Op-Ed

Horatio-Amzi Wildan: Spaces and Voids in Queer Relationships

Space and void describe the same thing although both have slightly different meanings. But space, even in our outer space is not completely empty as there are thin amounts of atmospheric gasses present.  Voids are more likely to be called as such when you refer to a man-made vacuum or a clear area that is surrounded by a wall or structure. Voids are completely hollow empty spaces.

This discussion in no professional manner touches shortly on some of my thoughts on how the notion of void and of space is experienced in queer relationships which are geared towards marriage or for long terms. I find it intriguing for anyone to cavil about a lover being around but not being present which leads to them not feeling needed. Being present and paying attention is a huge part of the lifespan of queer relationships especially in our part of the world (Africa), where the future of a queer couple is almost undefined.  

For some time now, I have witnessed with particularity, some relationships grow and bud beautifully, and most other ones go sour. I believe that, in whatever engagement we find ourselves, paying attention and being paid attention to is key. In relationships, the benefactor-beneficiary status of “paying attention” should be experienced both ways, and at all times, in whatever circumstances. The need to be paid attention to, selfish or petty as it may seem, must not be made light of. Consideration, deep thinking, and seriousness need to be given to not just the functional importance associated with the need for attention or presence, but also to look at the voids it fills and their implications in the field of queer relationships.

Relationships generally comprise unequal statuses or mutual statuses. Unequal or unshared statuses if you like could be “relationships, where there are clear or distinctive characteristics of hierarchy, dominance, or age differences that lead to the inequality of power holds between couples, to share opinions, or contribute points of views at free will, whenever and however. On the other hand, mutual ties could mean; couple statuses where addressing or approaching involves no strict protocols except those mutually posited for purposes best known to the couple. In mutual relationships, issues, desires, emotions, and thoughts are addressed however and whenever with personal consideration and respect for the other.

The dynamics of queer relationships are similar to heterosexual relationships. Age difference, for example, could lead the younger, to be more demanding attention wise, forgetting that being needed goes both ways. The heteronormative nature of the “male” rears its head effortlessly in queer relationships too which lead to an imbalance of giving and receiving presence or attention, as many “males” (female sexes inclusive) may see this as too feminine and bothersome.  

The need to feel needed may sound narcissistic, conceited, vain or egotistical especially when one wants to make manifest or communicate to their partner how they want to be needed. This act can easily seem self-fueled and it is sometimes at a degree to the detriment of the relationship. Man is complex. Thought and emotional ranges in what people want, give, can take or stand differs greatly. It is easy to think in a queer relationship that both of you are of the same sex and as such do not differ much. The issue of gender which is not my focus here disproves that thought. In relationships, couples swear they bring their 100% to the table. However, there always seems to be an imbalance in the way both of them show how much they mean to each other. This does not negate the fact that both may have actually brought their 100%.

What we need to understand is that due to our biological, cultural and personal differences, we become the only original copy of ourselves. This simply means, there are similar types of us but the gap of someone being us would never be filled. People evolve emotionally and psychologically as they are socialized from the family to the communal, to the societal, regional, national and with the help of technology and where they find themselves, continental and global. These phases affect the very “Who I am” at every point in time because cultural processes are not static. As culture changes, man falls into the constant state of change too, learning and unlearning his surroundings and himself to become better adapted to situations. If queer couples can then move a notch up from comparing mere biological similarities, and start thinking along these lines, consideration, patience, tolerance and a lot of understanding would go into how we demand attention and how we project our presence in the lives of our lovers to avoid creating voids.

To be aware of the above in a relationship is also to be aware that you are to teach and allow yourself to be taught, taking into deep consideration your geographical location and what is permissible for queer couples in your situation. Patience and understanding play key roles here for smooth transits in and out of the spaces shared or voids filled by both parties. This is to pin the point that space is not unhealthy.

Void, a very simple yet abstract word has long been a big issue in relationships. We may be tempted to think of this merely in shallow terms of an absent lover. We may also go a little further to discover this feeling as the physical absence of a loved one due to a breakup, death, or lack of communication. A few people might experience the void I am talking about in this context. This void is not just about the absence of the flesh. It is neither just the non-communicative nature one experiences when at loggerheads with a lover or when death has snatched a dear one. The void here goes beyond these. Have you ever had someone present with you physically, or even during a make-out and yet you still do not feel their presence?  Have you had sex and still just encountered a penis or a dildo but not the person ramming that thick meaty loaf/latex up your anal canal or “vajayjay”? Or have you heard the moans of your bottom or girlfriend underneath you and you just know “it’s a turnoff, he/she’s not here”? In these instances, physical presence is provided and yet the mind or the attention of this person you long after is just not present.

It does get more frustrating when you know that your partner knows that he/she is not present, and yet they reduce your meaning of being present to mean being physically present. It probably hurts more when they are educated and you are sure that they get what you mean. I can swear that, being a versatile gay lad would be one of the most exciting things for me in circumstances like these because, if I were bottoming and my versatile boyfriend was being all cocky with his “But I’m here topping attitude”, I would as well just assume a top position in a blink of an eye, bend him over to a 45° and stick my “Nike booster” up those “sweet spongy cakes” in a 5-10 minute marathon without explanation. Void blocks the pleasures and good tidings of sex. Space encourages a “yearn for a feel of each other.

As discussed, space does not mean completely empty. Void, however, does bend towards completely empty. Spaces are great tools for building relationships between two testosterone and two estrogen filled love birds. Voids are not. The Detachment of the inner self from a lover in my view amounts to creating a void. The goal in unequal or mutual queer relationships is to create healthy spaces which do not lead into voids. The lack of attention and presence and the inconsiderate or unnecessary demand for it creates voids in queer relationships.

Explaining absence/void is a hard thing to do because it sometimes breeds shallow and petty replies which only heighten the tension and cause the affected to blame themselves for being petty or too demanding sometimes. It is crucial for couples to seek out and get to know what bridges the gap between them and what widens it. Queer couples who have lived apart for long and still have strong foundations have mastered the art of filling the void. Physical presence does not necessarily denote presence, and absence does not necessarily breed absence.  It is harder in relationships where there is unequal status mostly because of age differences. The presence and attention in the sexual interplay between Khaleesi and Karl Drogo in Game of Thrones show the transit from a hostile or unequal relationship into a mutual one. In the case of being the affected lover, one can objectively weigh if there actually is a problem or if it is them being excessive by a simple technique I use. Writing down all the things your lover does to make you feel needed and writing down all he/she does to make you feel there is a void helps you to be confident to approach the issue with him/her without making sweeping statements. Bear in mind that the goal is to encourage them to do more of what makes you feel their presence even when they are away.

People including myself hate to be schooled. People hate to be told blatantly that they are wrong or not doing something right. If the affected really wants the relationship to work and is genuinely seeing how clueless his/her lover is, soothing conversations would do the magic. A gentle help to pull down the walls built up by a lover to allow the free flow of love is worth the input. From small requests to send one’s partner readable contents, and the application of rewards and commendations when you notice a change, go a long way to save the relationship. Being on the other side (the accused) involves being agreeable and available to learn how to fill that void. There is nothing more beautiful in a relationship than couples knowing themselves inside out. My boyfriend, for example, loves his space and I am the complete opposite. My knowing who he is puts me in a comfortable place to differentiate when we are spaced out and when we experience temporal voids. It allows us to make comments like “I love how we were apart today”, actually appreciating our silence while being in the same room or house and distracted by different things. I am pretty sure he has his ways of dealing with me too for the betterment of the love we share.Reducing the feel of a void to triviality helps nothing. To go back to the beginning of this article, “in space there is something, however thin and intangible it is, it is felt” and “in a void, there is complete emptiness”. I have always asserted that, if there is no problem, a normal person would not just feel down or depressed. Once an issue no matter how small gets one faction in a fluster, open up and talk about it. Relationships are work, but they are works of art. The art of creating space and the art of filling voids are the building blocks to a lasting relationship. The need to feel needed is justifiable.

Horatio-Amzi Wildan (a pseudonym) is a passionate performing artist, who is still on his journey to attaining true liberty from “others” opinions on his sexuality. His interest in opinionated writing is one of the surest ways to contribute his quota to the LGBTQIA+ community.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this Op-Ed by the Writer are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Rustin Times.

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