Spilling More ☕️: 3 Things I Learnt About Queer Love ❤️️
My brother got married last weekend 🎉. And it was beautiful, joyous and celebratory. All the words that should be associated with love. However, love can feel pretty elusive if you’re queer and a person of colour, especially when you take into account homophobia and racism. You don’t hear much about love, sex and intimacy in South Asian cultures, let alone if you’re also queer so navigating affairs of the heart (and body) are too often learnt ‘on the job’.
Learning on the job isn’t all bad; it forces you to be present and live in the moment to experience connection, but I would have benefitted from having a queer elder whisper wise words and remind me that I am enough along the way. I’ve definitely loved ❤️️ and I’ve learnt along the way. My biggest fear was that no-one would love me. In my mind, I wasn’t a ‘good Indian boy’ and I certainly wasn’t a gym fit, smooth skinned White gay man that I saw on magazine covers. Because I was different, I placed extraordinary pressure on myself to be perfect, including in love.
This is beyond uncomfortable to write, which means it has to be worth it if it helps another queer person. So here you have it, the good, the bad and the ugly 😭from the 3 significant relationships I’ve had so far – and how to avoid my mistakes!
#1 – The One Who Loved Me Too Much
Hands down, this guy was uh-may-zing. He treated me like a prince and cared for me in a way I was hungry for. Although he loved me, it was both gorgeous and problematic. We had some great times, but I was just as much a distraction for him from the things he was unhappy about as he was for me. I was his silver bullet which came with fuckloads of pressure to be perfect (this is a theme). Over time, I began to feel suffocated by this and desperate to find a way to love him back. But I couldn’t, as at that point I really didn’t love myself. Like a Katy Perry song, I was hot and then cold, in and out because being loved was fucking addictive. Somehow, despite all of this, we’ve remained friends. He is one of the good ones, who is happy in his new relationship. I can’t explain how beautiful a person he is.
The ☕: Aside from loving yourself (yes Ru Paul, we hear you!), my focus on wanting to be a perfect boyfriend and maintain what I had stifled my ability to communicate openly with him and speak my truth. I also think in Indian culture, you’re expected to work at your relationships – so I internalised our problems as ‘work’ I had to do rather than asking myself am I happy, are we making each other truly happy? Communicate, communicate, communicate.
#2 – The One Who Failed To Meet My Expectations
Round 2. I’d met someone who had fallen in love with me again. I thought I’d fluked it. I'd since dated more after my last relationship, so felt confident about what I was looking for. The problem was that this confidence manifested itself as a checklist of prerequisites that I needed in a man. Fundamentally, he and I weren’t compatible – and I didn’t handle this situation with grace, instead becoming frustrated and cold that he didn’t live up to the ideals I had in my mind. These ideals were informed by mainstream (aka White) gayness – I wanted to find someone so perfect that it would prove that being gay wasn’t wrong or bad to my family, and someone so amazing that would make me feel like I belonged on the (gay) scene. I was too busy looking to satisfy others than myself. You can see why it ended.
The ☕: Do NOT create that shopping list. You are not going to pick up groceries from a Southall supermarket. I think it’s common for most people to idealise relationships, but as an ethnic minority we have a double whammy, as we’re also taught from a young age that we have to be exceptional in order to be seen and recognised. Looking back, this quest for the perfect partner ran deep on two counts: to move closer to heteronormativity and secondly, if I wanted to be seen as exceptional, I needed to have an exceptional boyfriend who would elevate my status within the gay community. Fuck that shopping list – date, meet different people and discover what’s truly important to you.
#3 – The One Who Was Perfect (Or So I Thought)
Somehow, I met him. Yup, Checklist Guy – he ticked every box. Handsome, creative, French (ah oui monsieur) and on paper, complementary to me in every way – I liked structure, he was more chaotic. Plus, he had a brilliant smile (teeth and hands are my thing for anyone who is interested). Even our chemistry was electric – our first date was magical and I didn’t want the date to end. We kissed into the early hours of the night and it was like a Bollywood film. I’d found Prince Charming and my heart said kuch kuch hota hai – I was falling in love. Then someone pulled the rug out from under me; after the emotions settled, I realised we didn’t have quite as much in common as I thought. But it was hard to take off my rose-tinted spectacles because in my mind, I’d found perfection. As we began to drift, I turned the failure of the relationship onto myself – it was all my fault. He was right, I was wrong. So, I worked even harder to keep the relationship going, which did not have the desired effect. Even though I knew deep down he wasn’t right for me, he represented all the things I’ve mentioned above. We eventually split, but the wounds were deep as it made me question not only what I wanted, but who I was too.
The ☕: Trust those instincts! Even in the early days, I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I was intoxicated. I ignored the red flags and refused to acknowledge what was really happening but my inner voice was talking to me. Most importantly, let go of this concept of perfection as soon as you can – it will give you a head start in meeting the love(s) of your life and having a fucking great time (literally and figuratively) along the way.
And breathe. I can’t believe I finished writing this. I don’t have anything witty or deep to say, except that as queer people of colour, we are worthy of unconditional love – and it doesn’t have to the look like the way we’re led to believe it should.