My first - longest (6.5 years) - relationship was ending right when DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was repealed by the U.S Supreme Court in late June 2013. This decision opened the door for same-sex couples to legally take part in the marriage institution - the end-goal of every relationship, the criteria by which every relationship is publicly recognized and acknowledged as “successful.” That is, every relationship that is built on the model we are all raised up on - through Disney movies, TV commercials, and practically every love song ever written - the heteronormative model.
This model, in its purest form, requires a man and a woman to follow certain stages (ie: court, date, move in together, get a dog, get married, buy a house, have kids… until one of the partners passes away) and to take on certain roles within the relationship (ie: I will bring the money, you will cook and take care of the kids, etc.) Do you know many relationships that fit in this model in its pure form? Clearly, times have changed and the shape of this model is slowly shifting. But there is one element relating to this model that is still inherent in the greater part of our culture, and that is the supremacy of this model over any other type of relationship. This model is so prevalent and common in every facet of our culture, that any different form of relationship is most likely to be frowned upon and ridiculed, if not completely condemned and considered impossible and irresponsible.
And yet, up until June 26, 2013, queer people didn’t even have the option of fully participating in the heteronormative model. First off, we challenged the gender binary, and had to re-define gender roles within relationships; second, our “relationship escalator” (the mandated progression of a relationship) was inherently different for us: we were meeting in different ways, creating different types of household and kinship structures, and taking care of others in our communities rather than our offsprings. And finally (and perhaps as a result of the above,) we explored non-monogamy in different forms. Oh, the horror we spread amongst the “normal” people!
But all that is changing. The powerful leaders of the LGBTQ civil rights movement of the past few decades have decided that our most pressing and important issue is to be accepted as equal partners under the eyes of the law, and have greatly succeeded in that fight. The benefits that are results of these accomplishments are great and meaningful: from immigration, to tax benefits to visiting rights and more - and should not be taken lightly. And yet, this fight has more than just practical implications. How many times have you been asked since then, “so, when are you guys getting married?” This question, welcoming us into the sacred circle of the relationships we’re all brought up imagining for ourselves, is a double-edged sword. While opening the door for us to step into this fantastic world, it also closes the door behind us that behind it existed multiple other forms of relationships, and strengthens their portrayal as irrelevant, irresponsible, and shameful.
But fact of matter is, we know alternatives exist, and many of us are curious about them. Our community shows us that these other options are imaginable, and parts of our community still support exploring these. A main problem we have though, since the heteronormative model reigns the hierarchy of acceptable relationship structures, is that resources and role models telling us what other options actually exist for us, how to practice these successfully, what tools and practices we can use, are often discussed in private rooms or random personal blogs, and so few common and accessible resources exist and are shared widely.
My personal relationship ended in summer 2013 for this exact reason. We were struggling to find an alternative structure for our relationship in which we will both still feel safe, loved and cared for within an uncharted terrain we went exploring. I remember searching online and in libraries for resources that offer insights and tools on how to bridge the gaps we had between us at that point, but only few surfaced, and none, as it turned out, were helpful enough. I’ve been processing this breakup for long months after, and I realized through conversations with friends and mentors that this is a shared problem we face as queer people. Inspired by a new relationship in spring 2014 (that from the get-go was far away from the heteronormative structure,) I started searching and collecting resources and organizing them in an online archive.
The Queer Relationships Project is an online resources archive that aims to gather links and references to resources that deal with relationships that don’t follow the heteronormative model: articles, blogs, films, books, and other works of art. The other element of the project is an oral history project, in which people in queer relationships will tell their story, serving as role models and live examples for anyone who is curious how do other relationships can work. Our goal is to make models, theories, and practices easily accessible and visible. In a culture where the dominant heteronormative model still reigns supreme in mainstream politics and gains more hold in the LGBTQ community, this project has a strong political goal: we want this project to serve as a tool for the under-represented parts of our community, to keep these alternative and radical relationships and their structures visible, known and accessible, and to present them as viable and relevant. I would like to invite you to go through our resources, contribute your own, and if you feel passionate about the topic - join our collective. Most of all, I hope this will make conversations about our relationships become more common and of every-day nature, and by doing so - make our relationships stronger and happier.
The Queer Relationships Project is an online resources archive and oral history project. Learn more at www.queerrelationships.org, and join the discussion on our Facebook group.
Our upcoming presentations are at the Bureau of General Services - Queer Division in New York on July 15th, and at The Common House in London, on July 30th, 2015.
Disco is a local activist and community organizer in the queer and Radical Faeries communities in New York City. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disco is a local activist and community organizer in the queer and Radical Faeries communities in New York City. Contact Disco at email@example.com
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