Heteronormativity results in a lot of queer people having extremely tentative and ambiguous early relationships.
Relationships, especially between wlw (women-loving women), can appear like friendships. Without social recognition, it’s difficult for many to legitimize their romantic attractions.
It’s certainly not that queer folks don’t want to be in visibly queer relationships. But many still struggle against the simultaneous social pressure to downplay their queerness and the invisibility that comes with it.
Deconstructing comphet (compulsory heteronormativity) is the first step to remedy the issue.
Compulsory heterosexuality conditions queer identity. E.g. gay men or women feeling predatory for expressing sexual desire toward other folks. The skew towards hetero-romantic partnerships. The feeling of not being queer “enough.” The objectification of queer femmes etc.
It can be easy to point back at the queer community as the source of these issues, I’m not denying that there are certainly outdated beliefs and gatekeeping, but these problems are defined by heteronormativity.
Comphet sets the benchmark, queers contort themselves as a result.
For baby queers (and even some folks who’ve been out forever) there’s often a split between the types of relationships and sexual experiences they WANT, versus the type of connections they believe are accessible/ they think they SHOULD have to be more socially acceptable.
Many queers feel like they aren’t enough for never having explicitly, publicly visible, queer relationships. Or doubt their queerness because they haven’t had certain sexual experiences. Yet they feel intimidated and hesitate to form the type of connection they crave.
I hear queer people tell me over and over again about high school or college friendships that, in hindsight, felt a lot more like relationships. Or relationships that were downplayed as friendships because one or both weren’t publicly out.
As adults, they wish for validation. Everyone is different, but I’ll speak for myself, only I have the power to define and act on my queerness.
No one gave me permission or recognition or validation for my queerness. No one said, “you’re gay and it’s ok for you not to have any attachments to straightness” – I had to.
The more that we wait around for the outside world to accept us, the longer we deny ourselves what we want.
I’m not saying that being visibly queer is a walk in the park or even a possibility for everyone, but you do have a level of autonomy about the relationships you choose.
If you had early queer relationships that you wish had gone further/ been more explicitly defined, learn that lesson moving forward.
Your queerness is yours. You don’t have to be afraid of the relationships that make you feel happy and gay.
You’re allowed to divest from comphet.
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Sam is a sex educator and artist who explores queerness, polyamory, and sexuality through their work. She’s passionate about exploring ways to broaden relationship structures to foster more connections between people. They use art and illustration as part of their education process.
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