Queerplatonic relationships: the lesser known relationships

I remember that some weeks ago was Valentine’s Day weekend. Preceding Valentine’s Day weekend was a frenzy of commercialized romance. Chocolate shops decked out in shiny crimson red ribbons and heart-shaped boxes of sweets, jewelry stores displaying their finest, grocery stores selling bouquets of roses and teddy bears–all anticipating the day of love and dating.

I happen to have a best friend who is male. I’ll call him J. We do a lot of things together and sometimes we are mistaken for a romantic couple. Naturally, in the days before Valentine’s Day, I got more of these questions (which I must deal with all year round): “Will you and J go out on a date on Valentine’s Day?” “Are you going to reveal your feelings for him?” “Are you in a relationship with J?” I try to answer these questions as clearly and concisely as I can, but sometimes people aren’t able to grasp the ideas expressed in my answers. Usually I’m not able to really elaborate on my answers when I talk to them in person. So here I am.

J and I recently entered a platonic life partnership, which (for us, as this is not always the case with every platonic life partnership out there) is also a queerplatonic relationship. A platonic life partnership is a nonromantic relationship that is much closer than the average best friendship. A lot of platonic partnerships function as if they’re romantic relationships–platonic life partners may live together, except the difference is that the people involved in a platonic partnership aren’t attracted to each other. J and I aren’t able to live with each other, but we do live close to each other. We’re almost always together, we do a lot of things with each other, and there is an extreme amount of hugging (but never kissing) involved, which gives the impression that we’re dating. Now, a queerplatonic relationship is a very flexible kind of relationship. It can seem like the average best friendship or it can seem like a platonic life partnership–commitment, physical intimacy, and emotion varies from one queerplatonic relationship to another. A person in a queerplatonic relationship is called a zucchini (apparently it originated from an inside joke in the aromantic/asexual community to describe the kinds of relationships society didn’t have a term for, but correct me if I’m wrong). You, however, can use a different word. We don’t call each other our zucchinis–we call each other partners in crime. Don’t worry; we’re not actually criminals.

Because the level of commitment, intimacy, and number of people involved is not a given here, I think that queerplatonic relationships don’t necessarily describe how you’re supposed to act when you’re in one, but rather the feelings. A lot of people in queerplatonic relationships report that they don’t feel the same way with their zucchini(s) as they do with their other friends, something I agree with–I don’t feel the same way around J as I do with romantic interests or friends.

These kinds of relationships are virtually unheard of in society. They’re more common in the aromantic/asexual community, and many of the terms pertaining to these relationships were coined by the aromantic/asexual community, but it’s rarer for us since J and I are neither aromantic nor asexual. J is straight. I am bi-lithromantic heterosexual. (I’m on the aromantic spectrum but still feel attraction. Do look up these terms). When I try to explain to people the state of our relationship, they either:

  • accept it
  • don’t really understand anything but do some research on it
  • dismiss it and say that we’re denying our own feelings–cue “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” from Hercules

I haven’t really encountered people who clearly have an extreme hate of gays/lesbians, bisexuals, or transgenders. Most of the people I meet are actually quite supportive of the LGBT community and champion same-sex marriage and all that, and a few of them are LGBTs themselves. After all, they say, you can’t help whom you love. Love wins. Screw societal norms!

But here’s the thing: some of these people I meet, including LGBTs, have the last reaction I listed above. They dismiss the kind of relationship I have with J and say we’re denying everything. There’s that something more, they say; surely there must be an inkling of romance between those two! When are they ever going to get together?

It’s constantly assumed, even by many LGBTs, that if you’re with someone and you’re doing things that romantic couples usually do, you’re automatically in a romantic relationship. This common assumption is called amatonormativity–it’s a societal norm, which many aromantics and asexuals must face. Let me tell you, you have no idea how much I’ve stressed out over the question of romance between us. If we do this romantic-couple thing, are we a romantic couple if we enjoy doing it? I constantly thought. At the same time, I wanted to prove the others wrong, the people who wanted their OTP ship to become canon. I didn’t want a romantic relationship. I’ve always believed a romantic relationship is useless if the feelings are not mutual, let alone even present. There is no point in trying to nurture and maintain something that is not there to begin with. But apparently J and I were too close for society to accept as platonic.

To the dismissive LGBTs: I’m sure that several of you, if not all, have experienced dismissal of your identities yourselves. Maybe you’ve been frustrated over trying in vain to fit in society’s mold. Maybe your coming-out moments were explained away by relatives and friends. “It’s just a phase. You’ll get over it.” Or worse, someone signed you up to be “counseled” out of your orientation, leaving you wondering why no one will accept you for who you are and how you feel.

It’s a bit like how J and I feel whenever we’re not taken seriously. So many people on the asexual-aromantic spectrum (yes, there’s a spectrum–go look it up) and people choosing nonromantic relationships have expressed to me similar experiences as well. I see you out on the streets saying everyone’s choices and feelings are valid. So why aren’t you doing the same for people who chose queerplatonic relationships and/or platonic partnerships?

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia has come to an end. I understand that there’s plenty of work to do when it comes to justice for LGBTs. But frankly, there’s a lack of representation when it comes to the other lifestyles, other orientations, other relationships, the other letters in LGBTQIA+. Surely these are worth supporting as well.

And finally, to all aspiring matchmakers:

We are not your clients.

This post appeared first on The Yellow Duck as a guest post. Title and a few words have been changed.

Note as of 12/29/16: At the time this post was written, I used the acronym LGBTQIA+ to refer to the non-straight community. Today I use a new acronym I have invented instead, GRASOM (Gender, Romantic, and Sexual Orientation Minorities), for more inclusivity and ease of pronunciation.