Long Reads

Is Society Ready to Accept Unconventional Relationships?

Loving isn’t always winning–not yet.

The LGBTQ+ community has seen historic socio-cultural and legislative advances in the 21st century, wherein social media plays a huge part.

And yet, there is formidable restraint from the conservative end of the spectrum. Other romantic ties remain relegated to the shadows: not just LGBTQ+ relationships, but also relationships that break boundaries of class, race, religion, and other stubborn social constructs.

We may have come far on the road to liberating every healthy, consenting adult relationship, but we still have a long way to go. The numbers have it:

In the last five decades, Closeup’s campaigns have focused on one key idea: bringing people closer together. However, there lies a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, a question that needs an answer:

What keeps people from getting close?

To address the question, Closeup conducted a study across three key markets: Brazil, India, and the Philippines. The goal was to articulate and understand relationships deemed unacceptable or forbidden in the cultures of each country.

The freedom of attraction

Results were tallied into a “Freedom of Attraction Index,” which projects a positive outlook overall, but is also discouraging in some points.

According to the study, nine in 10 youths wish to live in a world where people are free to openly pursue a relationship with the person they’re attracted to regardless of what cultures and conventions dictate.

However, fewer than three of five youths believe that we actually have that freedom. This may be disheartening, but it also shows that young people acknowledge the problem.

Three-fourths of respondents admitted involvement in unconventional relationships, but at least half of them have had to do so in secret, fearing discrimination and judgment.

Closeup’s study mentions the negative psychological effects of pursuing—but having to conceal—relationships that are deemed inappropriate: damaged self-esteem and a diminished ability to live a life of authenticity, which leads to self-doubt.

The need for a supportive culture

Closeup’s study also shows that friends and family are crucial in establishing a safe space for those with unconventional preferences. The culture of filial piety leads 30% of Filipino youths to feel guilty toward their family about their relationships. Across all countries, 53% felt that the lack of support from their families was a key hindrance to their relationships.

Meanwhile, 40% say they would rather turn to their close friends for support if they don’t feel that they are free to be with the person they’re attracted to; and 51% feel that the support from friends gives them the courage to pursue a relationship.

Closeup champions the freedom to love by celebrating barrier breakers. Its latest campaign features the stories of people who struggled through forbidden relationships. Watch:


The equal right to love should be universal. If we can each engage more people in healthy discussions about it, it might bring all of us a step closer to a safer, better world, without fear or prejudice. Love may not always win—not yet, at least. But we should always fight for it.

 For more information, visit Closeup’s Free to Love page.

This article was created by Summit StoryLabs in partnership with Closeup.
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