By Olivia Comstock
Every part of our lives is stereotyped and put into boxes – our class, our education, our gender, our sexuality, and our love. This is frustrating and wrong because love should be the most free, open, and genuine part of life. Instead, it is limited by strict normalized gender roles and heteronormativity. These place implied expectations and create assumptions based on one’s role as the man or the woman in the relationship. Because of this, the possibilities of what love can be are limited. Openness, comfort, and self-love on the individual level also create these characteristics in a relationship. However, these traits are stifled by what is considered “normal” and people’s attempts to conform to it. There is potential to expand the possibilities of how people love through looking at the queer community and through a vision of a post-heterosexual world. I acknowledge that this is a very broad topic. I am only going to do a brief survey of how I think queerness could help us move beyond the boundaries and institutions in place today, but I am aware of the infiniteness of this topic.
Queer love has the potential to reinvent the institution love. I believe this because people who identify as LGBTQA+ have already stepped outside of the norms of society, they are able to be more open and accepting when approaching love. Tiq and Kim Milan are queer, married, activists who gave a Ted Talk called “A queer vision of love and marriage.” Tiq is a transgender man and Kim identifies as a queer cis woman. Their talk is about how “love is a tool for revolutionary change” for all people. They discuss their own identities, how they met, and how their queerness affects their love. Because their identifies as trans and queer are excluded and marginalized, Tiq and Kim see it as an opportunity to “create new ways of existing” and to “set each other free.” Overall, Kim says, “the gift of queerness is options.” This means that traditional concerns, such as if a woman will take her husband’s last name, are not implicit assumptions, instead they are opportunities for communication and change. There are no expectations of traditional hetero relationships. “We are marginalized because of our identities, but it also emboldens us to be the people that we are…it is because of this that we are able to be hopeful, open, receptive, and shape-shifting.” The queer community is a group of people who are being as genuine in their character and body as possible while living in a world where doing so means potential violence and discrimination. This ultimate fearlessness on the fringe allows freedom in all areas of their life and love. If you approach someone without making any assumptions about them – their gender, body, preferences, sexuality, and/or race – then people are able to create those aspects fully for themselves. It is about reinventing institutions of all kinds to include multiplicity.
Eventually we could live in a post-heterosexual world. Jeanette Winterson, a writer, is in a partnership with Susie Orbach, who is also a writer. Winterson says that, “Susie calls herself post-heterosexual. I like that description because I like the idea of people being fluid in their sexuality. I do not for instance consider myself a lesbian. I want to be beyond those descriptive constraints…as if to say, if only we could get beyond the constraints of gender, we might be more sexually fulfilled.” Because the male and female binary are situated as opposites within our language, each is defined by each other and by what they are not. However, this viewpoint is largely cultural, and we perform the role of our gender because that is what is expected of us. However, this performance becomes a core part of our identity, shaping the rest of our consciousness. Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, in an essay from the book Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed, describe a post-heterosexual world. “In this imagined world, man does not exist, nor woman either, hence the concepts of heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality are literally unthinkable. The ‘sex’ of the person you have sex with is not only irrelevant in terms of social meaning and identity; it is also unspecifiable, because ‘sex-as-gender’ is no longer a meaningful concept.”
Expanding on the rejection of “sex as gender,” this season of the podcast The Heart, is about femininity in males who identify as straight, gay, or non-binary. These men have stereotypically feminine characteristics, such as emotionality or certain girlish ways of moving their body. In the second episode, titled “Ultraslut,” of the series, one of the non-binary men repeats the mantra “queer, fem, fag heaven.” Trying to define genders, sexualities, institutions, or how people love makes one realize how arbitrary these boundaries are. Instead, everyone exists in a state of in-between. Over all, queer love and a post-heterosexual world are simply about openness. This is openness to be completely yourself, including mixing, matching, or rejecting traditionally feminine and masculine characteristics. It is also openness to allow other people to be themselves, and openness in your interactions with all people.
In my own life, I have experienced this openness of gender, sexuality, and love. As a raging feminist and radical liberal since the beginning of high school, I have always assumed romantic partnership should include this complete fluidity, even though that is not the case in most heterosexual relationships. This has made me reconsider my own identity because I do not want to be put into the box of straight heterosexual girl if that entails closed, uncommunicative partnerships. I do not want to be in any box. I want to be beyond boxes. I want to love deeply and fully with my whole self no matter what box the other person is categorized into. Love is so much more important than boxes. My current partner is pansexual, queer, and effeminate. By accepting and loving those parts of him, and being open to however he chooses to express his identity, our relationship is laid on a foundation of openness, communication, and understanding. This informs every interaction we have. Our communication is better, our sex is better, and our love is better. The speaker in The Heart got it right, I am living in a little bubble of “Queer, fem, fag heaven.” If you are going on dates, have a partner, a boyfriend, or girlfriend, examine the assumptions hidden within your ideas about love, relationships, and identity. Try to challenge these norms in order to expand, grow, and queer your love.