After a painful split, Amelia Abraham set off around the world, meeting sex workers, trans activists and a nonbinary family to see how LGBTQ+ culture has changed the way we can live together
On an easyJet flight in November 2016, I wondered whether it was possible to die of heartbreak. It felt like I was cracking down the middle, a gorge opening up. Id met my girlfriend on Tinder and instantly fallen in love. She was in the UK for a holiday from the small Icelandic town where she lived, so we embarked on a long distance relationship, until we decided we should be together properly. I dropped everything. I quit my job, moved out of my flat and moved to Iceland. Ten days later I was single and crying on the plane home.
We had fallen very hard and fast in the beginning, mutually convinced for six months at least that we would marry one another and have adorable Icelandic gaybies. When the relationship ended, I wasnt just experiencing the hurt or the embarrassment, but mourning the grand narrative of a life together: marriage, kids, old age. But the pain was made greater because this was a narrative that, as an LGBTQ+ person, I had not, until now, ever believed to be available to me.
I was born in London in 1991. Id had two decades of being raised in a country where gay people were not equal by law. When I came out as bisexual at 18 (later, gay) we were still in the dark-ish ages: before tabloid pictures of A-list power lesbians kissing, before gay men could legally walk down the aisle in Britain. If society didnt believe 2.4 children was for me, why should I? As I moaned to my friends about the breakup, I explained I was seeing it through not just a personal prism, but a political one, how I felt conflicted about my newfound dream of living a more conventional life. Quickly, I learned I was not alone. The more conversations I had with friends, the more it felt as if our feelings of ambivalence were linked to this wider moment we were living in as LGBTQ+ people in the west a moment of unprecedented acceptance in which queer culture had never been so mainstream and where there were more life options than ever. But at what cost, I wondered, had this progress come?
I resolved I would go and investigate what this moment meant for LGBTQ+ people. I would take a year to travel around the world talking to queer people about their lives. I hoped that, along the way, it would tell me something about how to live mine.
Sean and Sinclair welcomed me on to the rooftop of their apartment in LA. Wed first met in 2014 when Id attended their wedding one of the very first same-sex marriages in the UK. The queer theorist Lisa Duggan has described the legalisation of marriage as a political sedative first we get marriage then we go home and cook dinner forever. Was decrying marriage something queer people only do until they find The One? Sinclair, the younger of the pair, told me about his closeted upbringing and how watching Queer as Folk had made him believe gay culture was all about wild, casual sex.
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