‘Love Is Love’ But Is It?

Category: Points Of View

Author: Bob O'Boyle

Every year, somewhere around the beginning of June, you can see the language of social media begin to change in predictable ways. Pride is coming up, and people are eager to celebrate. One of the phrases that you’re likely to see popping up everywhere – from major political figures to the t-shirts commercial retail stores put up for sale to the feeds of your friends and families – is the seemingly profound Love Is Love. From the time that it first came from people’s mouths, it carried a sort of defiant power; it was the rallying cry of the queer community pushing for marriage equality, trying to get the highest court in the United States to recognize the validity of their relationships. It was a pushback against virulent bigots, an appeal to an allocishet society by queer people for the legal protections they had been denied for decades.

Back in 2015, I was shouting “love is love” as loud as any other Good Ally, thinking that I was doing my level best to help the queer people I knew to be able to live a life just like I did. It seemed like such a simple idea that I couldn’t understand why people didn’t just ‘get it’ inherently. Love between two people of the same or similar gender wasn’t any different than the love I had for my (now ex) wife, so why shouldn’t they be able to enjoy the same privileges I did? The very next year, I was asked by a bisexual friend if I’d ever considered that I might be asexual, and slowly what I thought was the simplest idea in existence became a much more complicated and nuanced thing than I had ever thought possible.

As an asexual person, I don’t experience sexual attraction the way that allosexual people do, which inherently changes how I think about and consider the notion of love. Most of society conflates ‘love’ and ‘sex’, thinking that one absolutely cannot exist without the other, and that there is – and can be – only one kind of love. In this case it would be romantic love – the love that soulmates share, the love that has inspired some of the most revered works of art, the love that pushed people to fight for the validity of their relationships, pulling an entire country along the progressive path with them. Unfortunately, that’s only one facet of the diamond that is love, and an oversized facet at that.

A lot of my dissection of love came by way of interacting with aromantic people, who are similar to asexual people, but not the same. Many times, the asexual and aromantic communities overlap, leading to a lot of shared information between them. Aromantic people could tell you all about the many varied types of love they feel, and diversity of attractions they feel based on them, all either without or with a varying level of romantic attraction. Platonic love is a familiar type for them – and anyone else, really – where there’s a draw toward someone in a non-romantic way, otherwise described as friendship. There’s also alterous love, which is a bit vaguer, but descriptive of a strong emotional closeness with another person that isn’t only romantic or platonic. Aesthetic love is something that basically anyone can say they’ve experienced, where they have an adoration for the way another person looks, and often stemming from that is sensual love or the love of how a person feels in a physical sense –the warmth of their body against yours, the softness of their skin, the gentle teasing of their hair.

So, given all these various ways that love can be expressed between two people, in addition to merely separating the idea of love from the idea of sex to begin with, how can I possibly take the phrase ‘love is love’ seriously anymore? Not to mention the fact that it is tied to a very specific kind of love that is often a struggle for asexual people like me to find, and a kind of love that my aromantic siblings experience anywhere from little to none of the time to begin with.

While it started as a rallying cry demanding radical inclusion from a puritanical and bigoted society, it has changed to become just another gate that aspec people have to contend with both in and out of the community. And, as it was back in 2015, most often it is well-meaning allocishet people trying to be good alies who cling to it as a Powerful Notion. Speaking for myself, I’ll trade the good intentions of 1,000 self-proclaimed allies for the legitimate understanding and support of one person – or perhaps the retiring of this diluted, toothless expression of upholding the relationship status quo?