Case 042: Flaming Beaconsfiled February 23, 2023
A sizable donation to The InQueery from an anonymous benefactor will allow us to break ground on our long-planned Arcqueertecture Park—a Marie Antoniette-style hamlet of celebrated queer structures surrounding our campus gayzebo. In an effort to boost engagement and stave off quiet quitting, we polled our staff to see which queer edifice they’d like to see erected first. The results revealed a tie between a lighthouse and a bell tower. Our top researchers argued that recent studies in wave science had proven light to be gayer than sound, but ultimately agreed that the only way to decide was to assemble a queer focus group and subject them to a battery of flashcard pictograms. The results were definitive: Though bell towers elicited twinges of queer recognition, the priapic silhouette of a lighthouse triggered a flurry of strong electrical signals in the sympathetic nervous systems of every participant.
As the EEG report is written, so it shall be done: our C-suite demanded that schematics for a campus lighthouse be turned in by the end of the week, leaving our arcqueertects scrambling. With a vast array of lighthouses to reference throughout history, how would we ensure that our beacon will be as gay as possible?
We filled our Pinterest boards with the most flamboyant lights from across the seven seas, studied their queer anatomical quirks, and drew up the following list of must-have assets:
Practical lighting: Implementing a perfectly curated collection of candles and kerosene lamps is the only way to avoid tragic overhead lighting. A historical lighting scheme helps achieve a gay-approved ambiance, ensuring visitors never look like a total shipwreck.
A spiral staircase: A sweep of sensual steps serving swerves and curves for your nerves—literally. These precarious sets of stairs have the power to induce vertigo, shoot the eye toward the heavens, and set the stage for a grand entrance/exit.
Lantern room: A jewel box made entirely of crown glass that’s only function is to house a giant lamp? Yes please.
A revolving Fresnel lens: Modern LED beacons have no place in our queer homage. Only historically accurate, Art Deco-chic glass objet resplendent with polished prisms that cast rainbow refractions would be considered for the centerpiece of our build.
A cupola: A boob roof is a federally mandated element of queer design.
Widow’s walk: A wrought iron balcony providing 360 degrees of opportunity to yearn for lovers lost at sea.
A 19th century foghorn: A device producing a mournful bellow heralding queer melancholy, built of various pipes and shafts with the following names: man-hole; stuffing-box; worm; blow-off cock; hand-hole and hand-hole, respectively. That’s right, two sequential hand holes. Engiqueering at its finest.
A dramatic setting: It’s imperative that a lighthouse not blend into her surroundings, honey, she must turn heads! Give us sharp, rugged coastline, treacherous reefs, and surging ocean spray.
With a firm handle on the desired structural elements of our lighthouse, we started wondering what would adorn the walls of the 200-foot Guggenheim-inspired spiral leading to the lantern room. In addition to schooners and other beach-themed decor befitting a seaside Airbnb, we included some choice pop cultural artifacts. The Castlerock Entertainment title card will play on loop in the lobby, to remind visitors of the studio that produced queer film canon hits like Best in Show and several Sandra Bullock vehicles including Miss Congeniality, Miss Congeniality 2, and Murder by Numbers. This footage will be swapped on the hour for the 1993 opening credits to Guiding Light, whose glistening graphic sequence offered safe harbor to any kid whose “tummy hurt” and wanted to stay home from school so they could hang out with Grandma and watch the famous last-season lesbian romance. Hanging on the door of the watch room is a framed movie poster for The Lighthouse (2019), which earned gay cred for its perfect storm of homoerotic tension and a mermaid cameo.
The highlight of our collection, of course, is a signed, first edition of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse proudly displayed in the tentacles of a bronze octopus easel. What queer highschooler wasn’t gifted a copy of this seminal classic by their – now that we think about it – fantastically dykey english teacher senior year? Did she give it to you because it’s a novel about not quite knowing who you are? A stream-of-consciousness masterpiece by everyone’s favorite literary lesbian? Sure. Did you use it freshman year of college as your foray into flagging, not-so-subtly poking out of the back pocket of your Carhartts, a sapphic semaphore? Absolutely.
We wouldn’t want visitors to contemplate the queer cultural impact of lighthouses in complete silence. That’s why our tower will reverberate with Sam Smith’s Satan-approved Christmas song titled The Lighthouse Keeper, which asks the listener to “fire up the engine and stoke the coal”.
And what queer lighthouse worth its sea salt would be complete without a lightkeeper? After all, lightkeepers felt like a community often left out of the queer history books. Especially the population of homosexuals living in the 1800s who found their professional stride isolated in remote locations with a list of tasks ranging from wick trimming and watching for fog to Virgo-level record keeping. We hired a lesbian docent from the Maine Lighthouse Museum to be our keeper who’s only responsibility was to tell kids to keep their grubby little hands off the glass.
After reviewing our blueprints with Smithsonian attention to detail, we felt confident in our design for a nautical tower that was quintessentially queer. When construction finished, the entire InQueery staff gathered to admire our maritime marvel. The lighthouse featured an intertwining double helix spiral staircase, a base laid from imported Italian marble, a Swarovski Fresnel lens, and an exterior painted in a swath of Lisa Frank neon stripes. The spire sat ensconced in a crag of rock atop a 50,000 sq foot wave pool. During a preview tour, a board member asked about the significance of our beacon’s ROYGBIV flash pattern. Since there were no low tides or tempests to warn against, we programmed our light to shine on Fridays when a complimentary seafood platter was available in the third floor conference room. Turns out smooth seas don’t make skillful sailors, but they do make a crab dip to die for.
Our Conclusion: Seamen come, seamen go, but hors d’oeuvres are forever.
Good to Know: Harriet Colfax and life-long “friend” Ann Hartwell manned Michigan City Light in Indiana for forty-one years. Friends report that they died three months apart and that their relationship was “hard to pin down.” Strictly coworker type stuff.
Queer Rating: Keep the Lights Burning, Abby Wambach.