This article was originally published here.
I believe that queer friendships and intimacies are sheer resistance, which not only swallow the despair and pain that might be perpetrated on gender-nonconforming people by their families, but also recognise all the lies about love that have been sold to us. They undo the meanings of love and friendship that are founded on utility, and that appeal to examinations, justifications, and conditions. One cannot ignore the fact that queer intimacies offer a possibility to turn down normative structures of kinship and care. A state of abundance instead of a scarcity of love and trust to build supportive structures through chosen families, valuing friendships, and even polyamory. However, things can get pretty messy while one is in love and when queerness becomes an uppercaste/class narrative with boundaries. Love ensures that there remains no escaping where you come from, what you aspire to be, whom you love, who wants you, and who you are. It keeps one’s caste, class, religion, ethnicity, and so on, tightly tied to one, exhausts one’s own body, inflicts violence and shame which further lead to self-loathing and affects one’s mental health, as the struggle remains for power.
Romantic partnerships can be daunting if they refuse to embrace non-normative bodies which are seen as incapable of inspiring love. One often has to box in one’s gender identity and expression to date, love, and live with someone, and somehow the desire for the touch of another, however fleeting, also leads to constant negotiations between how one is perceived by one’s partner and one’s intimate perception of self. A person can often experience transnegativity, sexism, and anxieties around one’s caste and class background while navigating the dating field. Even within the queer community, dating app filters are being used to screen out queer individuals who are not effortlessly able to operate in the cisgender, upper-caste, English-speaking, non-disabled world.
The desire for intimacy might rob one of the intimacy that one shares with oneself, and thus, being with the beloved can leave one feeling even lonelier because of the continuing struggle for validation and comfort. Many times, feelings of dysphoria do not even allow one to enter the realm of intimate relations.
Despite everything, trans and gender non-conforming persons do not always choose singlehood unlike those who have the choice to embrace singlehood, and for whom solitude is bliss. Thriving in isolation is an everyday task for those who don’t find assurance in their ascribed gender or their own body, whose skin causes distance and fear, whose desirability never counts, who are not “legible” objects of desire. Because when it comes to the trans bodies, love loses all its power to stigmatisation, and those who choose to partner with trans persons are targeted for being attracted to “undesirable” bodies. Julia Serano in Outspoken: A decade of transgender activism & trans feminism writes that although it is a legitimate critique that cisgender men express their attraction towards transwomen by exoticising trans bodies and only viewing them as sexual objects and not fully respecting their identity as women, it is also true that the underlying premise of such accusations is that there must be something wrong with such men simply because they are attracted to transwomen. Society shames cisgender men who are attracted to transwomen by questioning their manhood and sexual orientation, and by dismissing them by labelling them “chasers” and “fetishists.”
The limited social life available to trans and gender non-conforming persons has always pushed one further into a burrow where one craves acceptance from parents, siblings, and relatives. Apart from emotional acceptance, one also tries to seek social and financial security, identity documents and inheritance rights and other socio-economic infrastructure such as housing, insurance, and medical facilities, amongst others, that are structurally denied to gender and sexual minorities. This exclusion is determined not only by one’s gender or sexual identity but also other social locations and that is why romantic love cannot rescue one from the isolation imposed by structural factors.
And when, behind closed doors, one dresses as one would like to authentically present one’s gender identity, and fucks oneself hard, to own oneself wholly and to never long for another’s touch, isn’t one experiencing freedom, pleasure but also violence, all at once? To a body that no longer has memory of a tender touch, self-love becomes another crisis.
One does not cry out to love or to seek partnership only to be in loveless negotiations, but rather to seek solace, presence, and belongingness. Whom does one rely on when love or romance do not necessarily accommodate care, mutual growth, and reciprocity for all? Friendships and platonic relationships have the potential to transgress normative intimacies that follow the tropes of heterosexual romance, monogamy, and familial hierarchy, in order to redefine love and intimate bonding without sexual and romantic desire as being essentials.
To forge friendships in such a way that they also acknowledge the power to care, to reciprocate outside of the social scripts of love, and build a space where we remember joy and together can reveal our vulnerabilities, may be daunting but can rescue us from the fear of abandonment.
Serano, J. (2016). Outspoken: A decade of transgender activism & trans feminism. Switch Hitter Press.
* This article is based on personal experience. The author recognises that each person’s experience may be different.
Cover Image: Unsplash