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Somewhere past the halfway mark of 2021, I was on the phone with a friend. I had called to check in and see how she was doing. Soon enough the attention turned to me and in response to the same I said: “I am doing really well. I am now the person I imagined I could never be.” Not even I realised the weight of the words I used.

Who I am today always existed as a warning, something to steer clear of. A level of degeneracy and decay we spend our lives protecting our families and communities from – an endeavour only suspended for the times when we poke fun at such people. Images of such people, positively represented, were non-existent and so all I had to cling to was the heteropatriarchal hell I saw around me. Hidden in plain sight, is the foundational experience of many queer people. It is not always that we are hiding, but we are hidden by the relentlessness of queerphobia that insists that people like us don’t, should not exist. Under these conditions we don’t see representations of what loving another person romantically could look like. We don’t see examples of relationships that affirm our visions of what love can look like, never mind the fact that our relationships are persecuted by those around us.

The result for many is often that our teenage years pass us by without the practice heterosexual kids get, with most of us entering relationships in our mid to late 20s, with no idea of how to do it. We approach these relationships with fear, scepticism and an expectation of failure. Queer life is living with the knowledge that you can wake up on any day and be rubbed off the face of the earth, so life and all its accessories are short. Sometimes with this neurosis gnawing at us, we do the job of sabotage ourselves. Observing us from the outside it would be easy to say queer relationships are fleeting and unstable therefore our love is fraudulent, but as with most things, context is important.

Where many of us end up are relationships that are queer only for the bodies that exist in them, while mimicking the heteronormativity we’ve been bombarded with. We emulate many of the toxic gender roles that exist between cisheterosexual men and women, firmly placing those perceived at weaker in the role of subservience and obedience. This is problematic on its own and something that is often under review within normative relationships. The possibilities for queer relationships done right from a place of equality, might just be what we should all be striving for. In some ways, equality in relationships is a strange concept considering the history of gendered relationships.

Perhaps a more honest conversation revolves around the deleterious effects of queerphobia on people’s sense of security and belonging in the world. It forecloses possibilities and opportunities for connection in the outlook of people who, like everyone else, want to be loved in their fullness. This should be the focus of our enquiry when pondering on the messiness or impossibility of lasting romance. This is the view from which our empathy should grow and our judgement should wither. Considering the possibilities of queer ways of relating, might be useful to all of us in different kinds of relationships if we commit ourselves to a different standard that does not depend of domination of one at the expense of another, be it a queer people dominated by cisheterosexual people, or women dominated by men.