Young Irish woman shares her experiences of finding love in queer friendship

"Whilst my romantic relationships have taught me about myself, my queer friendships have taught me just as much, if not more, about love."

This article is about queer friendship. The image shows the backs of two people in a field, embracing as they stand side by side.
Image: mododeolhar via Pexels

Sometimes it can be easy to fall into the belief that a monogamous romantic partnership is the only one in which romance can exist. As a queer person, I’ve continuously found romance in my friendships, especially in my queer friendships.

I don’t necessarily mean friendships with people who identify as queer, but friendships that offered me a space free from judgement, where we didn’t abide by the ‘rules’ but wrote our own together about what we could and couldn’t share, do together, and mean to each other.

As many countries strive for LGBTQ+ rights in the form of marriage equality, even though this is an incredibly important and hard-won victory, it’s important to remember that this is only one marker of progress for the queer community. For many LGBTQ+ people, especially asexual and aromantic people, romantic partnerships may not be the most important relationships in their lives. 

In Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity by José Esteban Muñoz, he suggests that the goal of queerness is not to strive for the same ideals as our current world, but to “dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.”

If being queer is about envisioning new realities and alternative possibilities outside of heteronormative expectations, what could it mean for friendships? How would our friendships look if we gave them as much importance as romantic and sexual partnerships? If we imbued them with attention and romance, the same way we do our romantic partners?

Friendships have been transformative in my process of understanding and navigating my identity. My friends were the first people I ever came out to. They were there for my first kiss with a woman and they were the ones who held me as I cried with panic and repressed shame before my first date with a woman. 

They were the ones who would sit up late with me as we went back and forth, sharing vulnerable stories of coming out or questioning our relationship to sexuality or gender. I went to my first-ever lesbian bar with my friends and talked through my dating life, my crushes, and my crises with them. They were there for every big moment, they shared my excitement, my worries, my pain and my dreams for the future.

In my friendships, I found a space to be myself that wasn’t available to me elsewhere in my culture or community, or even through dating, which felt more fear-inducing than freeing. When finding myself as a young queer felt like stumbling through the dark, finding my friends felt like stumbling into a patch of sunlight, where I could finally see again. 

I moved from Ireland to Madrid alone over a year ago. I didn’t know a single soul or speak much of the language. I was an inexperienced queer and I don’t know how I would have survived if it wasn’t for the friendships I made. We were free from our cultures, our upbringing and our fears and we created a space together to question our place in the world in a way that felt liberating.

I was recently out of a relationship and a year of love in friendship was the gift I needed. We went through everything together and made the city a home together, literally. We lived together, made each other meals, took care of each other when we were sick and helped each other pack and move. 

Beyond identity and sexuality, my friends and I have often shown love to each other in the way you would expect from a family member or a partner. I’ve held back a friend’s hair when they were sick, tucked them into bed, wiped their tears after a bad date, and woken them up for work if they slept in. I’ve cuddled with them on the sofa on a Sunday as we watched a show and laughed off the weekend’s mistakes. 

We write each other love letters and handwritten notes, surprise each other with cups of tea, plan dates and trips together and give each other gifts, tokens that say this reminded me of you. We can rely on each other for almost anything: to be there in a crisis, to help us muddle through a problem, and to accept each other as we are. 

Whilst romantic relationships have taught me about myself, my queer friendships have taught me just as much, if not more, about love. They’ve taught me the importance of showing up and making an intentional effort, how to communicate, and how to show and receive love. More than anything else, they’ve been healing by showing me that being loved doesn’t necessitate being anything other than my truest self. 

It’s important to remember that as queers, we get to write our own rules about friendship. Many LGBTQ+ people, especially those outcasted by their families or cultures, have sought refuge in friendship, creating a ‘found family’, connections that feel as though they are as strong as blood. 

The beauty of queer friendships is that we can make up the rules as we go along. There are endless possibilities for what they can be. How much space they take up in our lives, what they mean to us, how much love we pour into them and how we express that love is all down to us.

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