So I have this friend.
We have known each other for five years now. We spend a huge amount of time together. We trust each other completely. We share the same views on some issues, but have opposite opinions on other (less important?) issues. We have an emotional connection. We live together in one flat.
And we have different genders: I am a man, and she is a woman.
So as it happens we go around being very close and people start assuming. It’s what people do. They start assuming that we are a couple. That’s no problem. We just reply: “No, we’re not. Why did you think that?” They don’t like to answer that question, because it would show how inappropriate their assumption really was. This is step 1.
Step 2 is when people don’t believe you anymore. You say: “We’re not a couple.” And they say: “Yeah, sure…” This, to me, is fascinating and appalling at the same time. What reason would we, a man and a woman, have to hide our heterosexual relationship? To lie to you? Why don’t you believe what we say?
It is not an important thing, you might say. And you’re right, it isn’t. But it infuriates me. Why? Because it is a symptom of heteronormativity. A woman and a man can not be friends, because they have to want to get sexual.
Sometimes, what we’re doing, my friend and I, seems radical to me. It seems radical, because we are doing something, that the majority of people just can not believe, refuse to believe. Being a man and a woman, being friends, living together, being close – and not fucking. But this is ridiculous. There is nothing radical about a friendship… Or is there?
Because I have lived together with my friend for nearly four years now I wanted to explain to my parents what our relationship is about. Although we would never label it anything but a friendship, in order to explain it to my parents I needed to look for labels. So I searched the internet for “platonic relationship”. And I was immediately disgusted by what google showed me.
Articles over articles about the important question, whether a platonic relationship (i.e. close friendship) between a man and woman could ever really work. Studies have been conducted, experiences have been told, suffering has been examined, all to come to the inevitable conclusion: No. They don’t work. Because at least one of the two will unavoidably be sexually attracted to the other. The man, in most cases.
What this did to me, an asexual man, I can hardly describe. How invalidated this made me feel. There was no article about friends living together successfully like we do. No articles about the value of friendship or anything. Just about men and women wanting to fuck each other. Gay people, by the way, were only rarely mentioned – as an exception to this rule.
So I looked up the term “queerplatonic relationship”. And I felt better, immediately. There may be only a few articles, but there a many message boards with discussions, many small and humble blog posts about the topic. And it described perfectly the relationship my friend and I have:
“A queerplatonic relationship (or “QPR”) is one which is more intense and intimate than what most people regard as a friendship, not fitting the traditional romantic couple model. It is characterized by a strong bond, love, and emotional commitment, yet is not perceived by those involved as romantic or more than a (good) friendship. Being a so-called platonic relationship, it does not comprehend sexuality/eroticism or exclusivity nor it is this what the relationship is organized around. It is defined by the intensity and significance of the emotional connection.”
I mean, I would tone down the emotional intensity thingy, because it makes me feel uncomfortable and seems a bit cheesy to me, but apart from that: Yes! Again: We would never label it anything but a friendship, but to explain to other people, who may have drastically different definitions of friendships in their had than we have, a term like queerplatonic really is helpful. I like it.
Then, reading the message boards, I came upon people who claim: “Stop creating fake words! You’re just best friends.”
And I thought: “When will this stop?”
First of all: No, she is not my best friend. I have many friends and I don’t rank them. They’re people, you know.
Secondly: Fuck you! People assume we are a couple. People don’t believe me when I tell them that I am not in love with my friend. People don’t understand the specific relationship that we have, because as soon as I use the word friend, they rank it below a romantic relationship. People refuse to believe that close friendships between men and women can work. Then, finally, I find a term to kind of describe this relationship and people tell me I should just use the term “friendship”. Are you kidding me?!
So, after all that, I have to come to the conclusion that yes, what my friend and I are doing here is radical. This is ridiculous, this is shameful, but it seems to be true. A close friendship between a woman and a man is radical. This is what we’re dealing with here. I wish it weren’t so, because there is absolutely nothing radical about it. But if we think about it: What is radical about same sex relationships? What is radical about non-binary genders? Nothing. The narrow minded people around us make our relationships and our identities radical.
And we should embrace that.
So thank you for the rad people who thought of the word queerplatonic. Thank you, thank you, thank you!