(Ex) Lesbian Boyfriend

BY ISABEL MUDFORD, Originally published by Woroni on October 13, 2014.

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Relationships are complicated and mine is no exception. My partner once considered himself a lesbian, and not in that creepy misogynistic way. When I first met Joel, that wasn’t the only name he was known by. All of his colleagues, and many of his friends and family didn’t yet know that Joel was transgender. Joel has a female body but considers himself, and is known and read by others now, as a man. We are seen by many of our friends, neighbours and strangers as a ‘straight’ couple, but according to the Government, we’re lesbians. How Joel and I consider our identities as a couple is sometimes crystal clear and sometimes it’s like mud.

Isaiah Berlin argues that identity only matters when it is in conflict. Indeed, everyone’s discovery of their sexuality or gender identity is born within a maze of relationships, families, workplaces, and friendships. Some people are offered a map out, and some just have to figure it out themselves. Identity means a lot to Queer* people because they usually have to fight for it. Being L, G, B, T, I or Q is often a huge part of the way Queer* people recognise and identify themselves (hello undercuts, birkenstocks, and lentils). This stranglehold on sexuality or gender ‘identity’ is something we don’t share so much with our heterosexual or cis-gender counterparts.

Not long before Joel and I met, I had just been through a break-up with my boyfriend and somehow fallen for the Queen of all Queers. I knew immediately that I did not want to ‘come out’ because I felt I had never been in the closet. I come from a very supportive family and have loads of awesome allies as mates. Nothing was ever going to be hidden from them. Anyone who knows me knows I just can’t keep a juicy secret like that to myself! More importantly though, for me, my non-heteronormative sexuality is something that is constantly developing, not something I was born with. I don’t believe this makes my sexuality a ‘choice’ as such. But I also don’t think that choosing to be gay or lesbian or whatever else should be seen as a negative thing to choose. If I had realised earlier that I could be living this lifestyle it would be have been rainbows and glitter from day one! Being Queer* is the most liberating feeling I’ve ever felt and I have developed so much as a person over the last eighteen months. But, that’s not to say it’s been very easy.

It has been a challenge for me to start imagining myself as a Queer* person and then to find myself in a serious relationship with a dude. It’s especially complicated because parts of our relationship have been just like a lesbian couple. It was like the bowl of marshmallows had been given to me and then, although I knew it was to happen, taken away – like a subject in the Mischel experiment. In Cube we get dirty looks, but outside, we can kiss with no fear of homophobic slurs. My dad thinks we are a ‘de facto’ couple having lived together for just a month, but my brother has been simply ‘living with his girlfriend’ for over a year. My ex says he is concerned, not because he thinks I am a lesbian in disguise, but that his friends do. We kind of live in some loved up limbo. It is clear to me that this idea of ‘identity’ is not just about how you see yourself, but how those around you understand you.

Amongst Queer* theorists, there is the concept of Queer* time which explains how Queer cultures have developed new ways of tracking the passing of time in their lives with wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, and often the other celebrations of traditional family not available to them. Joel and I may be a ‘straight’ couple, but we can’t get married. In some states, we can’t adopt, or get IVF treatment. In many ways we are subjected to the same oppression that other Queer* couples encounter, but don’t fit into the same boxes. Like a lesbian couple, for years we may have to rethink how we celebrate our milestones and develop as a family all while seeming, to most, like your average ‘straight’ couple.

Although we may be just as frustrated at these circumstances as our lesbian and gay friends, Joel and I like being Queer*. Each day is an opportunity for us to explore what that means for us as a couple and as individuals. How others and how we may one day see ourselves is unpredictable and complicated but will never be dull.

 

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Not So Straight: Some Queer Tips For Straight Relationships

BY JOHN CASEY, Originally published by Woroni on October 13, 2014.

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Relationships come in all sorts of complex styles and configurations from the long, romantic partnership to the short, passionate one-night stand.  Now if there is one group that knows a thing or two about complexities, it’s the Queer* (LGBTIQAP*) community.  The Queers have been at the forefront of exploring not just sexuality, but the very nature of relationships.  Trust, dialogue and spice in the bedroom are some of the best queer tips I’ve picked up (for more, I’d highly recommend Hardy and Easton’s The Ethical Slut).

If we are going to start anywhere with relationships, then we have to be honest, both with others and ourselves. Almost every queer person at some point in their life has had to grapple with themselves, with their identity and their attractions.  The first step to coming out is acceptance, loving yourself before you can begin to truly love others. And there is no reason why this does not extend to everyone.  We all have different wants and needs and it is important to acknowledge these.  As most of us are still curious, young adults we may be more interested in casual fun than intense, romantic relationships.  Some people who do want relationships want somebody to look after them, whereas others see a relationship as more of an equal partnership.  Ultimately it is up to you what you want, but it is crucial that you maintain honesty to have a healthy relationship.

On a practical level being honest in a relationship means engaging in the most excruciatingly difficult act of all: communicating.  If the stereotype exists of lesbians talking about their feelings too much or of the gays congregating to gossip, it’s because active communication works.  Too often we bottle up our feelings and won’t actually voice to our partners our problems.  Of course confronting these problems requires tact and it is best to focus on particular behaviours of your partner that you don’t like, and actively talk about how it makes you feel.  There is a big difference between “I feel you spend more time on your friends than with me, and it makes me feel unwanted” compared to “YOU spend more time with your friends than me”. The latter is an attack and makes a judgement about your partner that is actually just your subjective opinion.

A deep relationship requires honest, open communication if it is going to overcome inevitable obstacles.  These two general principles, honesty and communication, can be practiced in all our relationships, from friends, to family, to loved ones.  Too often we forget that our relationships with friends and family require just as much tender loving care as our romantic and sexual relationships.

One final piece of advice from a queer to you on relationships is to keep things interesting is in the bedroom.  Too often we get caught up in the idea that sex and intimacy are the same thing, yet there are a whole host of ways in which you can deepen your connections with a partner that don’t involve sex.  After all not all gay guys have anal, lesbians are still wondering where the hell this ‘scissoring’ nonsense came from, and our queer* community includes an A for asexuality, or those who do not have strong desire for sex.  Exploring each other’s bodies through touch, finding what pleasure and sensations one can elicit without having sex outright; these can go a long way in improving connections and intimacy with a partner.  Of course this kind of exploration can run the other way towards ‘kinkier’ explorations too.  It may not be for everyone, but mixing things up in the bedroom can both make relationships more exciting and more intimate.  These ideas will by no means fix relationships or guarantee their success, but hopefully they will make for a gay old time whilst you try.

 

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