A Genealogy of Queerplatonic

This post is a sampling of links charting the etymology, development, and controversies of the term “queerplatonic” from 2010 to 2019. The concept has been back on my radar again, so to speak, and I’ve been thinking about saying more about it, but I’ve realized that in order to respond to certain patterns, I’d need to document them first. This post represents my effort to do just that.

Accordingly, I’ve tried to refrain from building toward any particular argument or central claim. Instead, I leave most of that to you. However, I am wary of this post being linked or cited in any way which outright contradicts my understanding, and so I have provided a couple paragraphs of summary down at the end, to pick out some of the most distinct patterns I have observed. If you are linking this post and need to condense it into a shorter summary, please make use of those paragraph in some way.

[Note: This post has been crossposted to Pillowfort. Updated 7/25/19. See also Part 2.]

2010

An asexual by the name of Kaz was questioning zer (a)romanticism (as a precursor to rejecting the question) when ze also happened to write about questioning the nature of zer relationship. Here are some excerpts which highlight those sections of the post:  

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to date her (or was dating her, for that matter), or call her my girlfriend (and indeed, I call her my not!GF these days because this whole area is still a giant big SO CONFUSED). […]

I have railed for a while about how society expects us to fit our relationships into these neat little restricted boxes, and these boxes are ordered. […] This clearly works for a lot of people, although I imagine that it may not work very well and may cause a lot of pain that’s not obvious looking in from the outside. It does not work for me. At all. In fact, sorting my relationships into these categories simply does not work for me. At all. The types of relationships I want? The types I already have? Are too cool for your puny boxes. […]

I worry that by calling my relationship and desired relationship “in between friendship and romance” (which again feels a bit like I’m boxing it in) I’m trying to get relationship points from the hierarchy – that because I don’t want what I have with my not!GF to be dismissed as “just” friendship I’m calling it sort of romantic ish in a way in order to get some of the importance that gets accorded to romantic relationships in our society – when really I should be trying to break down the hierarchy altogether, point out that friendship doesn’t have to be “just”, and that there are more options than friendship or romance.

In the comments there, Meloukhia (an aro asexual) introduced the term “queerplatonic.”

I kind of like queerplatonic as a definer for the attraction I feel to my zucchini; it neatly avoids discussing the gender of either party involved, while emphasizing the idea that it is a deep (almost symbiotic in some ways) emotional connection that transcends what I think of as friendship.

Kaz happily seized on it and proceeded to discuss it with them as a term for zer relationship.

2011

Meloukhia, here under the name s.e. smith, created a separate post to introduce the term on tumblr. It’s a pretty short post to read, but here are some of the key takeaways:

  • It was coined for “relationships that are not romantic, that are also not friendships, and that play an important role in your life”
  • “Queerplatonic is a word for describing relationships where an intense emotional connection transcending what people usually think of as ‘friendship’ is present, but the relationship is not romantic in nature”
  • Anyone, sexual or asexual, romantic or aromantic, straight, gay, queer, bi, lesbian, poly, cis, trans, etc etc can be in a queerplatonic relationship,”
  • “The key feature is the idea of being deeply connected to someone, without a romantic element (though a queerplatonic relationship can be sexual).
  • “The point is that this is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of relationship, rather than being rigid; it’s fluid!

Meloukhia also introduced the term on their wordpress here, in a post on asexuality

That year, Sciatrix, the original wtfromantic ace, used the term briefly in discussing what she’d like to see in fictional representations of aromanticism. She places more focus on it, though, when giving her thoughts on the word “zucchini.”

The discussions that have been happening in the past six months about queerplatonic relationships and zucchinis and squashes have been the first steps that have helped me to figure out what I actually am. Even better, they’ve shown me that I’m not alone – that I’m not the only person who wants relationships like this. My most heartfelt fantasy is in essence a Boston marriage, and the discussions I’ve been having recently have shown me that I’m not the only person in the world who thinks like that.

Queerplatonic also popped in other places, such as on The Pursuit of Harpyness, where M. wrote about a real life queerplatonic partnership of theirs with Lola. Note that this is one of the links I found via Queenie’s teeny tiny linkspam on asexuality and relationships.

The first instance I could find of “queerplatonic” appearing on the AVEN forums was in this thread, where lunasspecto referred to a song as “a queerplatonic anthem.”

2012

Not everyone who was aware of the term was using it personally, and in at least one case this was due to a perception of their relationship as ambiguous and the term “queerplatonic” as unambiguous. For example, in a post entitled “I found the right person and I’m still aromantic,” Jay wrote,

Is my relationship romantic? I don’t know. Neither does my person. […] I’ve toyed with the idea of calling it queerplatonic, but I don’t feel comfortable saying that it’s definitively non-romantic in nature, since I don’t know what that means. I’d rather leave that label to those who are more certain. Instead I call it close. A close relationship. My closest relationship. There’s no confusion in that.

Meloukhia wrote a longer post about queerplatonic partnerships that year – note the later edit about lexicographical history. This post is both theoretical and personal in content, with examples of their personal experiences in QPRs. Here’s just a small excerpt to give you a sense of the theme, which does contrast queerplatonic relationships against sexual ones:

As I’ve ranted about ad nauseum before, there’s a tendency to value romantic and sexual relationships over other types of relationships, where friendship and queerplatonic connections are considered the training wheelsfor the real relationship, and where it’s assumed that nonsexual partners always take a back seat to other kinds of relationships. And don’t enjoy a connection with the same emotional depth as a sexual relationship. We are, after all, just the second fiddles, the entertainment while the primary partner is away.

See also this note placed at the beginning:

I’m adding this edit, all these years later, to note this, since I see a lot of confusion around the subject and credit is important — as is the ability to follow lexicographical history and find the first instance of a word: The word to describe this concept was coined by kaz and myself in 2011, though many others have built upon and explored it since, building a rich vocabulary around it. When discussing these kinds of relationships, especially when defining them in a dictionary/wiki setting, please do consider giving a nod to us. Thanks.

Yet I did not find any such credit reflected on either the AVENwiki or the AromanticWiki until I edited them this year myself.

Yet the term was picking up steam on tumblr, where Aromantic Aardvark wrote a post dedicated to distinguishing queerplatonic and romantic, emphasizing queerplatonic as the more flexible term [cw: implications of touch obligation].

Queerplatonic to me means the breaking down of narratives. It means no rules. It means doing, essentially, whatever you are comfortable with. If you want to be best friends for all intents and purposes but also get married, that’s okay. If you want to kiss sometimes but don’t want to feel obligated, that’s okay too. This is why every person in a relationship like this has a different definition of it, because there are no rules. Queerplatonic means forging your own definition, saying “neither platonic or romantic is right”, and just doing whatever feels comfortable in the moment.

Sciatrix at this point is still using the term to talk about the story of her queerplatonic triad (and two years later would continue the story here).

I do think that for us, taking the pressure off about what it means to be in a queerplatonic relationship is really helpful. That’s one of the nicer things about having a weird fuzzy grey-areas relationship; you’re more or less understood to be making it up as you go along. I tend to worry about a lot of things, and it’s been really comforting to be able to sit back and take a breather and let this thing go where it wants to go without trying to direct it. I would probably be a lot more nervous if I thought there was some way in which I could do this ‘wrong.’

2013

Three years since the coinage, “queerplatonic” was still getting attention—and starting to cause problems for AO3 tag wranglers. It also started getting incorporated into the Carnival of Aces submissions somewhere around this time, as in the case of a submission by Laura, “Why the idea of queerplatonic relationships or platonic life partnerships is important to me”. This is how she defined it in that post:

A queerplatonic relationship is an emotionally-intimate primary relationship that is non-romantic and may be non-sexual. This type of relationship is also known as platonic life partnership, passionate or romantic friendship, and other similar names.

But it was also getting flak, as you might imagine, and during this time Sciatrix was playing a role in defending it from criticism:

Well, I’ve never necessarily thought that wanting to move in permanently with one’s friend is all that normative, to be honest. (Not: we’ll live together as long as we’re single. Not: we’ll live together, because I can’t afford to live on my own. Those I’ve certainly experienced as normative situations. But living permanently together in the long term?) Or discussing parenting children together–there’s another thing I didn’t think normative friendships did. Do you do that with your friends? I’m genuinely curious.

You can see another addition on that thread from Hawkelf here with her own personal example of queerplatonic partnership, as well. Note that if you’re interested in more personal narratives from this year, you may also be interested in this one from Jo, in which she declines to use the word “queerplatonic” in favor of just “platonic” by itself.

This is also the first year I’ve found record of arguments over “which” community coined the word. In this post, Aromantic Aardvark wrote:

I disagree that it’s the ‘asexual community’ – ‘zucchini’ and ‘queerplatonic’ were coined by the aromantic community, not the asexual, and I have encountered the same relationship hierarchy in the asexual community as in society at large. I think the distinction between these two things is an important one to make, since they’re often conflated as being the same.

Sciatrix, as someone who “was there when those two words were coined,” corrected them:

I would like to point out that those terms were hashed out in asexual blogs and coined by an asexual person. They came out of a specific series of conversations that was largely being had by people who were both asexual and not classifiably romantic. And those conversations themselves were heavily influenced by reactions to the way that asexual communities classify people according to romantic orientation.

So no, I think it is absolutely accurate to say that those terms were coined by the asexual community, and that the aromantic community as I see it growing and changing owes a lot to ideas and modes of discourse that originated in asexual spaces. While I’m very happy that it has grown from that basis to include aromantic allosexual people, it pisses me off to see someone argue that those terms don’t originate in asexual communities. They happened in asexual spaces first for a reason, and you don’t get to overwrite that even if those concepts are central to the community that came later as a direct response to those conversations.

See the full post, with both her additions, for more on that source of tension.

2014

Per this AVEN thread, the first there to feature the word “queerplatonic” in the thread title, the word was somehow already showing up in the Huffington Post “Queer Voices” section, although the article’s author, Kira Brekke, clearly seems to think it’s a term that applies to an individual person. For your amusement:

But what exactly do those terms mean? HuffPost Live’s Nancy Redd found out on Monday when she spoke with several panelists who use them to describe their own sexuality.

One of them was Victoria Allen, a queerplatonic woman, who shed some light on the nature of her unconventional relationship.

“I have a queerplatonic partner, which is more intense than a normal best friend relationship, and it’s almost like a romantic relationship but without any of the romantic attraction or any of the things that are usually considered romantic,” Allen said. “It’s just quite intense platonic feelings involved.” 

Queerplatonic also appeared just a couple days later in “A New Relationship Dictionary,” a post by Marie S. Croswell at The Good Men Project. Here’s the definition given there:

Queerplatonic relationships are more varied than romantic friendships and passionate friendships. The term “queerplatonic” was coined in the aromantic section of the asexual community to describe the kind of special nonromantic relationships that aromantics often desire, which typically exceeds common friendship in emotion and involvement but does not feel or necessarily look like a traditional romantic relationship. (The “queer” in queerplatonic describes the relationship, not the people in the relationship. Anyone can have a queerplatonic friendship.) Queerplatonic relationships specifically do not include romantic attraction or romantic feelings but do feel more important and perhaps more emotional than common friendship. […] Queerplatonic relationships can be sexual, but they are not romantic.

Meanwhile, Sciatrix continued the story of her queerplatonic triad with a post entitled “I don’t understand dating, so I’m getting married,” in which she says, “I have been thinking about what it means to be in a relationship that has always been cheerfully agnostic about whether it is romantic or not while taking on possibly the ultimate marker of romantic relationships.”

Lastly, this one’s not a link per se, but I figured I would be remiss not to mention this special instance of “queerplatonic” appearing in print: Julie Sondra Decker’s book The Invisible Orientation was published in 2014, and it has a short section on queerplatonic relationships which includes this (pg.24-25):

Queerplatonic relationships are those that consist of dedicated, long-term partnership between the participants. The feelings between the partners are not romantic, but are still very powerful, and different in strength or type from what is usually reserved to describe typical friends.

2015

If you’re interested in threads on queerplatonic relationships that are a little more substantial than just a link to a HuffPo article (and dedicated to the topic as such), some early examples of those those on AVEN are a list of queerplatonic representation and another on what it’s like to be in a queerplatonic relationship. On Tumblr, Sennkestra also asked for people’s one-sentence definitions.

Pushback against the word was still going on and most likely growing more frequent as it began to increase in circulation, as indicated by this tumblr post by Chibi in its defense. It’s a very short post, but I’ll just quote how it starts off:

Every time a post on queerplatonic relationships makes its way around tumblr, the comments are inevitably filled with a flood of “IT’S CALLED FRIENDSHIP” or “WHY DO YOU NEED A WORD FOR THIS.”

Do you honestly think society regards friendship as an acceptable substitute for romance and marriage? The thing is, most aros would LOVE if it could just be called friendship.

You can find a more in-depth Tumblr post on queerplatonic at this time in the form of “The QPR/Soft Romo Guide for Defining the Relationship,” posted by Fitz, which contrasts queerplatonic against “soft romo”:

The basic idea of a QPR is that it is something that goes beyond what you consider normal friendship, but it is not romantic in nature.  What exactly a QPR is can be tricky at first, especially if you don’t have any real examples to base your understanding on (thank you amatonormativity). Really the idea behind QPRs is that they deviate from typical narratives of both friendship and romance, or in other words, they are “queering” what we think a significant relationship entails.

Another type of relationship is a soft-romo relationship, which is somewhere in-between a QPR and a romantic relationship.

This is also the year that Elizabeth at Prismatic Entanglements wrote a theoretical and personal reflection piece, “Updating the Map: Romantic Attraction and Friendship vs. Romance.” The post is not on queerplatonic as such, but it does include some references to the concept and some discussion of ambiguous boundaries, including some insights that I consider relevant:

So, we don’t have to pin down a specific feeling that we call “romantic attraction” that everyone defines the same way. In fact, we can’t, and vagueness in the definition may even be desirable. If (when) we turn to each other to figure out whether we fit a certain definition —do we really want easy answers? Or do we want labels to be valued based not on their perceived “accuracy,” but based on their utility, their usefulness?

2016

With misinformation circulating again on Tumblr, Sciatrix again had to intervene to clarify matters on the label’s origin.

I was there when ‘queerplatonic’ was coined, I played a heavy role in popularizing it initially because I blogged in ace communities more than the original coiner (s.e. smith), I can cite the exact conversation where it happened, and I’d like to address this:

“I have seen some people claim that queerplatonic was coined by allo LGBT+ people and a-spec people stole it from them.”

This is grade-a bullshit.

QPRs were still getting discussed over on AVEN, but this as far back as I’ve found discussion of “queerplatonic” on the current iteration of the Arocalypse forums. The earliest would be this mention of it by Lune in a thread on “the importance of platonic relationships”:

That being said, I have sometimes the impression that qpr sometimes acts as the amatonormative substitute when talking about aromantic persons. Not that aros themselves do that, some do, some don’t. And not that qprs can be really cool and important and stuff. But I am annoyed at this “Okay, so, aros don’t have romantic relationships, but they have queerplatonic relationships, which is the same except for not romantic and not sexual.” That’s somewhat normative, as if every aro person had qpr or wanted to be in one.

It also gets discussed by a few different users in a different thread on the term “friends with benefits.” One user, Rising Sun, wrote:

I also have a problem with “queerplatonic”, and even more the way it’s used now. In the asexual community, it’s more and more used to mean a relationship defined by ambiguous feelings between platonic and romantic, which is an use I very strongly disapprove. If it’s less romantic than average, it’s still romantic even if it’s expressed ambiguously, and definitely shouldn’t take (and then erase in the same time) terms intended for non-romantic feelings.

In agreement, Mark speculated:

Wonder if this is about making alloromantic (and demiromantic) aces feel more included.

A couple of others chimed in to express a similar sentiment.

The following month, QPRs would get their first dedicated thread on Arocalypse, under the title “lacking QPR fxf roll models” [sic], and a few weeks after that, Rising Sun created a thread to ask, “Is aromantic vocabulary unconsciously amatonormative?” with a first post that begins:

Aromantic vocabulary is full of comparisons with romance, and therefore unconsciously implies that our friendships are actually romance in denial. What are “queerplatonic”, “platonic attraction”, “passionate friendship”, “squish / friend crush” implying at an unconscious level ?

The responses included one by Techno-trashcan, who wrote:

I think the problem comes from — and correct me if I’m wrong — the tendency of many aros and non-aros alike to use the word “queerplatonic” as meaning “like a romantic relationship without the romance” or a “soft romo” or “romance light” so to speak, instead of using it as I believe it was originally coined, to refer to bonds of friendship that are different from what many romantics see as friendship. Because we can pretty much agree that many romantics view friendship as a far more casual, less exclusive or less important thing than many aromantics do (obviously I’m generalizing here, but if we’re looking at it from a broad perspective). […]

And “queerplatonic” shouldn’t even be reserved for partnerships. Who ever said you had to be someone’s partner to have strong platonic feelings for them that don’t fit the mold of what romantics call friendship? We all define words differently, and I personally define queerplatonic as really strong platonic feelings/love/attraction that’s different from casual friendship.

The last Arocalypse thread I’ll point to from this year is a “proposed update to QPR,” making a distinction between queerplatonic friendship and queerplatonic partnership. Some users were in support, while others seemed to express more hesitance—for instance, because they viewed the line as too blurry to draw sometimes in practice. Users also made some references here to switching out “queer” for “quasi,” but that wasn’t given as much focus.

2017

In a blog post entitled On Queerplatonic Relationships, From Someone Who’s Actually In One (originally on WordPress, also posted to Tumblr), Siobhan Crosslin connected the salience of queerplatonic relationships to capitalism & the nuclear family and argued that queerplatonic is not an aro-exclusive term:

Confining queerplatonic relationships to an aro-only phenomenon is needlessly cruel and also exclusivizes something that’s scarce enough as it is. And all this effort to make queerplatonic relationships and ‘attraction’ some extra other thing than ‘just’ friendship misses the point of something we should all be working on. The point of being in a queerplatonic relationship isn’t to have some special relationship other people don’t have access to, that’s somehow better than ‘just’ friendship. There’s a very “Well if anyone could say they’re in a queerplatonic relationship then everyone would be in queerplatonic relationships!” feel to it all, to which I say… Okay? Like? Why would it be a bad thing if queerplatonic relationships were really common? Because that seems to be the logical end to the aros-only train of thought. I think it’d be pretty damn cool if queerplatonic relationships were common. For one, I’d stop having to have a Socratic seminar every time I mention I’m in one.

Arocalypse user Coby Asola asked about “how to tell the difference between strong platonic attraction and QP attraction,” and Omitef posted a reply that included this personal account of the latter:

For people I’m queerplatonic with, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I could spend more time with them, about how I can get to know them better. I will strategize ways to engage with them intimately, to ask them to hang out, and make them happy. There’s a strong sense of urgency, and desire for perfectionism involved, which can sometimes result in more stressful interactions. I’ll think about our friendship in a long-term sense, and whether I’m ready to commit to be their support for life.

Concerns about amatonormativity in QPP language were still going, now with a new thread that begins “please explain to me why a squish and a queerplatonic partnership are not romantic?” Here at this point, it’s worth noting that this question represents a completely different direction than we saw in the 2013 and 2015 Tumblr posts that compared it to friendship.

2018

These concerns would continue to be raised on the Arocalypse forums. Early in 2018, Galactic Turtle started the thread “Amatonormativity & Queerplatonic Relationships,” in which they asked:

I was wondering in general what everyone’s thoughts were on amatonormativity being a concept that is adverse to queerplatonic thought OR if not for amatonormativity, do you think the categorization of “queerplatonic” would be necessary? 

If you’re interested in the subject, I recommend checking out the thread, because it did garner some serious discussion.

Meanwhile, on Tumblr, you still have people fighting a completely different fight, as evidenced by this post by Dark (a short post, but I’ll only excerpt a snippet of it):

“It’s just friendship.”

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say most people in queerplatonic relationships also have friendships and know what a friendship fucking feels like. They label a relationship queerplatonic because it’s not the same as their friendships while also not being the same as a romantic relationship

Still have people claiming that queerplatonic “originated in the aromantic community,” as well.

Another more detailed post on QPRs appeared in August, which presents its takeaway as this:

The phrase “more than friends, but less than a romantic relationship” and similar phrases need to stop coming anywhere close to QPRs. Because of coinage and other historical factors, QPRs cannot be defined as simply a romantic friendship nor should they be. The aromantic community as well as alloromantics should be careful about how they define QPRs, as defining them incorrectly causes division in the aromantic community as well as isolation for some aromantics. Education about aromantic issues and history and strong community ties can lead to prevention of terminology issues and create a more unified and strong community.

…and which, in concerning itself with “amatonormativity within the aspec community,” emphasizes this:

So what is a “good” definition of QPR? While I’m personally fond of a couple definitions outside of the original, I think that the key elements are this:

1) QPRs are NOT romantic

2) QPRs CAN involve any other type of attraction, but don’t have to

3) And QPRs are NOT qualified by any other type of relationship

In response, several different Tumblr users (Siggy, Sennkestra, and Sciatrix) added onto the thread, elaborating on and in some instances objecting to the historical account as delivered by the OP (whose name doesn’t appear to be listed anywhere). For instance, the OP’s original framing put the emphasis on aromanticism (“I think that an overall community collapse led to a claiming of the term by alloromantic communities, and that the aromantic community couldn’t adequately educate on the history of aro terminology because there were no support systems”). In reference to that, here’s one of the things that Siggy wrote:

I would also second @nextstepcake’s point that the context in which “queerplatonic” was coined, were ace-first communities – specifically the ace blogosphere. I was personally part of the blogosphere at the time. Kaz was a well-known ace blogger. s.e.smith (the coiner) was more of a feminist/disabilities/queer writer, but has produced far more writing on asexuality than aromanticism. Sciatrix, who played an influential role in spreading these terms, was easily the most important ace blogger of the time. Yes these bloggers were all aro, but I believe they would strongly object to being characterized as aromantic first. […]

I would make a distinction between aro people and aro communities. While Kaz, s.e.smith, and Sciatrix were aro (or I guess aro-spec?), the context was not an aro community. There wasn’t a distinction between aro and non-aro ace bloggers, we were all ace bloggers, and romantic orientation was among our topics.

There’s too much here for me to summarize, but Sennkestra (nextstepcake)’s second addition to the post also provided some further context on aro/ace relations — and what that means for aro ace people:

I think a lot of aro aces like me – especially those who were around for the periods of history we’re discussing – are therefore wary of trying to cleave the “aro” parts of aro ace history and experience from the “ace” parts. For many of us, these experiences and our histories are inseparably intertwined, and being asked to tease it apart into just the aro parts feels like ripping off a limb; we cannot be whole without recognizing both the ace and aro parts of our histories as intertwined, interdependent and inseparable.

Lastly, Sciatrix added:

Siggy is absolutely correct that I was and remain furious at the concept that this early terminology belongs to aromantic specific communities rather than aro-spectrum ace communities. I view this as erasure, especially since I tend to get frustrated about the framing of romantic orientation and romantic attraction, but also because I think that general aro groups owe a very specific debt to ace organizing and communities that needs to be acknowledged.

I don’t really mind being categorized as “aro-spectrum”, but I’m still pretty open about being frustrated about romantic orientation and the ways in which it fails to really describe differences in the way people seek long term attachment (as opposed to experiencing short term captivation). That hasn’t really changed in the last eight years.

2019

In the current year, nine years after its coinage, QPRs are still getting talked about. Here’s a few of the things that we’re seeing.

This Tumblr post argues for the following definition of QPRs:

QPRs are a completely separate type of relationship that are not defined by friendship or romance.

Confusingly enough, the post visually represents the “completely separate” idea by using a Venn diagram of overlapping circles.

The reoccurring issue of who coined the term – and who “owns” it – was addressed in a post by Grazanka/Tost crossposted to Dreamwidth and Tumblr, which concludes:

Anyway, here are the things to consider when you’re arguing whether it’s an ace or aro term. Personally I believe it’s not as easy as saying it’s either of those things. I think it’s important to include the ace history of the word but also the fact it was discussed in relation to aromanticism, now a separate identity.

They do not cite a specific example of the border warring, but you can find one such example here, which was what inspired the post “Queerplatonic is not an aro term.” And that post, in turn, was recently linked on Luna’s addition onto this Tumblr post by Pearl, which starts out:

queerplatonic is a term coined by arospec aces

so i hope none of you think queerplatonic is a term for alloromantic aces

In response, Luna challenged that idea, as did Sennkestra, but a subsequent addition by Magni seems to have missed the point, and you can find a couple more additions here and here. On both the same and separate addition chains, people are back to objecting to the idea that it was created by the asexual community here and saying “it doesn’t refer to non-aromantic aces” here.

So what’s the overall narrative?

In some ways, the overall narrative here is that there isn’t one—or rather that, if there is one, it’s been all over the place. There are a few obvious patterns, however, and one is that the overall narratives presented on the topic have frequently been wrong. Ever since queerplatonic was coined and popularized by aces, some of whom are aromantic and some of whom are not, Scriatrix has played a thankless role in combating the misinformation that keeps arising about those origins. In multiple instances over the years, the ace community has been framed as wrongfully taking the word away from others (most frequently framed as aces vs. aros).

The definition of the term itself has also been subjected to scrutiny since its inception, from multiple different conflicting perspectives. “Queerplatonic” has been defined differently by different people, and one of those differences includes a divergence over whether or not the meaning of queerplatonic is ambiguous in nature or more solely, definitively nonromantic. Given this convoluted history, there can be no one, singular “accurate” definition of queerplatonic. For almost every claim you could make about its “original” definition, there is material for a counterclaim.

To take a page from Elizabeth, then, I invite you to consider with me, if we can never have a definition which is truly “accurate,” then instead, what direction for the concept would be the most useful?


26 responses to “A Genealogy of Queerplatonic

  • Siggy

    Nice. You inspired me to also look at google trends for “queerplatonic”, and I see that the biggest increase in search activity was in the first half of 2014, which doesn’t clearly correspond to anything in your history. I did find an article on The Good Men Project from that period.

    The arocalypse discussions from 2016-7 raises the interesting question of how “queerplatonic” relates to “platonic”. In ace communities, platonic developed from its earlier meaning into a “third” category of relationships and attractions, but I would speculate that happened some time after “queerplatonic” was coined. (Submitted as evidence: a 2010 AVEN thread where definitions of “platonic” are all over the map.) I think queerplatonic and platonic now occupy a similar space, but I don’t think either one was necessarily trying to edge in on the other.

    • Coyote

      huh, that’s interesting. While I don’t claim this timeline is comprehensive, I can’t really think of an explanation for that 2014 spike. Sounds like a good enough reason to add that article in.

      This isn’t directly related to your point, but since you brought it up, I’ll also add another one of my thoughts on that. The question of “how do I differentiate this from platonic” (in the context of intracommunity discussion, not the “how is that not just friendship” attacks) demonstrates some recurring sense of queerplatonic having some fixed, determined meaning that then means it needs to be differentiated from other things, leading to people trying to “tell the difference” between it and other things, which… seems like a replication of how I interpret Kaz’s original post. It’s the same whole dilemma of presuming certain boxes and then trying to retroactively fit experiences *into* those boxes. However we choose to define or talk about queerplatonic, that’s not something I want it to be doing.

  • luvtheheaven

    Wow. Thank you for this. Considering i didn’t have stuff like this to look at i think I did ok when me and my co-hosts did a podcast episode on QPRs which we recorded at the end of 2018 and posted at the end of January 2019: https://archiveofourown.org/comments/206614220 XD I feel like I knew a fair amount of this as I’m very invested in these online spaces and in the term queerplatonic. Pretty much none of this surprised me to read which means I guess I’ve been paying attention lol.

    • Coyote

      That makes one of us, then. I was definitely surprised by some of the stuff I found. For instance, I had no idea that some people were saying that queerplatonic relationships could be sexual.

      • luvtheheaven

        I actually at the Creating Change conference in January 2018 so over a year ago corrected my friends presenting on a caucus (I was not presenting on that particular one) when they said queerplatonic was nonromantic and nonsexual. I made a point of being inclusive of allosexual aros who care about such things and said they could be nonromantic but sexual sometimes too. I didn’t realize this was controversial or anything else, although a part of me knew it was likely a more recent Tumblr talking point. But in my podcast episode there I also said “friends with benefits” as in an ongoing friendship with sex might be something the participants choose to define as queerplatonic and that’s ok because queerplatonic is a broad umbrella-like term that encompasses a lot of types of relationships. That’s where my stance on it all has been. I desire a nonsexual and nonromantic queerplatonic relationship but I’m not saying all queerplatonic relationships have to be like mine.

  • Elizabeth

    Ever get that feeling where you’re like, “Oh, I said that? Hm, that’s pretty good past self, maybe I should listen to you sometime”? LOL.

    This is awesome, thanks for taking the time to write it all up! It’ll be really good to have something to link people to show the history and development of the term.

    • Coyote

      Ever get that feeling where you’re like, “Oh, I said that? Hm, that’s pretty good past self, maybe I should listen to you sometime”?

      Not often, but sometimes! And hey. It’s pretty good advice in this case.

      This is awesome, thanks for taking the time to write it all up! It’ll be really good to have something to link people to show the history and development of the term.

      Thanks. <3 And yeah, that was exactly the thought behind it — it was actually pretty weird realizing that I couldn't find a good compilation of links on it already. (And here I would add "even the wikis barely had anything," but that's never been unusual.)

  • Vesper

    thanks for contributing to the ongoing conversation with this post.

    i haven’t had a chance to read or click through everything, but i didn’t see mention of something that may (or may not) be relevant to this post…? that is, the coinage of “alterous attraction” in 2016 to fill a lexical gap in response to the concept of QPRs specifically and how eventually “queerplatonic attraction” began to be used parallel to alterous attraction…

    i don’t have much on hand to point you to, as i was quick to disengage with alterous everything, but the other responses in the notes of the latter link may be a place to start, if this is even relevant at all.

    unrelated is the post “The QPR/Soft Romo Guide for Defining the Relationship” by Laura of Shades of Grayro in 2015 that i think illustrates some people’s conceptualization of “queerplatonic” in relation to “soft romo”…

    but anyway, thanks again. :)

    • luvtheheaven

      Yes in my podcast I failed to mention alterous attraction but reading this, especially the “queerplatonic attraction” part, I did kinda think I’d see the word alterous soon. It certainly fits in somewhere here. I only recently ish got used to the fact that it probably means something I can comprehend and feel after all and is different from the other forms of attraction we have names for. I have seen it enough over the course of years that I feel like it’s a term not going away and then idk things like this resonate: http://luvtheheaven.tumblr.com/post/181693640397/familial-attraction

    • Coyote

      i haven’t had a chance to read or click through everything, but i didn’t see mention of something that may (or may not) be relevant to this post…? that is, the coinage of “alterous attraction” in 2016

      Oh man you have no idea how much was cut from this post. I actually started out planning to make this a teeny tiny linkspam, with a main part on queerplatonic and the romance-friendship binary and then a sprinkling of bonus content at the end about relationship anarchy, aplatonic, alterous, waverships… But I felt the need to include summaries instead of just the links by themselves (especially for things like forum threads and tumblr fights), and quotes seem important when you know not everyone has the time or inclination to go reading every single thing (esp. when there’s a lot of repetition), and… and then I realized that my “first section” of what was supposed to be a multi-section post had turned into over 9 pages in Word. I decided to cut the stuff on alterous, lol. Wasn’t sure if I should still make a second part/separate bonus content sequel with all that extra stuff.

      Fun fact, I was even thinking about asking your permission to link that one, since I remember how that conversation went and I know you’ve been burned out on the border warring in general. I didn’t want to accidentally send any hostility your way (since it would have stood out more — I have a lot fewer links on alterous than I do on all the many disagreements on queerplatonic).

      Also, thanks for the Tumblr link. The Tumblr stuff has been the most difficult to track down, in general, as you might imagine. AVEN and Arocalypse are easily searchable, and I knew to check the Writing From Factor X wordpress (and the tumblr, by extension), but… with Tumblr, unless you’re already pointed directly at something, it’s hard to know where to look. I think I might go and add that one, since one of the Arocalypse threads mentions “soft romo” in relation to QPRs and this seems like something of a contextualizing antecedent to that, or at least as much as I have right now.

      • Vesper

        i appreciate the consideration, as well as the obvious effort you’ve put into researching this topic, which as you’ve said, is anything but straight-forward. when it comes to linking my posts, i’d love a heads up just so i know where a sudden uptick in traffic is coming from, but beyond that i consider all of my ‘dirty laundry’ to be aired out in public for whoever wants to see or link to it…. since it pretty much is. apathy is a godsend sometimes.

        while i know that it will require a lot of additional time and effort on your part, i would love to see the rest of what you’ve compiled in whatever form it ends up taking, if you’re up for sharing it eventually.

    • Laura G

      I feel strange being quoted about what soft-romo meant compared to queerplatonic when I have zero memory of the word soft-romo being a thing outside of knowing that post was a thing I wrote haha (though that doesn’t mean it’s not accurate to what was happening at the time). I’m in a bit of the same boat as Elizabeth, though I am realizing my current view disagrees with my past view, to some extent. Though that probably would be less true if soft-romo or some other term filling that void ever took off.

      I think the idea of “does queerplatonic fit in the platonic box or the alterous box, can it encompass both, or is it something else entirely?” is very relevant to some of the current discussions about the term. And the fact that queerplatonic probably came before “platonic” or “alterous” really became types of attraction/relationships discussed in the ace/aro communities complicates that question quite a bit.

      • Coyote

        though I am realizing my current view disagrees with my past view, to some extent.

        Happens to me all the time. Maybe an impetus to write a new post? It seems like there’s a lot still up in the air about the concept and what it can do for us.

        I think the idea of “does queerplatonic fit in the platonic box or the alterous box, can it encompass both, or is it something else entirely?” is very relevant to some of the current discussions about the term. And the fact that queerplatonic probably came before “platonic” or “alterous” really became types of attraction/relationships discussed in the ace/aro communities complicates that question quite a bit.

        Technically the word “platonic” has existed for a long time (like, centuries), but I suppose you mean in the sense of “platonic attraction” as theorized by these communities (which is another section of this post that got cut).

        Also — do you have any further links on “alterous”? It sounds like you’re talking about it as something still circulating, so I’m interested to see what that looks like.

        • Siggy

          I can confirm that “alterous” is still in circulation, although I’ve only seen a few random posts mention it, and nothing discussing directly.

  • Let’s use this Aro/Ace bridge | The Asexual Agenda

    […] case in point, is the history of the word “queerplatonic”.  As early as 2013, people in the aro community were making false claims that […]

  • Bonus Round: Queerplatonic-Adjacent Concepts | The Ace Theist

    […] my Genealogy of Queerplatonic (Part 1) was going to have multiple sections, but due to length I ended up cutting a lot of extra links […]

  • On “friendship” | The Ace Theist

    […] about norms, standards, desires, and expectations for relationships, such as in the conversations around queerplatonic and alterous, I’ve seen a lot of comparison against friendship as a familiar point of […]

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    […] written “a history of relationship anarchy” and then only, solely charted examples of the use of queerplatonic — which is to say, maybe it’s not wildly-off base, but it still falls short of what it […]

  • Linkspam: March 22, 2019 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] “split attraction model” was reclaimed and how that causes problems.  Coy also wrote a genealogy of the word “queerplatonic”, followed by queerplatonic-adjacent concepts.  Finally, ey also wrote about five different models […]

  • Crunching the Umbrella and Spinning the Reinvention Treadmill | The Ace Theist

    […] on March 8th, the day before I published my Genealogy of Queerplatonic, Siggy published a response of his own to the whole discussion, titling the post as “Death of […]

  • Sennkestra

    If you ever need even more links, I also found this thread on defining queerplatonics from 2015 while I was going through some old posts: http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/132408627492/hey-tumblr-whats-your-favorite-1-sentence

    (And if you go into the notes, it also includes both specific examples of obnoxious trolls yelling “no it’s just friendship!” as well as several more varied approaches to defining it from a bunch of different bloggers)

  • Umbrella erosion | The Asexual Agenda

    […] the term acquires more narrow connotations. You can find examples in Coyote’s timelines of “queerplatonic” and related concepts. It happens to “gray-asexual”. It happens to “queer”. […]

  • A Mini History of Different Types of Attraction in the Ace Community | The Ace Theist

    […] 2010 – queerplatonic attraction was first described on Dreamwidth. [Read more about the trajectory of queerplatonic as a concept here] […]

  • (What) does the aro community want (with) quoiros? | The Ace Theist

    […] terminology” that needs to be defended from allorom aces. These ways of talking about the origins and trajectory of queerplatonic are oversimplifying more complicated reality: both in 1) retroactively claiming the involvement of […]

  • Tiny linkspam on Tri-Label Aro Aces | The Ace Theist

    […] A Genealogy of Queerplatonic & Queerplatonic-Adjacent Concepts by Coyote […]

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