Queer nightstands
Credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus; Brian Wong/Xtra
Identity
4 min

What’s on your nightstand? This queer Instagrammer wants to know

The Queer Nightstands account chronicles a shared community intimacy by showing off what we keep beside our beds

A Magic Wand vibrator cozies up to a tube of lip balm on a bedside table. A plant spills over the lip of a coral-rimmed pot and, if you zoom in, you can make out “December Ninth” on the label of the candle above it—a birthday gift, perhaps. Rings mark the ghosts of coasterless glasses and mugs, and a flash of red toenail polish peeks out of the left corner of the frame. On April 4, 2020, somewhere in New York City, Molly-Margaret Johnson snaps a picture of her nightstand, uploads it to Instagram—and @queernightstands is born.

“I was literally just cleaning my room one day, and I got everything in order, in its spot and looking cute. And I just took a picture of my nightstand because it was perfectly gay,” Johnson says. “And I thought, this is sweet, I wonder what other queers’ nightstands look like?”

View this post on Instagram

4.4.20 NYC

A post shared by Queer Night Stands (@queernightstands) on

Queer Nightstands is an Instagram account that began—and blew up—in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that debut, it has reached more than 31,000 followers at the time of publication.

“I think everyone was home, everyone was cleaning or masturbating or just being in their room all the time,” the 27-year-old says. “So I think it was a good way to be like, we’re all home alone, together.”

The concept is simple: A visual collection of the nightstands and bedside tables of queer people around the world. With very little context in the captions—only the date and location —the photos are left to speak for themselves. The submissions are anonymous.

View this post on Instagram

4.4.20 Dublin, Ireland

A post shared by Queer Night Stands (@queernightstands) on

“I always wanted to make an account that was queer for queers, and also kind of anonymous,” Johnson says. That may be because she’s no stranger to Instagram virality: For the past three years, Instagram has been her full-time job, running the massively popular @whatswrongwithmollymargaret. Originally @whatswrongwithmyvagina, the account began as a place to share vaginal woes and ended up becoming an extremely close-knit community centred around sex positivity, sexuality and relationship advice. It amassed more than 40,000 followers before Johnson recently deleted it.

“It was very personal, and it got to a point where it was too exposing and too public and I didn’t like being under this microscope anymore,” she says.

That fuelled the desire for anonymity on Queer Nightstands—it also helps prevent submitters from being accidentally outed. And it makes for a fun game in the comments: More often than not, the person behind a nightstand will comment to “claim” their picture and all the compliments and admirers that come with it.

Photos range from carefully curated displays to messy, slice-of-life snaps. With more than 200 nightstands posted so far, patterns have emerged. The stars of the show are items like sex toys, mason jars and Himalayan salt lamps. But some of the most engaging photos involve outliers—like the submission from Edmonton scattered with children’s books and a baby monitor, or one from Delaware with a CPAP machine next to a vibrator.

“Finally, one that looks more like my own,” wrote @tiniest_meow under a photo from Seattle strewn with garbage, rags, lube and a Camelback.

View this post on Instagram

4.5.20 LA

A post shared by Queer Night Stands (@queernightstands) on

Submissions have arrived from places like Buenos Aires, Brooklyn, Sydney—and Canadian cities make a regular appearance. With a keen eye, you might pick up on souvenirs from your city. What appears to be a sign from Honest Ed’s even shows up in one picture from Halifax.

The locations are key to the magic of the account. People often excitedly comment when they see a nightstand from their city, especially on posts that hint at the presence of cool, neighbouring queers in smaller, more rural spots. It’s not uncommon to see someone ask to be friends with the nightstand owner or even jokingly invite them on a date. Some have even asked that @queernightstands be made into a dating app.

While the account is especially popular, it’s not alone. Similar Instagrams hone in on one small but revealing square of queer life, like @queerkeys, @lesbianbeds, @queer_terior, @queerthighs or @softqueerbellies. Johnson has even created a spinoff account called @gaystilllifes, which asks followers to “DM your submissions of sweet, chaotic and memorable queer moments.” From a picture of a plastic lobster claw holding a cigarette to a snap of a cat’s paws, it’s less curated and more chaotic than @queernightstands.

The appeal of Queer Nightstands lies in its intimacy. You can see what book someone is reading, what sex toys they’re using and medication they’re taking, their drink of choice, their old wrappers and receipts and garbage. It normalizes small, everyday signifiers of queerness—little cues that not so long ago were hidden away, out of sight—and positions them as public works of art in an online gallery.

View this post on Instagram

5.20.20 NYC

A post shared by Queer Night Stands (@queernightstands) on

“It’s this nice way to connect by seeing people’s most personal items in their most private place,” Johnson says. “It’s kind of like the visual version of the phrase, ‘there’s no one way to be queer.’”

Johnson wants to keep the account as it is: a simple and consistent space where you can peer into the lives of other queer people around the world, at a time where it can be increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of community. So while Molly Margaret may be gone from the spotlight, @queernightstands will go on—giving queers a place to gather, fantasize and crush on each other while the world is falling apart.