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On Navigating Queer Relationships: Reflections From A Support Group

While some of us struggle to fit in with largely heteronormative groups at work and elsewhere, some of us might also be struggling with fitting into groups in the queer community.

A few months ago, we, at the Restory Project, with the support of Gaysi Family had organised a support group meeting in Bengaluru for queer people to discuss their relationships and how they navigate it. We wanted to share some themes that had emerged during the course of our discussion:

On coming out – Some of us might feel guilty for not coming out to our loved ones “sooner”. Why do we feel like we owe all our loved ones information about our personal lives? “Coming out” can look different for different people, and some of us might choose to never do so publicly. By addressing our feelings of guilt and shame, stating and reinforcing boundaries, questioning our own long-held ideas about “coming out”, we can start moving towards accepting and embracing that choice.

Fitting in – While some of us struggle to fit in with largely heteronormative groups at work and elsewhere, some of us might also be struggling with fitting into groups in the queer community. We might feel like we are expected to live up to the “image” of queerness, or to fit into a box once again. Acknowledging how oppressive systems such as caste and class play a role in this, speaking more openly about the same, gathering support and moving towards what feels authentic to us, are some ways we can try to break free from this “ideal queer” image.

Hypocrisy and “the queer bubble” – As a community, we have work to do when it comes to our responses to minor infractions as well as serious allegations of abuse. We have to make space for nuance as we strive for justice. We might have to reflect on whether we believe that we’re inherently less “problematic” than other groups due to our marginalisation. Are we ignoring those within the community whose behaviour might be harmful/hurtful? How can we respond to those people in a way that encourages accountability, reflection, and growth, instead?

Uneasy compromises – In certain situations in our daily lives, we might have to make choices that prioritise our safety and well-being, which could be judged harshly by those around us, such as: not correcting homophobic relatives’ comments out of fear of losing shelter. Managing our relationships in difficult situations while staying true to ourselves will involve making some difficult decisions. It is important to make peace with them by not labelling ourselves negatively, giving ourselves time to learn and grow, and for factors around us to change with time.

The burden of representation – As members of the community, we sometimes feel pressure to be the most informed person around, to educate those around us, and never make mistakes. This can cause feelings of excessive guilt, affecting our self-image and self-esteem, and stifling our self-expression. Being present, open to experiences and being more compassionate to ourselves, and mindful of our needs, could help us in putting down the baggage that we may feel obliged to carry.

Navigating romantic relationships – We might find ourselves unconsciously viewing our relationships through heteronormative and compulsorily-monogamous lenses, or expect ourselves to be non-monogamous or in visibly queer relationships to validate our romantic/sexual orientations. We could also be judging ourselves or others for not meeting “relationship milestones” dictated by social norms. Trying to reflect on and working towards what might actually be healthy for our relationships specifically could be more helpful for us. Balancing our needs for intimacy and safety (from threats from the outside world), is also worth paying attention to.

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