What Queer Love Looks Like in a ‘Straight’ Relationship

By Blair Imani

There was a war I had to participate in to declare who I was. The risks of being a woman, black, Muslim, and queer felt grave, and I still deal with the consequences on the internet and in the material world.

People say things that dismiss my worthiness as a Muslim woman because of my queerness. But I know that this is just simply a part of the war I’ve dedicated myself to fighting in order for myself — and others who see themselves in me — to be able to declare all of who we are.

I’ve worked my whole life to arrive at the space of being proud and loud about my queerness.

The insults and critiques can be tiring, but when I feel both exhausted and erased is when I’m in one of the most sacred things that I have in this world: my romantic relationship.

I am in love with a man who is kind, intelligent, generous, and present for my needs. We have protested together. Together, we’ve pushed each other to consider the world in different ways and as a result have learned to see ourselves in new ways.

We are lovers and friends, but our love is often a classroom where we exchange ideas and experiences with one another in order to better one another.

However, because of optics and the performance expected of queer folks, I’m seen as straight. And in the war that I’m publicly fighting, I’m seen as an ally to queer folks at best and an opponent to the queer mission at worst.

Erasure of any kind is devastating and maddening, but this particular kind of erasure of my queerness makes me doubt my reality. When people assume my straightness, or worse, strip me of my queerness because of my straight romantic relationship, I begin to doubt my own reality and history. Am I fake? Didn’t I fight hard for this identity? Am I a traitor? Am I simply just not queer enough?

This particular form of gaslighting does not just inform my self-identity. It informs everything. I’ve been upset with my work and my community because I’ve constantly felt judged and mistreated because of the nature of my romantic relationship.

I’ve even found myself frustrated with Allah. I could not understand why God would give me an identity that came with a complex journey, just for my partner to be someone who had me meet so many societal norms by appearance. And in this turmoil I discovered where my strife was actually coming from: the gaze of others and assumptions based on appearance.

Through time, conversation, and self-examination I slowly began to transcend the suffering I was experiencing because of the contradiction of who I was and how I appeared. I realized that any relationship I find myself in is a queer one because I’m participating in it. My queerness is not defined by my relationship status, but who I know myself to be.

The ways that my partner and myself force each other to think beyond constraints and norms forced on straight couples is queer. The way he allows me to be strong and loud in ways that transgress heteronormative relationships is queer. But again, most importantly, my queerness and my history did not go anywhere because of the optics of my relationship.

What I discovered through examination of my own queerness, and how others consume it, is not that I had the wrong idea about what it means to be queer. It’s that far too many others’ ideas of queerness are too rigid and too thin. Queerness is not just about who you love. It’s about who you are.