Words by University of South Australia Rainbow Club
Artwork by Alex Lam
For many, being queer is self-love as an act of rebellion, eschewing traditional social norms of straightness, gender roles, marriage and monogamy. Our relationships and desires for one another have, for large parts of history, been deemed abnormal in some way, ranging from odd and unusual to illegal and immoral. We have had marriage equality in Australia since 2017, but to wider society our relationships remain, at best, hypersexualised, and, at worst, a mistake that must be undone. The truth is that relationships come in all shapes and sizes, and everyone experiences relationships differently, queer or not.
Some of us are tragic romantics who are monogamous. Some of us just want to have a good time with no emotional commitment. Some of us are somewhere in between. And some of us have no idea what we’re doing. None of these are inherently right or wrong, and everyone is free to choose whatever path to take. What is not okay is shaming each other for who we are. People who desire long-term monogamous relationships are not boring conservative normies. Likewise, those among us who enjoy hookups through Tinder and Grindr are not immoral walking STIs. Some people’s idea of fun is taking a month-long mini holiday as a couple, while for others fun is being fingered by some gorgeous rando in a nightclub loo. There is no shame in having a good time.
Some of us are tragic romantics who are monogamous. Some of us just want to have a good time with no emotional commitment. Some of us are somewhere in between.
The media likes to show an idealised image of what relationships should be like, and pushes the idea that this ideal is what everyone should aspire to attain. “Real” relationships are depicted as being effortless, conflict-free, and permanently in the honeymoon phase of love, and heterosexual. Likewise, sexual satisfaction is portrayed through the narrow dimensions that women should only be able to achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration, that men have uncontrollable sex drives 24/7, and that queer sex is inherently kinky. It sends the message that anything else is wrong and inferior. But these are unrealistic standards that most couples do not need to aspire to for happiness. Despite the impression that seemingly perfect relationships just somehow happen because they are meant-to-be, the reality is that, just like getting HDs, relationships require effort to succeed.
Queer people not only see these “perfect” relationships (the ones where the other half of a person is just around the corner, or the romcom cliché of finding the perfect person when one is not actively seeking) we internalise it. These relationships don’t mirror or uphold a shining example of reality, let alone a queer one. When this is all that we see in our world, it makes it difficult for us to know what a relationship should truly be, and how to make relationships work in a way that is right for us.
This is particularly relevant to queer culture. Historically, queerness has gone against societal norms of heteronormativity. A prominent attitude is that we ought to embrace our socially rebellious existence and do the opposite of straight people to prove our queerness. For some, a defining aspect of queer culture is rejecting monogamy and long-term relationships in favour of hookups, polyamory and kink. But times have changed, and the cultural differences between hetero and queer relationships are slowly merging. It is no longer as taboo for straight people to have sex outside of marriage, be single, or use sex toys.
Queer or not, we need to respect that everyone has different needs and expectations when pursuing relationships and sex. Relationships aren’t easy, but it is important to realise that everyone has different wants, needs, and priorities. Appreciating a partner, treating each other well, striving to meet halfway and find middle-ground, and not being afraid to have difficult conversations, are basic building blocks for successful relationships.
Our families not supporting us being with the person we care for might put us in a difficult situation of needing to make a choice between one or the other.
Any queer person can attest to the fact that there is an added difficulty for us in forging relationships due to a comparatively limited dating pool, even for the bi and pansexuals among us. As anyone will know, people don’t just get into a relationship with a person – their family comes attached as a gift. Getting along with a partner’s family is great and can really help things, but if this doesn’t happen it can be a dealbreaker for some. This aspect of dating is particularly difficult for those still living at home with parents, especially if they’re not supportive of queerness. Our families not supporting us being with the person we care for might put us in a difficult situation of needing to make a choice between one or the other.
Not up for meeting parents? There is a solution for that. Thanks to modern tech, some of us will form long distance relationships, and this is easier than ever before. As a society, we need to better acknowledge the validity of online relationships. Although we are separated by oceans, this does not undermine or invalidate the level of care, love, and understanding we have for each other. This is not some imaginary internet friend we have, this is a real person with needs and wants that we care for.
Relationships are valid regardless of the quantity of time it lasted; what matters is the quality of that relationship.
One of the challenges in a relationship is open communication. Unfortunately, mind reading is not a thing, so checking with a date and partner to find out what they expect from a relationship is a solid plan. Consent is always vital, and goes beyond sex. Never assume that someone agrees to do something in the bedroom. Consent is about using affirming verbal and non-verbal body language. Keep checking in before, during, and after. Just because someone has agreed to something before, does not mean they will agree to it again. This does not mean being afraid to try new things, but instead to discuss it before doing it.
Commitment is not something to fear and it’s not a dirty word. But some of us just aren’t into it, and that’s fine. It’s important to make this clear to any potential partners and not lead people on if they are looking for something else. Also, not everyone who wants or is in a relationship will make it a number 1 priority in their life. For a busy person with a lot going on, a relationship becomes a want rather than a need. It’s not impossible to have a hectic life and have a great relationship though, just accept that it won’t be easy and be prepared to face challenges along the way.
Not all relationships work out, and that’s okay. For some, incompatibility becomes obvious after a few mediocre dates. For others, it may not become apparent until major events like moving in or having kids together. But it can be devastating to spend months and years investing energy into making things work with someone only to have it fall apart. It’s important to recognise that relationships are valid regardless of the quantity of time it lasted; what matters is the quality of that relationship. It’s good to engage in a bit of self-reflection after a relationship. Focus on being happy, feeling safe, and learning something about ourselves in each relationship, romantic, sexual or otherwise.
Go forth, love and be loved, or have a great root if that’s what you’re into. You do you.
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