an exclusive interview with:
Doris & Clarissa
Q: Introduce yourselves. How did you two meet? Who was the first to express interest?
Doris: My name is Doris, and I am an illustration student at RISD. I’m not really sure where I am on the spectrum, so I just identify with the word ‘queer’ the most, and I use she/her pronouns. Clarissa and I met through a mutual friend, and she had started getting into doing stick-and-poke tattoos at the time, and also, unfortunately, had a boyfriend. Despite that, I had a huge crush the second I met her and volunteered to be one of her first tattoo clients, even though she had never really done a tattoo on another person before, and I wasn’t particularly ready to get a tattoo as well. But, it turned out great, and we started hanging out afterwards!
Q: What is the Queer dating scene like at your university? Does it differ from Queer dating cultures at other other colleges?
D: From my own experiences, it feels like RISD students are definitely more open (and possibly more fluid?) about their sexualities and identities. When I leave the RISD bubble, it really feels like other colleges have a majority of people who resist leaving the status quo, while a majority of people at RISD feel more critical of it and try to break the norm. I think it’s great, though, because chances are many people you meet are most likely not completely heterosexual, which is a relief for those who have experienced the common gay tragedy in high school where you fall in love with your straight best friend.
C: At RISD I don’t feel the need to go out of my way to tell or hide anything, I feel comfortable liking who I like. I think most of us here understand there isn’t one way to love. I don’t know what it’s exactly like at other colleges, but for example when I caught up with friends from Hong Kong they mentioned how homogeneous students were (whether it’s because of your own belief or everyone around you just acts this way)- you would be judged if your makeup was a little different, if your actions were different. I imagine I wouldn’t be as comfortable with my sexuality there as I am here.
D: I would like to think that I’m substantially more considerate emotionally and intimately than the average cis heterosexual man that is my age. I think something that is just unique to our relationship is that we both personally understand and respect the struggles and needs of each other, and communicate often. I think an unfortunate obstacle is that I can’t (or in the near future) integrate my relationship with my family or her family, because of how conservative they are. Otherwise, I would definitely love Clarissa to meet my parents as my girlfriend (though I have definitely introduced her to them as my ‘best friend’). I’ve also been introduced to Clarissa’s mom as her ‘best friend’ but I think she doesn’t like me.
Q: Besides the obvious, in what ways do you think Queer dating and traditional heterosexual dating differ? What are some obstacles unique to dating in the Queer Community?
Clarissa: I’m Clarissa and I am also an illustration senior at RISD (I majored in graphic design for a year before realizing how much I wanted to pursue tattooing). I didn’t get to know Doris well until she told(lied to) me that she “always wanted a tattoo” haha. It was one of the first tattoos I’ve done on another person other than myself. It took so long, but we just talked all the way to 2AM, and I even spilled ink on her white shirt, but it was all fun. I started spending more time with her after that because it was always a good time. I didn’t realize that she wanted to hang out with me so much because she had a crush on me LOL But I eventually came around and a year later we started dating.
C: I feel like traditional heterosexual relationships are unavoidably surrounded by toxic expectations and fucked up gender role stereotypes- mostly created by our capitalist society honestly to just sell us stuff. I still have to unlearn a lot of “norms” that I was exposed to growing up because a company decided only one kind of romance sells. I think personally going into a queer relationship there was a lot more I didn’t know, because there wasn’t a lot of media telling me how I should act, but as a result there is a lot more communication and growing together with my significant other. On the other hand, I don’t think my parents would know how to act if I told them I have a girlfriend. I’m still not out and I’m not sure when I will be. It’s unfortunate, but I think they just never had the exposure we as a younger generation do, and don’t understand that love can be on a spectrum. It’s hard not being able to share this important part of me with them.
Q: What are some misconceptions regarding Queer relationships? Anything you’ve seen/heard firsthand?
D: One of the big misconceptions I have experienced firsthand is with girls assuming that I am automatically attracted to them because I like girls and have a girlfriend. After I cut my hair and became more open with my identity, but less ‘straight-passing’, I noticed some acquaintances started acting very weird around me and kept their distance with me, which made me feel uncomfortable and alienated (and honestly, a little upset at myself for making such homophobic friends). I guess this was actually a good thing, though, because now I know I filtered out the bad ones, but feel inclined to sometimes even adjust my body language and enthusiasm to avoid any misunderstandings. I think in media, queer people are hypersexualized and only considered ‘okay’ by straight people if they don’t bother anyone with their ‘gayness’. In reality, we have high standards just like anyone else and would probably be not attracted to anyone who feels this way.
C: My mom used to always ask (and there is probably other people who also say this) “who’s the boy and who’s the girl?” when referring to queer relationships. And this is why we can’t have good things. No one should try to “make sense” of another person’s happiness just because you have a narrow perspective. There is no need to try and categorize people into binaries just because that’s “easier to understand”. It’s not hard to understand at all.
Q: Have your parents/guardians expressed any opinions about your relationship? Are they aware of it?
D: When I was in high school, my sister came out to my parents as bisexual and was immediately disowned and shunned from the family for an extended period of time. My parents said extremely hateful things to her, and up until now, my mother tells me often that if there was a chance I turned out like my sister, she would surely take her own life. This has definitely taken a mental toll on me in coming to terms of my own happiness and queerness at the expense of my mother’s expectations for me, which gives me a lot of complicated feelings (I definitely feel indebted to my parents for giving birth to me and 21 years of financial support, and this is also something that they emphasize often). So, I definitely do not think I will be letting her know anytime soon. Right now, the issues between my sister and parents have since been somewhat resolved, and I think they already deduced that I am not straight, but I don’t believe we will talk about it anytime soon.
C: They’re not aware of it, or they are in denial. I want to tell them eventually after I have a stable career in the future. I want to show them that I’m fine and successful and gay. (-’:
Q: If you could impart dating advice to a younger version of yourself, what would it be? Do you have any tips for other queer-identifying individuals looking to date?
D: I would tell my younger self to not date people for the sake of experiencing things. I was so closeted in high school that I would go headfirst into unhealthy and weird relationships I wasn’t ready for, just for the sake of exploration into intimacy and sexuality, and it was honestly the worst romantic experiences of my life so far. Other tips are if you are closeted and have found someone who is also attracted to you, to try not to discount your happiness, if you can, for the sake of fitting into societal and familial expectations (like religion you are obligated to or keeping your homophobic friends or obeying your homophobic parents...etc.) I think I realized that it is most likely worth it to prioritize yourself and live your life for yourself. Even though I still have many obstacles for the future, I have never been happier in the present with Clarissa.
C: In my past relationship that was long distance, I became ridiculously, unhealthily insecure. I don’t think I realized what I wanted in a relationship so there wasn’t clear communication there, and my confidence became reliant on someone else’s validation. This is not fair to you or your significant other, and you probably end up disappointing each other again and again. Also it’s really common while I was was growing up for media to depict relationships with a mysterious and broody person that suddenly transforms and lovingly gives you exactly what you want- so unrealistic! It is rare that someone (even more rare if they are an asshole to begin with) will know what you want without you telling them, but maybe with time and communication there will be no need for mind reading. Talking about what you are thinking and what you expect in a relationship and to know what your significant other expects is so important. It’s a lot easier to be on the same page when you communicate, and you can find yourself growing together and growing closer too.