Our friendship started online about 3 years ago. Both of us were 15 at the time – me, deep, deep in the closet in a pretty bleak social situation. Eli had attempted suicide not two months earlier and their main group of friends decided to jump ship. We ended up finding each other at incredibly pivotal times in each other’s lives, which I think set the tone for the level of importance we’d later hold in each other’s lives.
In the months that followed our initial meeting I realised that something about my friendship with them was different from the others I’d found myself in. I think it partially came out of the physical freeness and comfort there was. There are so many nuances of friendship that I had been taught and retaught over and over in every other friendship that enforced the idea that a physical relationship with someone else was reserved for those you are only in a romantic setting with, and Eli brought a physical closeness free of the confines of a romantic relationship.
I think why this meant so much to me was held to the fact that being so deep in the closet I wasn’t able to find that sort of physical affection anywhere else. With Eli, I filled the need I had for it, a salvation of love really, that I think a lot of other people in close-knit queer friendships have found as well. Every action was an affirmation of love for the other, and I think it was a love I had never really had the pleasure of feeling before so wholeheartedly.
Our friendship continued, and we continued to grow alongside each other, being there for each other to give support whenever needed. I think the time when I needed Eli the most was the point when I eventually had to start to come to terms with my own sexuality. Eli was the first person I verbalised this to – half-drunkenly on a poolside, and they were there through it all, reassuring me always of my own validity and helping me to come to terms with this part of myself. There was this mutual understanding of struggle that I don’t think many of my other friends at the time could have matched.
We live in a culture that epitomises romantic/sexual relationships above all else. It’s built up within societal norms – as well as music and movies – as a romantic relationship being the most important connection in one’s own life, superseding all others. Despite how I’ve been built up to view romantic relationships over friendship thus far in my life, I know my friendship with Eli has been probably one of the most important that I’ve experienced. I really do believe that there is such beauty and magic in the odd ambiguity and intimacy that can be found within queer friendship, and I think that it’s vastly under-represented.
Photography: Tom Denize @tomdenize
Model: Eli @raleyrose