You know what really grates on me? When adults see a little boy and girl playing together and try to style them as boyfriend and girlfriend. It speaks to an anxiety around trying to shepherd people into accepted roles and the “proper” ways of relating. And, as one gets older, there’s a whole lot of pressure to relate to friends of the opposite gender (I dislike that term so much: there aren’t just two genders, and the binary ones aren’t opposed) as though they are partners waiting to happen. It’s gotten me thinking about the valuation of friendship and homophobia.
Because there are some really homophobic and otherwise harmful dynamics going on here. It’s pretty rich to try and slot small children into modes of sexual development that they aren’t themselves expressing to one. It’s very sad that young men and young women aren’t allowed to be friends, but must fit into predefined narratives of coyness and aggression at the expense of connection. It’s something I’ve been conscious of forever but still find operating within myself; this stuff is damaging. Oh, and people who don’t have a binary gender? You’re on your own, apparently.
Why can’t friendships be important, too? Why is fitting into ideas of what kinds of relationships ought to be had so important that something as special as friendship has to be sacrificed?
Then there are those times when close platonic relationships between people of the same gender are styled as romantic or sexual as a way of policing them. Because really close friendships are supposed to be weird; intimacy must be saved for a romantic/sexual partner, right? And the weapon of choice in shaming people in those friendships is calling them queer, as though those friendships actually being queer romantic/sexual relationships would be something of which to be ashamed. The example that springs immediately to mind is the friendship between Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey. (Might I recommend this piece at Bitch Magazine by JDTress over on the subject?) The reason for those persistent “secret lesbian” rumours is a mix of homophobia, jealousy, spite and lack of understanding that yes, it is quite possible to have a special and meaningful relationship without a romantic or sexual component.
I just don’t get what the big deal is, perhaps because I stay far away from the apparently prevalent idea that women always have superficial, catty, gossipy friendships. I have close friends of a mix of genders. They are important to me. Some of the most influential, beautiful and important relationships of my life have been friendships. I am so grateful for my friends, and I’d like my friendships to be respected for what they are.
There’s nothing wrong or weird about being queer, and there’s nothing wrong or weird about having meaningful friendships. Who people are, and the kinds of relationships – friendly or otherwise – in which we engage, are just fine.
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