There's a lot of mention of "the love" in discussions of QAF. Mostly, this refers to the love of Brian and Justin, and most people, when asked, will define "the love" differently from anyone else. This is simply how I think of it.
While Queer as Folk is my one true fandom, I once came close to being equally obsessed with a television show, Xena: Warrior Princess, and another fictional pairing, Xena and Gabrielle. When I first saw QAF, I was immediately struck with how many similarities there are between the two couples, and when I first came to fandom, I mentioned that several times.
A few people asked me if I thought the creators of QAF had "borrowed" some elements of the Xena/Gabrielle relationship deliberately, because there really are an extraordinary number of parallels. But no, I'm quite certain they didn't, because they didn't have to. That's because this isn't the Xena/Gabrielle story, and it's not the Brian/Justin story. It's not even the "reformed rake and the virgin" story.
It's the story about light and dark. About good and evil, heaven and earth, yin and yang, fire and water, suffering and joy, life and death.
Brian and Justin and Xena and Gabrielle weren't invented by the writers of Queer as Folk or Xena: Warrior Princess. They already existed. The writers simply gave them names and fleshed out the details of their lives. They gave them a time period and a geography (and in the case of Xena, an alternative universe), gave them parents and siblings and friends and enemies and a backstory. They gave Xena a horse named Argo, and Brian a classic Corvette. They raped Gabrielle and smashed a bat into Justin's head, and nearly killed Xena and Brian when they did it.
To me, these stories are romances. Of course, sometimes a "romance" is any story in which the primary love relationship is the whole plot. But a true romance, the kind that makes your heart ache, makes you feel like going out and volunteering at a soup kitchen and becoming a foster parent and joining the Peace Corps, that kind of romance is the story of light and dark. The story about how meanness and prejudice and hatred never prevail against courage and compassion and love. The story about how sometimes the ice around our hearts can be melted by the connection with someone else.
This kind of romance doesn't always have to be a love story. Any sexual relationship between Xena and Gabrielle is always subtextual, but it is a romantic relationship nonetheless. Xena is the damaged, wounded hero, carrying enormous psychic burdens and shielded against human love and trust. Whether Gabrielle is Xena's best friend or sister or lover doesn't really matter, because she's the light to Xena's darkness. She's the catalyst by which Xena rejoined humanity, with all the pain and joy that entails. (Is any of this sounding familiar to Brian/Justin fans?)
This story gets told sometimes without even two humans involved - how many stories did you read when you were a kid, where a dog or horse or cat was a child's only friend? Where the foot that got stuck in the door of a rapidly-closing heart was a hoof or a furry paw? If you think this story has no power without some silly soap opera cliche of what "romance" is, go read Old Yeller or Black Beauty and tell me that again.
The whole point of telling the story about light and dark, yin and yang, heaven and earth, is to unite the two halves, to lighten the darkness. That is what I find so compelling about both these relationships, but with Brian and Justin there's one more element.
For lesbian and gay audiences, seeing same-sex relationships on television is rare. Seeing depictions of passionate, soulmate-level love stories between two men or two women on television? Incredibly rare -- I'd argue the only one we've ever seen is the story of Xena and Gabrielle.
Seeing a passionate, soulmate-level love story between two people of the same gender with really hot, beautifully depicted but still very explicit sex? On television? I'd never seen it. Ever. And when I did, it blew the top of my head off.
And that's what I mean by "the love." You may have a different definition -- if you do, I hope you visit our fandom and tell me about it!
This website is Xie's gift to the fandom that gave so much to her. She can be contacted at xie.kay at gmail.com ...