Queer lady friendship breakups are unique among breakups because friendships between queer women are unique in all the world.
There are a few articles that circulate about close friendships and their break-ups, though those tend to focus on the subterranean expression of aggression between straight women that thrives on indirect communication of frustration and dissatisfaction with one another. But friendships between queer women are different because queer women are different. Not because we don’t necessarily have the same histories of tangled habits of not saying what we want out loud, but because in our vulnerability and difference, we have sought each other out.
Friendship between queer women becomes a small clearing in the woods, a brief moment of recognition, a resonance that lends itself to generosity and a shared magnetism.Why else would we bother to smile at each other in public? Sometimes we are friendlier to each other at the grocery store, at the ice cream shop, than at bars and dance nights and art events where we expect to find one another.
This resonance is a particular quality that is difficult to replicate, and can resound to take up the missing space of family of origin, or ease our dissatisfaction with our dating life. While romance is uncertain, our friendships are slated to remain stable, although there remains the intrigue of a potential hook up with a friend. I think these are fewer and further between than TV would have you believe.
There is an ambiguity of queer lady friendships because there is a breath of possibility between the two of you–and you may hook up some time briefly in your friendship, which is later ignored for the sake of not ruining your relationship, but plays at the edges of your fantasies and hopes. You are their friend, and recount their dates and embarrassments and text them when you cry in front of your boss or when your mom is sick. You are used to holding each other close but at a remove. You remember what they look like flushed, drunk, and ecstatic. And while you can’t forget that, you try to put it out of your mind.
And even the ones we never actually hooked up with, there is a quickening in the air between us, of possibility, of devotion. We have friendships that are our maybe-somedays, our emotional hope chests. We lay our hopes for one person aside but hold onto possibility for years. We also often found each other in a place we made ourselves. Most of us found our way to being queer through self-invention. In spite of doubt, shame, and fear, we made our way to this place and had a depth of ownership and agency that we might not in the rest of our lives. In this, we meet in both our strength and vulnerability.
And as is always the case, friendship is a relationship made of consensual affection, and it is one of the most intimate relationships that we can choose to fade out or end abruptly. These relationships ending and it feeling like a breakup is not unsound. We have no community rituals or girl code and very little skill in navigating these things. Often they break down to community divides and picking sides, or feeling desperate but becoming avoidant or passive aggressive so as not to seem needy. While everybody gets to end relationships when they want to, ghosting is a particular disservice to the relationship.
So How Can You Cope:
Treat it like a breakup. Figure out who are your empathizers, and share more deeply with them, but with everybody else, figure out what your party line is. “We used to be close, but we’re not talking as much these days” etc.
Acknowledge What the Relationship Meant To You. We all have different hopes for our friendships. Sometimes they are the place where we feel the most at home and are a refuge from our romantic relationships or family of origin. The fact that it doesn’t exist in the same format doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real or that it didn’t matter.
Let it Find a Place to Rest in Your Heart. Let it live in the past, and remember certain things fondly. The story you tell about this person may change over time, the way that perspective does.
Maria Turner-Carney is a therapist and writer in Seattle. You can follow her at seattlefeministtherapy.com/blog.