I’ve seen some rather unattractive shitstorming over “queerplatonic” lately and I’m wondering what drives a person to say “WTF U HAVE NEVER BEEN ATTACKED OVER A RELATIONSHIP LIKE THAT OMG HOW DARE U CALL IT QUEER.”
#1: I realize that some people’s queer identity is built upon feeling separate from the non-queer world and therefore being oppressed by it and/or left out, but even though prejudice and persecution ABSOLUTELY IS part of the queer experience more or less without exception, is it really *definitive* of it? As in, if homophobia and whatnot disappeared tomorrow, would “queer” still have an inherent meaning regardless of how we were treated? I think so.
I think it’s dangerous to base people’s “right” to queerness on whether they have been attacked over their relationships/identity or could be. It does happen and it’s serious and I’m not dismissing it. But queerness exists in people who have never been directly hurt over it too, and no one gets to decide how much hurt you have to have experienced to use this word.
#2: Really, no one gets attacked over close non-romantic relationships? Well, let me tell you some stories.
My mom is a very open and accepting person. She had a gay brother and was honest and non-judgmental about sex, for the most part. When I was a teen, she had a rule that I could not take boys in my room and shut the door. However, I was allowed privacy with my female friends, because I guess she simply assumed I probably wasn’t gay. (Even though I made it clear that I was not interested in sex with my boyfriend at the time.)
This changed a bit when my mother noticed that I held hands with, leaned against, and sometimes kissed my female friends. With one friend in particular, the “suspicion” was particularly high; we kissed on the lips, sometimes lay in each other’s laps and kissed each other’s stomachs, had a variety of cute nicknames for each other, and (this is a little weird) were dating the same guy at the same time. (That’s a long story, but it’s mostly because the guy had realized I was not going to give him sex, and was trying to guilt me by saying he wanted another girlfriend. I was completely okay with that, much to his surprise. But though she was willing to go farther, she wouldn’t do him either. Ho hum.)
Anyway, my mother noticed our closeness and started making weird little comments about how she might need to enforce the “no closed doors” rule for me with my female friends. And on several occasions she jokingly burst into my room and yelled “WHAT ARE YOU LESBIANS DOING?” (Er, probably videotaping something stupid and drinking Sprite out of a bowl with two straws, but no, we weren’t doing anything “lesbian.”)
The point is, had my mother thought lesbianism was wrong, I imagine this would have been a pretty huge issue. Even my open-minded mother thought that if I had a close relationship with a female friend, it was probably sexual—especially because we crossed some intimacy lines that most straight people wouldn’t with their “bffs.” We also sometimes got catcalled at school if we held hands or even just hung out together. Nothing bad happened to us. We were lucky.
Clearly, even this mild story indicates that people find it very peculiar if two people are close but not dating/having sex. People call friends “just” friends for a reason, and they assume that the only way for people to be “more than” friends is to start sexing each other. (Well, or at least something on the romantic/sexual spectrum.) But if the closeness allows physical, psychological, and lifestyle-related intimacy without its being romantic or sexual? The majority of society doesn’t know how to process that, and they immediately treat it like you’re not only “actually” romantic and/or sexual, but like you’re hiding it out of shame or some related reason.
I had no confusion or problem with my relationships, but I did take issue with the confusion and problems other people had with my relationships. The only words I had for two of my closest relationships with females in high school was “best friends.” There’s a really weighted division between “friends” and “romantic partners” in our society—a belief that romance ranks higher, and a belief that romantic/sexual intimacy is the pinnacle, the apex, the highest form of love and closeness. I will disagree with that until the cows come home.
The girl I shared my boyfriend with in high school moved on from our friendship eventually. We were roommates in college, but she got a different boyfriend, changed a lot, and started ignoring me, and letting her go was difficult. I haven’t talked to her in years, and even though I don’t want to talk to her now, I miss what used to be between us. People don’t understand that and they act like it’s REALLY WEIRD for me to miss her. They assign me romantic feelings that I “must have” had for her if I still think about her more than a decade later, or they treat me like my pain over the situation is inappropriate. “Big shit, you lost a high school friend, what’s the problem? UNLESS YOU WERE LESBIANS.” Sorry? My feelings should be either mocked or uncovered as romantic if they mattered to me?
And my current female best friend—whom I’ve also known since high school and whose relationship with me has sometimes been termed suspicious despite her heterosexuality—would likely agree with me that our bond isn’t something you symbolize with half-heart BFF necklaces you buy at Claire’s. (Though yeah, we did that.) We sometimes suggest we’re family. Her kids call me auntie. I’m happy with the label “best friends” with her, and I’m happy to consider her my sister, but technically we’re not family and our closeness seems to be mostly accepted only because the outside world doesn’t see the depth of it. Our relationship is platonic, but she’s not the kind of friend I would put “just” in front of. People thought it was extremely peculiar that I cried all the time when she went to college before me, and “didn’t understand” why I missed her or why I listened to her mix tape all the time, etc. They gave me a lot of “shoulds” with how I ought to be giving my boyfriend that attention. I didn’t understand their fascination with how I should be feeling about a girl who was not my girlfriend.
I think those who want to use the term “queerplatonic” are looking for a word for relationships that are not traditional—that are frowned upon, misunderstood, sometimes attacked, and thought inappropriate by society. We all get consistently told that our life partner should be our “significant other,” but when someone has a relationship of this depth outside of sexual or romantic contexts, society does not want to grant it legitimacy. Some who use this word are simply looking for a way to describe an “other” in their lives who is just as “significant,” and the people hollering about how OMG UR JUST FRIENDS AND HOW COULD U EVER CLAIM U GET ATTACKED FOR THIS are putting that “just” in front of friends for a reason—because they think they get to say that these people’s significant others are for all intents and purposes NOT significant where it counts. Which is a pretty good example of intolerance, actually—if you object to there being a term for a close relationship that is not romantic/sexual but is also functional on a level that “just” friendships are not, you’re helping enforce the belief that these relationships don’t exist or aren’t what they say they are.
I understand that there is some legitimate controversy over whether the word “queer” belongs in there, but please take into account what I’ve said about both people’s misunderstanding of relationships (especially same-sex relationships) as automatically romantic/sexual even if they’re not, and please take into account the fact that these relationships ARE attacked, misrepresented, erased, and shamed in ways very like homosexual people’s relationships are (especially, again, if they happen between same-sex friends).