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  • Writer's pictureVictoria

S.1 Ep.1: Love, Duh.

Wayward Wonderland

In an effort to lay lush groundwork for this column, I’d like to start with love. This week I’m thinking and reflecting on my personal understanding of love and my observations about queer love. I reference the Generational Anxiety episode Love in the Digital Era hosted by Bianca Vivion, with guests Doreen St. Félix and Nikki Giovanni. I highly recommend you watch it and the two-part 1971 SOUL! special with James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni. 

Thank you to this person who left this very sweet comment on the Wayward Wonderland google form :) Feel free to leave comments, questions, work you’d like to share via this column, whatever you want, really.

“I really enjoy your storytelling, and the world that you are creating. I love reading your perspective as a black, lesbian woman. Because, I myself, identify as a black bisexual woman and a writer. Thank you for sharing, and continuing to share your story. It’s needed!”

I would love to read some of your work if you’re a sharer :)

Beginning with this episode Wayward Wonderland will be a bi-weekly column. I am not imposing any structure to it nor am I planning the topic of each episode far in advance. If you have a topic suggestion or anything you'd like me to include in the next post, send it over. Enjoy and, as always, let me know your thoughts. 

On Love

Doreen St. Félix’s first interaction with love was through religion; a conditional love. The idea being that you have to give enough to be worthy of love, as she describes it. 

I’m inclined to believe that my first interaction with love was what I felt for my family as a child. I wanted to be carried only by my father, play with only my brother, and every other need and want could only be given to me by my mother. Love was exclusive and sacred; reserved for the few closest to you. As an anxious child, this quickly manifested into a deep fear of loss and eventually deep disappointment. 

I understood love to be inherent between blood relatives with the only condition being that you must return the unconditional love. Even through hurt, betrayal, and heartbreak, you must love on the principle of family. This meant that if my family were to die, I would lose the security of love. And so each night I dreamt the death of my father or my brother, – never my mother because even my subconscious knows that is too heavy to entertain – and each time they left the house I waited in paralyzing fear until I could confirm their still-beating hearts. 

Rage rampaged our household. I could not comprehend how one could love through such anger. Thus, love became a burden. Love was the debilitating responsibility of keeping peace and keeping alive. Love was worry and panic.

In my viewings of this episode of Generational Anxiety, I’ve observed these women speak primarily of heterosexual romantic and sexual love. They reference Nikki Gioavanni’s conversation with James Baldwin, where the two speak of the Black woman and Black man’s relationship. 

“Lie to me,” Giovanni tells him.

Jimmy says, “If I love you, I can’t lie to you.”

“Of course you can lie to me. And you will. If you’re going off with Maddie some place you’re lying to me. Because what the hell do I care about the truth? I care if you’re there. What Billie Holiday said, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’” – this is the responsibility of love.

Of course that was 1971 when perhaps there was so much risk that it was enough if your lover simply committed to living alongside you. But in this “digital era” the value of a lie-for-survival is no longer enough for most people. Of course we still face great risk as marginalized peoples but our promise for survival is greater than that of Giovanni’s and Baldwin’s in ‘71. 

When I would run crying to my dad in a panic, he told me that he would never let anything or anyone hurt me. Even as a five year old, I knew it was a lie. Not because he wouldn’t try to fulfill his promise but because it is not possible for one to completely protect another. He would not be able to protect me from himself because he wouldn’t know I needed that protection. 

In a world of infinite and inevitable knowledge translated to us through digital screens, I do not need lies. 

Giovanni tells us about the peanut that a grandmother gives her grandson before he is sold into slavery. She tells of the journey the grandson makes, peanut in hand, to the American plantation where he plants the peanut. How years later, Tubman comes along with a plan of escape, and he stays for the sake of his peanut: “It was radical to leave, and it was also radical to stay.”

I have a peanut flower tattooed on my sternum because I am choosing to stay with myself like Giovanni's boy stayed with his peanut. The cool thing about being a human and not a peanut is that you can stay with yourself while also running away with another. 

“What makes love love is stepping outside of yourself to relate to another.” - Doreen St. félix

My first interaction with queer love was my first/only/current queer relationship. The queer thing about queer love in this particular moment is that there is an innate understanding of unknowing. Her and I both know a queer relationship occupies different spaces and boundaries as a straight relationship. The difference lies not necessarily in the sex or the genders, but in the risk of loving another queer person and the already existing hardship of loving your own love; the love that makes you queer; the love that makes you different; the love that makes it all harder.

The last thing I want her to do is to lie to me, ignorance is not an option. 

Giovanni says that one should desire a sex that is vulnerable. I wonder if sex while queer is innately vulnerable, or if queerness equates to vulnerability. It is one vulnerability to admit to myself that I love a woman. It is another to admit it to her. Is it an entirely other vulnerability to be naked with her; to kiss her. I think much of this lies in the common experience that queer love, whether it be self love or for others, is not promised the way we are bred to believe familial or heterosexual or cisgender love should be. We queers are the exception.

The hardest thing about falling in love with a woman is letting her fall in love with me because of its confirmation of my queerness. If I love a woman and a woman loves me and we are together, I can no longer avoid myself. It is amazing to me that we can choose to commit to love, it is something I had never considered previously. The responsibility of love is so much more fulfilling when it feels like a choice and a constant, an ongoing commitment rather than an expected and automatic responsibility that arrived at birth and is taboo to deny. 

What I love about being queer is that I am always getting to choose. And I suppose that in other aspects of reality we can choose to always have choice, but the unknown of queerness allows us to choose without expectation of definition or relative logic. What is queer to me may not be to you and may not be to a non-queer and instead of being a defiance of norms it is simply an existing practice that very few are itching to understand in a structured way. I believe this is because we are not “in power,” the non-queers are (whatever power means these days…) and of course, the powerless do not need to be understood. Because if we were understood then we would be credible. And if we were credible…well, things would be different around here.

Queer or not, I feel you should always strive to commit to yourself while also loving others. But I think it is particularly wonderful to do so as a queer person; to recognize that queer love does not need to be a sacrifice; to bask in the beauty of the risk; to not lie.

'Till next time, I love you.


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