The dating myth surrounding queer women

by Katherine Burns / Beacon Staff • November 3, 2016

When I looked at my girlfriend in the little Skype camera box on my computer screen, all I could picture was her kissing and cuddling with someone else, while I was on the other side of the country, alone.

“I just need you to try,” I told her, as I tried to gauge what she was thinking about. She looked down, avoiding my gaze. After we hung up, I closed my laptop and tried to process what I had heard. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t quite believe it until she said it.

A week later, we broke up. Whenever anyone asked what had happened, I plastered a smile on my face because I didn’t want to admit I’d had my heart broken. I thought about my friends who had awed over how cute we were, and how perfect we were for each other. I thought about how long I had wanted this, and how much I wanted it to work considering all the odds stacked against us—my parents disapproval, the long distance, her physical health, and my mental health.

In my mind, the problems that had existed when I was dating men were non-existent once I started dating women. Guys just didn’t get it, but any woman would have gone through the same things I had, so they would understand. They would be more empathetic. Plus, women were just nicer, I told myself. They wouldn’t cheat on me or hurt me.

I was holding onto a fantasy that queer women weren’t people; they were perfect ephemeral beings who could do no wrong.

It was just the distance I told myself—we would still be together otherwise. I pushed aside all the selfish behaviors my girlfriend exhibited that could have been red flags and chalked it up to a relationship that just wasn’t meant to be.

Growing up, I hadn’t seen many representations of queer people in media, especially not queer women in relationships. From what I did see, I learned that the only obstacles queer women faced were the people who didn’t approve of a same-sex relationship––but once that was resolved it was happily ever after (it’s worth noting this was before I started watching the show The L Word in which many women have a series of complex relationships).

I watched the fight for marriage equality become more and more of a real possibility during my early adult life, and when it finally happened, I was elated like everyone else. But there was a quiet, worried thought in my head: “We finally got it, so we can’t screw this up.”

As a queer person, I felt as though the onus was on me to have the perfect relationship to set an example for the world. Gay people obviously deserved marriage equality because we were clearly just so much better at relationships than straight people could be, or so I thought. I had seen so many stories of couples that had been together for 40 or 50 years who couldn’t get married, but loved each other anyway. I knew how terrible men were, so I figured dating women was just easier and I awaited the

day that I would meet my soulmate and settle down for the rest of my life.

Everything would go smoothly forever, I thought. I couldn’t think of any reason that a queer couple would want or need to break up. Slowly this fantasy began to chip away as I was ghosted and rejected by girls—same as I had been with men in the past.

I didn’t have many queer role models so I had no one to tell me that relationships with other women were just as messy and complicated as any other I’d ever seen or been in.

Though queer representation in media is rare, it’s becoming more visible as more and more high profile women come out. Just recently it was revealed that two of the female contestants from last season of The Bachelor in Australia started dating each other. Twitter blew up, with people throwing around #RelationshipGoals. And these beautiful, beachy blondes, who are clearly in love,  do represent relationship goals. But from a distance, it's easy to see their relationship as flawless and forget that they too are real people.

I had to acknowledge that I was also a real person, and that my relationships weren’t going to be perfect. Dating women wasn’t going to solve all my problems or guarantee happiness. All I can do is keep looking for my happy ending.