Hate is a strong word. Isn’t that what they always say? Well, I agree. I’m only using hate here because it turns my title into a catchy juxtaposition. But I stand by the sentiment. As a member of the queer community, I take issue with two of the mainstream mantras of the LGBTQ movement – ‘born this way,’ as tackled in a future post, and ‘love is love’.
I can’t find any specific timelines of the development of the slogan love is love, but some preliminary googling shows that it became popular alongside the 2010’s fight to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act in the United States. In June 2016, gay marriage was legalised in United States with the Obergefell vs Hodges case. Love won, it was proclaimed.
As Justin Myers points out here, it is perhaps revealing to contrast the contemporary queer slogan of ‘love is love’ with the 1990s slogan of ‘we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.’ This was coined by Queer Nation, a queer advocacy body that leaned towards the confrontational side and wanted to take queers ‘out of the closet and into the streets.’
It’s not so much that I hate ‘love is love’. ‘Love is love’ is beautiful! I’m happy to see pictures of queer love fill my newsfeed. Use the slogan if it moves you. It is a glorious thing to celebrate love – especially love that is hard-won. However, if we use it, we ALSO need to be conscious of the change of mood in the contemporary queer rallying cry. It is not simply different words.
There are three elements I take issue with in ‘love is love’.
‘Love is love’ implies we have arrived. It was used to fight for, and then to celebrate, the legalisation of gay marriage, or when queer love became just as valid under the state as straight love. But the reality is that love is not love. Even with legal equality, love is not equal in practice (not to mention the glaring fact that it is very North American centric to consider the legal battles won). Still today, my love is difficult for my family to explain to their friends; my love is a point of conversation, not simply a fact; my love is something I hide from my grandma and dentist; my love is ‘hot’ for straight men; my love is illegal in many countries; my love is something I worry about revealing every time I meet new people; my love is something I hide – my love is a revolution!
‘Love is love’ implies queer love is only ok because it exists within the neat confines of heteronormative, patriarchal monogamy (forgive my wordiness, my social justice warrior is showing…). What if the very way we queers love is transgressive? What about polyamory? What about unrequited crushes on straight people? What about gay and lesbian partners who come together to raise a family? What about queer fucking? What about queers without love? Are we all valid too?
‘Love is love’ implies inclusivity while implicitly leaving people out. As a queer movement we are not ready for ‘love is love’. Love isn’t love when our trans and non-binary family still struggle to find bathrooms they can use safely. Love isn’t love while our very own community expresses such vitriol towards Black, Indigenous, and queers of colour when they raise their distinct struggles. Love isn’t love when merely existing as a trans woman puts you at a substantially higher risk for murder.
I don’t want to be a buzzkill. I think the celebration of queer love is important, necessary, sweet, and fun. I only worry that the palatability of ‘love is love’ obscures how much work is still left to do. It hides the true challenge and complexity of queer love and queer existence.
Let us bask in our gains and the fact that so many straight people now see our love as valid. But let us still remember that love isn’t love for everyone. Let us come to together to celebrate and struggle so that one day we don’t need any slogans at all.