature, botany, and history.

Image: a black and white illustration of violet flowers, leaves, and seeds.

We started this project nearly six months ago because I fell in a hole reading about 19th century fashion history (a perennial interest of mine), which turned into research on floriography and late-Victorian queer history. The Victorian period in the US and the UK was simultaneously hella queer and hella repressive, both in social attitudes as well as the law, including Britain’s Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885. In writing a new flower dictionary, we hoped to collect information on how flowers were used amongst LGBTQIA+ folks of the past and present as well as turning a queer lens on the history, myth, literature, and culture surrounding flowers.

What we didn’t intend, however, was to write our own love story into the narrative. Richard Ellman (1984), in his biography of Oscar Wilde, wrote that “the real decadence, Wilde said, was this trespass of life into art” (302). Life imitates art imitates life imitates art. Art gave us a narrative to envision our life together; the art we create together is rooted in our own lives.

You can purchase a copy at Geek Girl Con 2018, where Robin and will be tabling at Robin Elan Art, Booth 419. We will post the zine to Etsy and our distributors in November.

Special thanks to Fyodor Pavlov, who planted the seed of this zine ages ago with these green carnation and violet illustrations.
*Don’t worry, The Corners of Their Mouth 2 is still in pre-production.


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