Queer love was termed the love that dare not speak its name. Since the 1950s, beginning with the “homophile” movement and then moving into the LGBTQ Liberation Movement, that has begun to change, although we have a long way to go. Queer couples can be more “out” and even walk down the street hand in hand. Queer love requires tremendous courage. It is set against a backdrop of hatred, bashing and discrimination. As queer people, we should hold are heads up high. This is because we were not, in the words of Audre Lorde, ever meant to survive. So in the face of so much death and destruction, we still manage to bring love into existence as openly queer people. As proud queer people.
Queer love though is more than same-gender partners loving each other, although that is certainly an important part of it. Queer love is love that moves beyond the parameters of cisgender, heteronormative, monogamous coupledom and the traditional, patriarchal/patrilineal nuclear family. This includes so many people and so many families. Queer love does not rely on biological blood. It relies on ties of love, affection and commitment. There is no telling how many queer families there are because the establishment attempts to erase them, to render them invisible. But there are lots of us, and we matter!
For me, the most vital part of queering love involves changing how we think about it and conceptualize it. It is too easy to simply see queer love as the flipside of straight love. Gay or “homosexual” may be the flip side of straight/heterosexual love but queer love is not. Queer is not a synonym for gay or “homosexual.” Nor is it simply a short-hand for LGBTQQIAAP+ communities. Queer is resistance to all normative regimes. It contests all that society deems “normal’, regular, universal and required. Queer is the rebellious teen, challenging everything they come into contact with, accepting nothing at face value. Queer is radical, revolutionary and liberatory. Queer does not accept reform or tepid comebacks. It demands more for us, for all of us, whether we are queer or not.
Queering love means moving away from monogamous coupledom and marriage. It means moving away only from romantic love. It truly means collective love, societal-wide love and love as a core cultural value. When we transcend “Valentine’s Day Love” and move into love as a radical entity that exists to promote inner and outer transformation, we seize upon love as a change agent and a force for good. Too many people do not fit into the coupledom model or the nuclear family model. We do not deserve to be left out of the love equation. Transforming the meaning of love is a necessity to promote greater inclusion and to harness the power of love to fashion activism that has caring and concern at its very center.
Did the early radical queer liberationists envision “marriage equality” as one of their key goals? While I believe same-sex/same-gender marriage should be legal because of basic fairness, I do not see it as a particularly progressive move since the institution of marriage itself is so oppressive and patriarchal. Now that that right is secured, where do we go from here? Too many see marriage as the be all and end all of LGBTQ rights. It is conservatizing and limited. We need to think bigger. And part of this bigger thinking is about what queer love means and about what it means to queer love in the largest possible sense. It is my hope that a more radical and revolutionary notion of collective love will eventually emerge, as well as utilizing the endless power of love to fuel our activism and social change, something we can do right here and right now.