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What Is a Queerplatonic Relationship?

Allow the experts to explain - by Sophie Saint Thomas

QueerPlatonic Cosmo Dulci

Have you ever had a bestie who feels like more than a bestie, but not necessarily in a rom-com, friends-to-lovers kind of sense? You know, a friend you love so deeply you swear they’re more of a life partner than a best friend? It’s something lots of us feel on some level with our closest friends, à la the Sex and the City gals declaring themselves each other’s soulmates. But for folks in queerplatonic relationships, not-necessarily-sexual, not-traditionally-romantic life partnership with a deeply beloved friend is a daily reality—a life choice on par with moving in with or marrying a romantic partner, but one that exists outside the heteropatriarchal and mono-normative hierarchy that privileges monogamous, romantic partnership above all other relationships.

“Queerplatonic relationships challenge the idea that romance is the only way to be close to someone,” says sex education expert Mariah Freya, founder of Beducated. “They show that non-romantic connections are just as valid and important.”

As the “queer” in “queerplatonic” suggests, this relationship dynamic evolved and primarily exists within the LGBTQIA+ community, where queerplatonic relationships can exist between and among partners of any gender or sexual orientation. If you’re in a queerplatonic ’ship, you may live together, go on dates, and even help each other out with other intimate gestures that folks usually associate with romantic partners rather than friends, from household tasks like taking out the trash to life admin like doing taxes.

“They support me emotionally and have even helped me financially when I’ve needed it, but they’re my chosen family above all,” says sex educator Carly S of their own queerplatonic partners.

Queerplatonic relationships are different from regular friendships because of the “sheer level of intimacy,” says Carly, who suggests thinking of queerplatonic relationships as more couture than off-the-rack. “You get to build your own relationships however you want as an adult, and it’s really freeing when you find other people who are down to create intimate relationships that aren’t necessarily built on romance.”

Whether you’re in a queerplatonic relationship, think you might want to be, or just came here to learn, here’s everything you need to know about queerplatonic relationships, from what they are to who can be in one to how to have a healthy queerplatonic partnership.

What Is a Queerplatonic Relationship?

“A queerplatonic relationship is a close, not inherently sexual or romantic relationship that is beyond what most would consider to be a friendship,” Freya says. Queerplatonic relationships can often be the bedrock of chosen family. Of course, so can regular friendships, but in queerplatonic relationships, your favorite person really, truly, feels like a love of your life—no sex required. “Queerplatonic relationships are chosen family and life partners that you’re not having sex with, but you share other intimate parts of your life with that you wouldn’t share with your standard friend,” Carly says.

What Are the Origins of Queerplatonic Relationships?

The times are (thankfully) changing, yes. But historically, queer people have often had to create their own family structures due to both rejection from blood relatives and the illegality/inability to create “traditional families” by way of marriage and reproduction that existed within much of modern western society until far too recently. Hence the largely queer-coded concept of “chosen family.”

"Queerplatonic relationships have always existed. As with most relationship labels, this type of relationship has existed long before the term was coined," says Dulcinea Alex Pitagora, PhD, an NYC-based psychotherapist and sex therapist. "These types of relationships most likely were forged by those who recognized the value in leaning into a close, mutually satisfying and beneficial relationship, particularly before relationships outside of heteronormative socialization became stigmatized."

And speaking of the LGBTQIA+ origins of all things queerplatonic, let’s talk about asexuality for a moment, shall we? As you may recall, the "A" in LGBTQIA+ stands for "asexual," which refers to someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction. (Remember, asexuality is a spectrum.) While you don't need to be asexual to enjoy queerplatonic relationships—and we'll get to that—we can thank ace folks for blessing us with the term “queerplatonic.”

"In the early 2010s, folks in the asexual and aromantic communities were trying to put a name to their deep emotional connections that weren't quite friendships or romances,” says Freya. “That’s when they coined the term “queerplatonic.”

Some experts also say that these relationships can be traced back to “Boston marriages,” aka those historical relationships in which two women decide to live as life partners rather than enter traditional marriages with men.

“Queerplatonic relationships have roots in the concept of ‘Romantic Friendship,’ coined in the 19th century to describe emotionally intense, ‘non-sexual’ friendships, often between same-sex individuals, primarily women,” Freya says. “These friendships offered companionship and support in societies where women had limited freedoms, leading to an era of passionate but non-sexual love.”

What Does a Queerplatonic Relationship Look Like?

Remember, queerplatonic relationships are couture, not off-the-rack, meaning they’re a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure situation—and that’s the beauty of it.

“Queering relationships means questioning societal standards and creating a structure that works for you,” Freya says. “In queerplatonic partnerships, some partners sleep in the same bed, while others live separately. Some may decide to have kids together or blend their families, while others might choose not to. The possibilities are endless.”

Which is to say that queerplatonic relationships can look like emotionally charged friendships, roommates, life partners, or all of the above. It just depends on the people involved.

“You’d have to ask the people involved in the relationship how they define what it means to them to be queerplatonic, because relationship labels can vary widely from one person to the next,” says Pitagora. “In general, a queerplatonic relationship is one that, at a baseline, is transgressing conventional relationship norms, made inherent by the inclusion of ‘queer’ in the word.”

Most queerplatonic relationships do not involve sex. However, they do have emotional intimacy and intense love. While they don’t tend to be sexual (although they can be, more on that to come), they can absolutely feel romantic. Queerplatonic relationships offer the same—if not even more intense—support and closeness that more traditional romantic partnerships do. And, unlike regular friendships between straight people (although, honestly, many straight women reading this may identify with them), queerplatonic relationships form a queer chosen family.

“In truth, my queerplatonic relationships sometimes include romance—which I think is a key part of them!” says sex educator Portia Brown. “There is still some blurring of the lines and disrupting the status quo in some of these connections. While I am monogamous—and, as a rule, I don’t like to have sexual connections in my platonic friendships—I value my queerplatonic relationships because they allow a closeness I don’t always have in friendships with hetero friends.”

Can Queerplatonic Relationships Be Confusing?

In queer culture, there's this thing where you can become friends with your ex, then start hooking up again, then, like, get a matching tattoo, then break up...and not even know how to define it. There's also a joke, especially among queer women and non-binary folks, where you don't know if you’re dear friends or something more. Given that, queerplatonic relationships may sound confusing, but they set themselves apart from this grey area by being important relationships all on their own. The way to avoid confusion or hurt feelings is, of course, communication.

“Any relationship can be confusing due to assumptions, projections, and expectations, and I would say that happens more often in more normative relationship structures than in queerplatonic relationships, since partners are more likely to talk things through transparently in the latter to avoid confusion,” Pitagora says. “Even in the most well-communicated queerplatonic relationship, however, people can fall prey to internalized heteronormativity rising to the surface, which can be something that creates confusion."

Who Can Have a Queerplatonic Relationship?

It’s more than okay if you’re straight and reading this thinking, “Damn, this sounds exactly like me and my best friend.” However, queerplatonic relationships are—by definition—queer. (I’m not one to tell you that you’re not straight; but if this sounds like you, then, hey, maybe think about it!)

Asexuality plays a crucial role in the history of the term queerplatonic, but this relationship dynamic isn’t just for asexuals. Another relationship structure that places a lot of value on this type of relationship is relationship anarchy, which holds all partnerships equal and essential, not just those that involve orgasms.

“While some relationship anarchists will gravitate organically toward queerplatonic relationships, others will not,” says Pitagora. “There is, however, a greater likelihood that relationship anarchists will find themselves in a queerplatonic relationship since they are more open to non-traditional relationship structures.”

And you don’t need to identify as non-monogamous to have a queerplatonic relationship; as Brown notes, they can be the most important relationships for monogamous queer people, too. Remember, these relationships can continue to affirm queerness, which can be exceptionally useful for the monogamous.

“I am a bisexual woman in a beautiful relationship with someone who happens to be a cis man,” says Brown. “While my relationship status doesn’t make me any less queer, it does mean I am not often perceived by other people as queer. My queerplatonic relationships are a place where my queerness is seen and celebrated, which is really important for me.”

Queerplatonic relationships are also super valuable in the sex work community, in which friends can end up having sex.

“I’m not only a queer person but a sex worker, so my relationships—especially with other queer sex workers—can look strange to outsiders,” Carly explains. “Especially because they can also have a sexual component to them that can exclusively fall under the sex work umbrella. Just because I’ve slept with someone for work doesn’t mean that we’re dating or would have sex in our private lives. I have a very intimate relationship with a friend who I say is a platonic friend because, in our personal lives, we do not sleep together, but we’ve made porn together and have gone to play parties and have had sex in the same room casually, which can be very strange to outside people looking in.”

Can You Hook Up in Queerplatonic Relationships?

Technically, you can do whatever you want in your queerplatonic relationship. Maybe there are goodnight kisses or, as Carly shares, sex for unique reasons.

“Even though these relationships are platonic, physical affection like hand-holding, kissing, and sometimes even sex can still happen,” Freya says.

Can Queerplatonic Relationships Prevent Unhealthy Romantic Partnerships?

Having the emotional support of a queerplatonic relationship can, at times, prevent one from jumping into an unhealthy romantic or sexual relationship out of loneliness.

“They know me best, so they can help me realize red flags and be more honest and blunt with me than a standard friend would,” Carly says of their queerplatonic relationships.

However, the experts caution that even those in seemingly enlightened queerplatonics can still, unfortunately, enter other unhealthy partnerships.

“While it can be helpful to have a queerplatonic partner to process what’s going on in other partnerships, it’s not always available or helpful—it is not a given that a queerplatonic partner will be able to check blind spots and advise their partner on boundaries for other relationships,” Pitagora says. “Some folks in queerplatonic relationships might prioritize non-sexual and/or non-romantic relationships and only engage in casual sexual relationships or hookups, and in that way have the opportunity to avoid unhealthy ongoing sexual partnerships.”

But having extra support, honesty, and communication is most often going to be something healthy that can rub off on your relationships that are inherently sexual. “I would say we all help each other navigate romantic highs and lows,” Brown says.

What Do People Misunderstand About Queerplatonic Relationships?

As with all things queer, the outside world can get a lot of things wrong about the queerplatonic lifestyle. When asked what people misunderstand about her queerplatonic relationships, Brown shares: “The most obvious answer is the assumption that we are all hooking up or that we have. That is the case for some, and in no way do I think this invalidates the friendship, but it’s not true for everyone.”

Unfortunately, the intimacy of queerplatonic relationships can be intimidating for other friends or even partners. “I had a girlfriend who refused to accept that my friendship was platonic, but if that’s how my friend and I define our relationship, then that’s how it is,” Carly says.

If you're dating someone who has queerplatonic relationships, then count yourself lucky to have a partner who is so cared for. Rather than give into jealousy, remind yourself that this network of support nurtures your relationship, too.

How Can You Nurture a Queerplatonic Relationship?

I can’t stress enough that queerplatonic relationships can feel like the love of your life—and yeah, they actually can be. While this doesn’t mean that you can’t also enjoy romantic relationships, it does mean that these partnerships require extra love, time, support, and communication compared to regular friendships. While these relationships can ebb and flow with time (and, yes, even end), you have a better chance of maintaining them if you practice active communication.

“Like any committed relationship, healthy queerplatonic partnerships require open communication and setting boundaries,” Freya says. “It’s all about actively working on the relationship together.” To properly communicate, you need to understand how you feel. It’s helpful to check in with yourself before approaching your queerplatonic partner. And while letting shit go is an art, if something truly hurts or confuses you, approach your partner and talk it out rather than letting it fester into resentment.

As we’ve learned by now, queerplatonic relationships can affect other partnerships; it’s helpful to check in with one another when you get a new friend or sexual partner.

In Conclusion…

Queerplatonic relationships provide true love, intimacy, support, and validation.

“For me, queerplatonic relationships are where my queerness is simultaneously centered and exists as a nonfactor,” Brown says. “I love that I am fully seen and that even if I wasn’t queer, my friends would love and adore me just the same.”

By treating these relationships with the respect and attention that romantic partnership traditionally demands through active communication, empathy, and listening, you can enjoy some of the most fulfilling and long-lasting relationships of a lifetime.


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