a love letter to single queer people.
by Michael King
I wanted to take a moment, on this evening, to pen a few words to those of us who’ve fought for the right to love and be loved, but also who find ourselves on our own. The following is a love letter to single queer people, written with sincerity and conviction:
Looking back. I imagine most people, queer or not, grow into the idea of love somewhat clumsily. Awkward middle school dances, shaky hands, crushes that leave us stammering. The clunky pains of figuring out love are, as it turns out, a relatively universal human experience.
For queer people, however, love often starts out as a pretty difficult thing to imagine. So many of us struggle to understand who we are, to accept the feelings that fall over us, to give voice to the shape our hearts are taking, and so we shove our feelings aside.
In my teenage years, I remember trying very hard to feel romantically about girls. Ignoring the shortness of breath I felt around some of my male classmates, I pursued teenage love with a sort of wide-eyed optimism. The girls who dated me were funny, smart, and pretty, with a solid taste in music and interests comparable to mine. Whenever the time came to hold hands, however, or look at one another and kiss, my heart recoiled. It didn’t feel right. Time after time, though, I resolved to try again. I couldn’t, after all, be gay.
In college, after a couple of years of seriously dating a girlfriend, I gave her a promise ring. A month or so later, I took her to see the film Valentine’s Day. As we sat in the theatre, hands held beneath the theatre armrest, Taylor Lautner came onto the screen. Taylor took my mind by the hand, leading it down a very different path, and suddenly I remembered the woman next to me. I glanced over to her, and she glanced back, smiling. Oh, God, I realized, I am going to devastate her. We broke up a few months later.
Even then, in my youngest twenties, I didn’t believe my heart could have the love it was reaching for. For more than a year, I started envisioning a future in which I would live out my life alone, channeling my heart into a platonic sort of love for the people around me. Maybe I’d adopt a child, be a single father. There was hope on the horizon, I thought, but love – the way my peers described it, the way I’d dreamt of it feeling – did not seem to be in the cards.
I found courage when I first fell in love at 22, when a hand grasped mine and sent ripples of feeling through my limbs. I began to believe in love when I finally felt it, the kiss that overwhelmed my senses, the arms around me that caused me to exhale. To rest. I began to believe that I, too, could find love when, at last, I didn’t have to try so hard to feel it.
The years that followed, the ones in which I worked to build my voice into something strong enough to proclaim myself, were the years in which I finally began to believe I deserved love. As I am. Possessing this heart, in this shape.
My God, there were no harder barriers to battle through than the ones I’d set for myself. And, while our journeys are different, I would wager self-made obstacles are an idea most queer people can connect to.
Looking around. This love letter is intended, first and foremost, for single queer people. For those of us who’ve ventured into identities we can call home, perhaps in pursuit of the love we struggled to imagine for ourselves, and now find ourselves on our own.
To get here, we fought through barriers internal and external. We spoke ourselves into existence, stammered our coming-out stories to people we loved. We cried, held our hearts out with shaky hands, and rose to our unsteady feet. We summoned courage we weren’t sure we would ever find, we cut ourselves free of the ropes binding us to the floorboard, and we found ourselves here.
Perhaps we imagined, in doing so, we’d be rewarded with a happily ever after. Instead, we found ourselves at the start line.
The truth of it, I’ve realized, is that we did not only fight for the right to love and be loved. We fought for the full experience of love. We fought to have our hearts broken and to scramble to make sense of how something so wonderful could have sifted through our fingertips. We fought to get knocked off our feet by attraction, to navigate perils like long distance and unaccepting families, to spend one moment in passionate embrace and another wondering if the person sitting right beside us has any idea as to who we are. We fought for all of it, for the joys and the fears and the heartbreaks and the new chances and the questions and the jitters and the bouts of devotion and the arguments and the long hugs after.
We fought so we could join the fight, so we could know the full range of the human experience. We fought to belong to the hard world of love. We fought to assert our humanity and – once we fought our way out into the world – we found ourselves to be humans.
We’ve learned, like humans across a spectrum of identities and histories, that love can complicated, messy, and lonely. Our hearts can break, too, perhaps especially because we’ve fought so hard that they might be loved.
Looking ahead. Who can say what’s ahead for any of us? In some ways, queer people operate without much of a script. We don’t have many couples to model our vision of the future around. To be queer and single is to wonder not only if there’s somebody out there, but possibly to wonder at what we might build with somebody if we find them.
It can be lonely, I think, and it can be hard to remember how brave we are to be here, as ourselves, searching for love with the rest of humanity. I write this as a love letter because, whether we remember it or not, it took incredible courage to find our way here. To stand on these feet and hold our queer heads high. To all of us, you and me and every other queer person finding themselves on their own, I have this to say:
Just by being here, you have proven you have the courage to live and share a worthy story. By showing up, you have asserted that you’re willing to believe you deserve love, that you’ll work to unbind yourself from the idea that love can’t see you standing there. You have shared yourself, at first in stammered sentences and perhaps today in rally cries. You fought for this, the right to seek out love. You have demonstrated the magic of believing in magic.
So be loved. Believe in the people around you, your tribe, when they tell you you’re worth loving. Remember, when you look in the mirror and see yourself, that you once weren’t certain you’d ever do so. Don’t forget the freedom you felt when, at last, you allowed yourself to dance. How glorious it was, then, to forget how you’d been taught to walk.
And perhaps they’re waiting, the person you’ll love. Sitting in a café somewhere, or watching TV, or hailing a cab in the rain. Perfectly unaware of the beautiful mystery they’ll find in the tangle of your being.
It’s a nice thing to hope, and a hard thing to wait for. Take comfort, perhaps, in the knowledge that this is a deeply human tension. The journey to finding love, after all, makes us all more alike than apart.