The hard work of love
We’ve always been here and we’re (yes, still) not going anywhere
I’m going to write about one of my favourite types of love. This love doesn’t have to be romantic or sexual – or either of the two, honestly – and it’s one of the most fulfilling ways to approach the world that I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.
This love is a curious love. It’s an acceptance that people will always surprise you, that you can’t know another person’s every thought, but the beautiful curiosity to want to get to know them for a lifetime as they really are. To be willing to invest in their growth repeatedly and to understand that growth will change them, and to support what’s best for them when ‘what’s best’ changes through the course of a friendship (and in a healthy one, it will).
This love is work to not impose your will on somebody else, to not require that they exist in a certain way in order for you to love them, but to embrace the multiple ways they can be in this world and to work to help them find joy in their being. Some people see nurturing as a gardener pruning plants, but this approach doesn’t mean you get to decide which aspects of themself another person should have removed or which direction they should grow in.
A ruthless gardener makes for great produce, not good people. Nurturing means helping to create a healthy environment that you participate in, it’s an ecosystem that collaborates – the most natural thing in the world. You do not get to dictate how that support system works but you can explore whether or not you have a healthy place in it. You acknowledge and respect that others have autonomy, and even if in a friendship or relationship with you they are independent of you. They’re a person with their own will, not an object to re-shape at your will.
In essence, this is queer love.
The existence of this love can help to explain some of what anti-trans hate and general homophobia are really rooted in, because one huge aspect of both is objectification. If a person doesn’t fit into traditional (*cough* heteronormative, misogynistic, colonial-value-based *cough*) categories, some more ‘traditional’ folk decide that if they won’t act like a ‘proper’ person, they don’t have to be treated like a person at all.
That’s when those folk go into ruthless gardener mode. Working quickly and violently, they try to keep someone else inside a box so they can control and benefit from whatever growth they allow to occur. Typically, only growth that benefits the ruthless gardener is permitted. They want a god-like control over nature instead of accepting they exist in nature; they could be a healthy part of the ecosystem but instead they act like a parasite.
You can see this rapid, ruthless violence in places like Glendale, California at a school board meeting. The board was voting early in June to decide whether or not to officially make June pride month (for the fifth year in a row) this year, and there were 2SLGBTQIA+ supporting parents outside the school advocating for it when right-wing fascists descended on the group, physically intimidating and assaulting those who supported. Some of the group protesting 2SLGBTQIA+ rights were later discovered to be members of the Proud Boys. Not parents of children at schools under that board, not people involved with the Glendale community, just militant intimidators trying to enforce their social order on others.
These sorts of situations will not be getting less common in the coming days. If anything, these situations will increase as right-wing bigots worldwide also witness this, as they see others like them be allowed to bully, abuse, and attack anyone of a different worldview than their own. Rather than having interest in any sort of love, this approach encourages violence in the face of difference.
One incredibly important caution I’d like to leave you with through this piece is to not underestimate those on the far-right. It doesn’t matter how stupid their ideas, stances, or practices may seem to you – you thinking someone’s perspective is stupid doesn’t mean they as an individual are stupid. Far-right fascists are known globally for being intelligent, organized, ruthless, and very well-financed. They are incredibly motivated to make sure that the way the world works doesn’t change one bit because they benefit from it, and they stand to lose those benefits if people begin growing for their own good rather than the good of the ruthless gardeners.
Embodying queer love is vitally important right now because of the sheer amount of force coming from those in positions of power to squelch the growth it brings. Queer love is a force of nature, it is nurturing and revitalizing and welcoming, and is under immense attack right now for the disruption it can bring because our status quo at the moment is not nurturing, revitalizing, or welcoming. The status quo is for people to behave like objects, to serve functions for those in power, to do what they’re told without question; none of the steps of that model incorporate love.
The first pride was a riot because it fucking had to be. The first pride was a riot because queer individuals were tired of being terrorized by their neighbours and law enforcement, they were tired of watching their friends die from brutal beatings or preventable sexually transmitted infections, and they were left with no option but to fight back in a war they didn’t ask for.
Megan Gorsalitz curated the Pride on the Prairies exhibit featured through the Diefenbaker Centre in 2021, and she included much Saskatchewan-specific history in the overview. Regina’s first pride week was in 1989, but Saskatoon didn’t follow until 1995. Saskatchewan didn’t legalize same-sex marriage until 2005. It wasn’t possible to mark one’s gender as non-binary on a Saskatchewan driver’s license until 2019. The majority of people have been alive for longer than queer people have had any semblance of rights, and these rights can very quickly be ripped away if we don’t have queer people and allies acting quickly and powerfully in this moment to protect them.
To start the ‘fighting back’ that our generations are facing now, we must boldly embody queer love everywhere possible. Not just in romantic and sexual relationships, but with everyone we encounter. Go about your life acting as a part of nature in your ecosystems, protect yourself and others from ruthless gardeners, and be loud in your pride. The celebrations, club nights, and parades are important – it’s hard to have a fulfilling life without joy and community – but never forget that pride was first a riot.
Never forget that these rights can be ripped away in a fraction of the time it took to fight for them. Never forget the ruthlessness of those who are in power and looking to stay there. Never forget that while we must love, we must fight for what we love.