Queer platonic intimacy: A love letter to my housemate
By: Kae Woodbury
I’m thinking about how to write this as I’m hanging out our laundry.
Your cat Poppy is eyeing the bra straps to paw down the minute I’m out of sight. When you get home, we’ll probably share some joke about how we’ve raised Poppy to be a lesbian; how could we not?
Our crappy Kmart kettle is whirring, because you messaged to say you’d be home soon. We’ll both be home for once, so we can gossip, have an afternoon pot of tea and play rich married ladies – but not married to each other, obviously.
Image: The author and their housemate, taken by Alyssa Meli.
You’re not home yet though, so I’m thinking.
I’m thinking of how to pen this down, how to write a love letter with no romance to infuse, no dramatic tension, no friends-to-lovers – but one with a warming placidity and an easy flow.
So I begin writing here by the clothesline. I see your underwear next to mine, no shame apparent if we’re to glimpse blood or discharge residue.
I see your socks that will no doubt become mismatched, swapped, lost and eventually returned to their proper owner months later. We share an intimacy of knowing whose is whose – which socks I should place together mismatched, because that’s how you like them paired anyway.
I think ‘found family’ is an overused trope, but still a particularly lovely one.
You taught me, just as I taught you, how to be queer, but not queer in the sense of how to have queer sex or how to be in a queer relationship. We taught each other how to be confused and simultaneously comfortable in our queerness, because becoming queer is not an accomplishment or a point to be reached, but a perpetual coming into: it is a verb.
Our home is our vessel in which that feeling of queerness takes on its splendid form.
In this friendship, we have nothing to lose.
Heterosexuality affirms itself not just in the binary of man and woman, but in the binary of who one would or wouldn’t fuck. To love someone without fucking them is seen as useless and unproductive: it doesn’t mean babies and it doesn’t subscribe to the consummation of the family unit. This ‘family unit’ is sheathed in all sorts of coded meanings about the self in relation to society.
Queer platonic intimacy is thus the haunting spectre of a love that does nothing but simply exist. Our love for one another doesn’t do the work for capitalism. We’re not expending labour or perpetuating norms. We love one another for love’s sake only.
This is apparently terrifying. Because what is the point? Is love only valid if there is something to show for it?
The sharehouse is an idea that often exists in the realm of liminality. It is supposed to be the passage between the homes we grow up in and the homes in which we’ll apparently raise our own children.
It’s that period of unkempt, dirty, sweaty, sweet time in between adulthood and adolescence that one day we’ll have to grow up and depart from. Youth is seen as a phase: riotous and nonconforming. Adulthood is seen as inevitable, straight-laced and productive.
But you know that I’m already cynical about that whole trajectory of adulthood. We queers aren’t known for our penchant for the conventional.
Maybe the reason I’m uncomfortable with using ‘found family’ as a descriptor is because it still feels gimmicky, like there’s still conditions that have to be met within our dynamic in order to qualify it.
‘Family’ feels like a term laden with a whole heap of responsibilities, hierarchies and expectations. Of course, we could queer that term and challenge those norms, but honestly that still doesn’t feel like enough.
I don’t think we necessarily need a descriptor to validate our relationship, or our love. It stands brilliant on its own.
I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that I love you out loud, which is weird because I say those words a lot and to a lot of people. It doesn’t have to be loaded with that same weight.
‘I love you’ doesn’t have to mean: I want to make babies with you and share the weight of capitalism with you and l love only you because my heart only has room for one, because I have been told that that is the way of things.
Queerness means we don’t have to subscribe to all that. We make our own rules.
I guess I am saying it in this letter now. But I know that at other times, I’ve said ‘I love you’ in immeasurable ways: in our late-night confessions; in our real messy angry hot takes that sounds bad if we say them out loud to anyone else; in the utterance of the syllables in I appreciate you immensely.
My queerness can exist because of your queerness. I love my queerness, and so I love you.
Kae Woodbury is a queer writer, performer, artist, and bookseller living and working on Gadigal Land. They are passionate about producing works that engender radical joy, empathy, and compassion, providing that reparative voice of love that their younger queer self so desperately needed. They’re on Instagram at @coolperson_kae.
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