The Truth About U-Hauling
"U-hauling" quite literally means what it sounds like. A term born in lesbian/sapphic communities, the phrase refers to couples moving in after a brief dating period, making fun of the notion of commitment in a short span of time.
But how common is this stereotype actually? How does lesbophobia influence these seemingly rushed decisions? Most importantly, how can sapphic couples know they're ready for cohabitation?
Busting the myth
There are no significant differences in relative rates of cohabitation among couple types, including lesbians, according to a 2018 sociology study conducted at Stanford University.
In other words, lesbians don't seem to move in together more quickly than couples of other orientations. If anything, the study emphasized the importance of age difference, as the age when lesbians tend to meet is a bit older than in heterosexual relationships. However, studies like these demonstrate that the stereotype is rooted in fiction as opposed to fact, so this begs the question: How could this narrative have come into existence?
For starters, collectively establishing that a decision is "premature" makes it difficult for us to recognize the individual experiences of the people who make them, according to Yocelin Martínez, a psychologist and integral sexual health educator with a feminist and human rights perspective based in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.
Rather than focusing on evaluating how quickly two people move in together, our attention should focus on the social and emotional circumstances of the couple involved. It's important to consider external factors that can influence the decision beyond the result of a couple's affection for each other.
"In some cases, the choice can be accelerated by the need for a life with dignity that many times is not available due to the context within families," Martínez said.
This context refers to violence toward women in the family who are sexually diverse; violence that can manifest daily in a psychological, economic and physical fashion, Martínez added. This, in turn, can warp how "at home" women who love women feel, and this becomes motivation to relocate to where they can truly feel psychologically and physically at home, Martínez said.
Sofía J. Poiré, a lesbian and feminist activist who works at a nonprofit group in Mexico dedicated to promoting sexual health, believes lesbophobia is also an important factor when considering why lesbian couples might move in after a short period of time.
"I do believe lesbophobia can influence in many, perhaps indirect ways...like economic precarity, where lesbian activists like Ana de Alejandro talk about a 'dykeification of poverty,'" Poiré said.
For example, a couple made up of women may face more obstacles to employment if their "lesbianness" is apparent.
Poiré pointed out how lesbophobia is also at the root of many mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder, for sapphic women. These conditions can also be the result of the violence lesbians face, as well as the struggle to find access to health services to help them with these issues.
Poiré questioned if increased vulnerability to being in situations of stress can perhaps also increase the chances of recreating unhealthy dynamics and conflict in relationships with partners.
Taking back the power to decide
Instead of worrying about how fast it seems lesbians are moving in with significant others, how can they guide their decision based on emotionally mature criteria?
An open conversation with certain guidelines can assist with this process, according to Maynné Cortés, psychologist, audiovisual creator and founder of Laboratorio Afectivo, a Spanish-language Instagram account that shares information about mental health and social justice.
"The decision should be the result of a series of emotional, economic and practical factors," Cortés said. "We can love each other very much, but if you want to live in a high-end penthouse and that is something out of my budget, then it simply will not work."
Cortés shared some general guidelines to help map out these complex conversations: counting on healthy conflict-resolution tools, openly discussing financial responsibility, considering whether you have the maturity to be able to share a space respectfully, and identifying possible challenges about cohabitation.
"There may be many conditions and circumstances that challenge us when we move in together," she said. "This is completely normal and OK. We can talk about and solve it as we go, however, our capacity to deal with these issues constructively is much greater when we foresee these possibilities and develop tools to work through things together before conflict arises."
Even though U-hauling isn't as common as we may think, there are still lesbophobic dynamics that may push lesbians to search for a home with a partner sooner than other couples. However, this isn't an inherently negative decision. Even if they move in "quickly," an ability to communicate and resolve disagreements can help them create a safe space where they can blossom individually and as a couple.