I originally wasn’t intending for this to be a long post but two thousand words later I realized that it is long, and rightfully so. This stuff is complicated, and there’s a lot that goes into it, and the people who don’t want to sit through it aren’t the people I’m trying to reach anyway. As always, I’m talking exclusively about American culture.
Because I know people will want to crawl up my ass and ask, I’ve been in a queerplatonic relationship for three years and known my partner for about fourteen years. We get a lot of questions about our relationship, both in and outside of the queer community, and I usually start out with “It’s easy to explain but difficult for people to understand.”
We both subscribe to a very broad definition of what a queerplatonic relationship is. There should be no romantic feelings between the people in the relationship, and there’s an element of commitment. Some QPRs have a sexual component, some don’t. (Friends with benefits are not automatically queerplatonic relationships, as I’ve seen posited.) Sometimes the people in a QPR are queer themselves, sometimes they’re not. Maybe one is but the other isn’t, maybe they don’t start out identifying as queer and then they do later, maybe not. To be quite frank, neither of us care, and neither should you.
If you’ve followed me for any length of time on pretty much any platform, you know I talk about moral purism and how deeply it’s ingrained in our culture, and how it’s driven and supported by capitalism—how capitalism demands and feeds our amatonormative society. If you haven’t experienced the joy of me screaming about capitalism, well, here we go.
The nuclear family model—two parents, living separately from extended family and raising their kids, probably both parents working but maybe just one—is new and supported and driven by capitalism. In most cultures, it’s common for extended families to live together and raise children as a team effort. When you have a family with a network of aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins all cooperating and sharing the labor and time investment of just existing, it’s a lot less of a financial disaster if someone gets sick or injured.
In a nuclear family, if Parent 1 gets injured and has a three month recovery time, all of a sudden they can’t contribute to family upkeep in terms of money they provide through work, or time that they usually invest in maintaining the home/children. Parent 2 can’t both work overtime and spend more time maintaining the house/family and then they fall behind on bills and into financial ruin, or Parent 1 pushes themselves to go back to work sooner and ends up with a chronic injury/illness because of it.
In an extended family model, if Parent 1 gets injured and has a three month recovery time, Aunt 1 and Cousin 2 start taking the kids some evenings and Cousin 3 groups the kids with their own, Uncles 2 and 3 take on a little more work to maintain the house(s), and Cousin 4 starts carpooling with Parent 2 to save on gas. Everyone invests a little more time and money and Parent 1 is able to rest and recover. Or maybe they can’t, maybe Parent 1 is disabled, but it’s still not the time/financial strain it would be if there was only one other person to take on more work.
In a nuclear family, every family needs to buy separate appliances, furniture, tools, etc. In an extended family, everyone trades the toolkit back and forth, your cousin gives you a couch they don’t need anymore, you borrow your aunt’s crockpot, your cousin comes over to fix your car. People relying on others outside of the person who’s meant to be their One True Love, isn’t good for capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t want you living with your friends and splitting rent, utilities, and groceries. Capitalism doesn’t want you getting your car fixed by your best friend’s brother. (You better have a receipt showing you didn’t have insurance because your car was in the shop.)
Kids that live with their parents into adulthood are ‘pathetic’, especially if that kid gets married. You better have your own insurance policy, you better have your own phone plan, you better buy your own house (why aren’t you all buying more houses), but wait, you can’t buy that house with a bunch of friends, what do you mean you’re not married or engaged to them? Oh, you are married but you’re just friends? That’s weird, why would you want to marry your friend, what happens when you meet someone you fall in love with? Don’t you want to wait for The One?
Are you sure you don’t want to wait for The One?
Your platonic relationships aren’t as important as your relationship with your (eventual) spouse, and your spouse better be the only person you have a romantic and sexual relationship with, because you must have both. Your spouse better also be your best friend, because everyone knows that the best married couples are people who’re ‘each others’ best friend’. You get to choose one person, and that person is your everything. The person you fall in love with will be the person you have sex with will be the person you get married to will be the person you buy a house with will be the person you have kids with, and you better do all those things and it better be in that order.
Capitalism says that your friendships are unimportant.
In order to understand my point about queerplatonic relationships, you need to understand how sincere I am when I say Fuck that.
My queerplatonic partner is my primary emotional relationship. We’ve known each other for over half our lives and we evolved into our QPR the way most do, from what I’ve seen; essentially we realized we were already in a QPR and found the term that described us. We made a conscious decision to commit and be partners to each other and to have as healthy a relationship as we can. We’re in sync 99% of the time and when we’re not, we talk things out. Our relationship is a lot of work because all relationships are work, and we happily devote ourselves to that. I’ve seen a recurrent theme that, somehow, QPRs are just so easy because… to be honest I don’t really understand why, I just know that that’s something I’ve seen a lot. I have a theory about people wanting a romantic relationship-lite, but that’s besides the point.
I’m a-spec, and I am (half-heartedly) seeking romantic/sexual partner(s). I’m not super into it, because of a variety of reasons, but mostly because it’s not an overriding concern. I already have the kind of emotionally supportive relationship I need to be a relatively well-adjusted person, I’m not exactly seeking another one. Do I want a romantic and/or sexual partner? Sure, I also would like a committed D/s relationship, since I’m talking about it. Do I need a romantic/sexual partner? Nope.
One of the reasons I’m not into looking is because the people I’ve talked to are not okay with the concept of coming in “second place” to what they see as an inferior relationship. Even the poly people I’ve talked to are disinterested once I’ve made it clear that my queerplatonic partner is going to be equally important to any romantic/sexual partner(s) that I have.
And that, that is one of the big reasons why I take issue with a-spec people saying that only a-spec people can have queerplatonic relationships.
There seems to be this weird misconception that non a-spec people don’t suffer the same kind of backlash from being in a QPR as an a-spec person? Which… that seems unlikely. I didn’t publicly identify as gray/demi-ace when my partner and I first defined our relationship as a QPR, and I still got the same rude, horrible questions then as I do now, and that’s only assuming that every discussion about my QPR involves me being a-spec, which they don’t. I’m actually way more open about being bisexual than I am about being a-spec.
When society devalues platonic relationships, everyone suffers. Because society devalues platonic relationships, I continually have to justify my relationship to people who think I’m settling or suffering or ‘not getting my needs met.’ Because society devalues platonic relationships, people are forced to make one person their only person, their everything. People are forced to constrain themselves to tiny support groups and networks and suffer the monetary, physical, and mental consequences that come from having limited support networks. Our society is chronically afraid of platonic physical affection and so sexualizes everything. There are huge swathes of the population who don’t know that not choosing a One True Love is even an option and so force themselves into boxes that don’t match what they feel.
In light of all of that, why the actual hell would I ever tell someone “You’re not allowed to call your relationship a queerplatonic one because you haven’t suffered exactly the same way I have”? Why would I ever deny someone else the solace I’ve found in my own queerplatonic relationship?
And there are all kinds of people who want to be all “Well women with really close friendships don’t have queerplatonic relationships because they’re just friendships!” And like, way to miss the point. You’re still devaluing platonic relationships! A friendship isn’t just anything. My partner and I didn’t travel to a mystical site and sacrifice an animal under a blood moon to level up into a queerplatonic relationship. We started texting a lot, got closer, both discovered that queerplatonic relationships exist, circled the definition for like six months and then finally said “Yep, we’re in a queerplatonic relationship.” And since then, we’ve put a lot of time and effort and commitment into our relationship and consider and call each other partner. I go over this stuff with my mom and sister until they understand and I talk things out with them and my partner and we both put a lot of fucking effort into our relationship.
My mom has two really good friends she’s known since they were all ten years old, and maybe one day she and they will decide to define their relationships as queerplatonic relationships. Maybe if men were allowed to have close platonic relationships (and yes I know this is edging in toxic masculinity which I’m not here for today), they’d be better able to emotionally weather the shit that happens in their lives and they wouldn’t be so terrified of physical comfort. Maybe if people were allowed to say that their close friendships are as important as their romantic/sexual relationships, there wouldn’t be all this bullshit friction over making one person be the receptacle for all their emotional, sexual, and romantic baggage.
Confining queerplatonic relationships to an aro-only phenomenon is needlessly cruel and also exclusivizes something that’s scarce enough as it is. And all this effort to make queerplatonic relationships and ‘attraction’ some extra other thing than ‘just’ friendship misses the point of something we should all be working on. The point of being in a queerplatonic relationship isn’t to have some special relationship other people don’t have access to, that’s somehow better than ‘just’ friendship. There’s a very “Well if anyone could say they’re in a queerplatonic relationship then everyone would be in queerplatonic relationships!” feel to it all, to which I say… Okay? Like? Why would it be a bad thing if queerplatonic relationships were really common? Because that seems to be the logical end to the aros-only train of thought. I think it’d be pretty damn cool if queerplatonic relationships were common. For one, I’d stop having to have a Socratic seminar every time I mention I’m in one.
Not to mention that it is breathtakingly hypocritical for a-spec people to be saying “You’re not X enough for Y” considering the bullshit we get for not being queer enough for the queer community. And you know, that’s really what this whole thing comes down to. It makes sense to want to be selfish about something that gives you comfort, makes sense to want to protect it. But denying non-a-specs from labeling their queerplatonic relationships as such is the actual spirit of cutting off your nose to spite your face.