What Captain Marvel taught me about queer friendships
I’m not big on Marvel movies, but I did allow by brother to drag me to go see Captain Marvel. After not keeping up with most of the movie plot, I jumped to attention at the introduction of Maria Rambeau and the details of her relationship with Carol. Carol and Maria share an intimate closeness that breaks the boundaries of what we’ve been socialized to consider typical best friendship.
As soon as I went on twitter after the movie, I saw comment after comment about the two of them, asking what was up with those two?? I don’t care what anyone else has to say about it, Captain Marvel is a movie about the power of a queer friendship. But, what is that power? What makes queer friendships so different for queer people?
Defiance of Boundaries
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the power of queer friendships in my lifetime. For a long time, I was unable to name exactly what that power was. I wondered why I felt freer and more comfortable around my queer friends than my other friends. I came to this conclusion: because queerness is already a defiance of boundaries and societal expectations, queer friendships are free and unrestricted relationships where each person is allowed to be their full, defiant self. There are few things better than that.
Audre Lorde’s "Uses of the Erotic" is famously cited for explaining how embracing eroticism and extending it to domains beyond sex can be personally empowering and bring depth to relationships. Queer friendships are a natural manifestation of said power. Living queer is equivalent to living free of external restrictions and free of the idea that we have to police ourselves and our desires. In our friendships, we allow ourselves and our friends to be vulnerable, open, and intimate in a way that rarely happens in any other environment.
The power of queer friendships is that there are no expectations for what these relationships can look like, and there are no lines except for the ones you draw yourself. Our relationships are powerful because in them we redefine romance, intimacy, closeness, and love.
When I was in undergrad, I struggled to find the type of companionship I really needed. I desperately wanted to surround myself with people who understood that I was still navigating my identity and who wouldn’t judge me for not being 100% confident in who I was. When I met my soon-to-be best friend—a queer, Black woman—my life changed. I felt as though I was finally afforded a space to unapologetically be myself, even if that self changed from week to week.
Previously, with my cishet friends, I felt one of two pressures when we hung out: pressure to not bring up my queerness, or pressure to be confident enough in my queerness to take on the role as the token Black, gay friend. More often than not, I gave in to the former. I hid that part of myself and shrugged off questions about my relationships and romantic interests. I figured that this was a normal part of being different that I just had to deal with.
I was wrong. My queer best friend allowed me the type of intimate friendship I hadn’t experienced since elementary school. I felt comfortable, finally, to define myself and explore myself without feeling judged by others. Soon, I gravitated to a community of queer people who understood me. Through my queer friendships, I figured out how to love myself, love others, and allow others to love me.
Difficult to Define
The subversive nature of queer friendships has caused people to talk and write about them for a long time. As children, we learn—either explicitly or by observation—that family, friends, and lovers are three separate categories. Queer friendships challenge this idea. In addition to being intimate and romantic, I have also witnessed how queer friends can become an alternative family.
For example, take the TV show Pose. Pose is full of queer people who are brought together for varying reasons. Most of them are isolated from their families. Therefore, they create their own. They don’t operate as simply friends, but as a family unit. They look out for each other, they love each other, and they provide safe spaces for each other.
None of my queer friendships are the same, just like none of my relationships in general are the same. However, similar to the stance of Laurence Dumortier, I believe queer friendships call for a deeper evaluation than the simple label of “friend,” yet different than “family” or “lover.” What do we call this? How do we explain it?
Much like how queerness itself cannot be captured by a single definition, neither can queer friendships. This is where the power of queer friendships lies. They allow us undefinable freedom to just... be.
Squad Social is the app for queer people to connect based on common interest. Find your next queer friendship by downloading Squad Social today.
About the Author
Most well known for her poem on anxiety entitled “Friends with Benefits,” Jae Nichelle is a young poet and spoken word artist currently residing in Atlanta. She has been told that her poetry persona comes off as a mix of eccentric and mysterious, but in real life she is your lovable, awkward Black girl who is thinking about where her next sweet potato will come from. See her Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/c/jourdannichelle