Tag: love

All I Know Is Love

is love

All I know is love. Every feeling I have is based in love. I know I’m a romantic, but I cannot imagine making any decision that isn’t based in the timeless, endlessly-facted emotion referred to, in English, simply as love. The Ancient Greeks used at least eight distinct words for different brands of love, from the love of the self (philautia) to the withstanding love between long-term partners (pragma). Sanskrit famously collects 96 individual words to characterise the nuances of love, including erotic love (काम kama), maternal love for a child (स्नेह sneha), and the love between friends (सौहार्दम् sauhardam). In Arabic, there are eleven stages of love describing the initial attraction to another person (الْهَوَى al-hawa) through the heights of passion (اللعَاج sha’af) to the insanity of an obsessive love (الْهُيُوْمُ huyum).

My deep fascination with love as a concept can probably be described similarly to the Greek agape, a universal, unconditional love known in Christianity as God’s love for all humans, which, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow humans.” I am so deeply affected by the emotions of other people. This could be the outcome of any number of things: Childhood trauma, being especially empathic, or just another symptom of underlying autism. But perhaps I just love and care for everybody I welcome into my heart so deeply that I adopt their feelings as my own. To understand, compassionately, the truth of the struggle they are going through, or to lighten their load, perhaps.

“Society says that love is one way and very black and white, but we all know that love is a bustling highway and bursting with all vivid colors…. We are all different with different beliefs and a different story to us all, but we are connected through that and our love for each other draws us closer.”

Cece mcdonald, trans activist

I fall a little bit in love with so many people I encounter throughout my day to day life. That love never entirely fades, like the ghost of erased pencil markings in a book, or a faint scar. Forgotten until observed. Reflected upon. Past friendships and lovers I no longer speak to still hold a space in my heart reserved always for them. I feel it would be insincere of me to dismiss the care and intimacy we once shared, as if all the private confessions we made meant nothing, as if I didn’t once feel at home in their arms. Love may change, but it does not disappear.

“Love is unending and cannot be avoided.”

cece mcdonald, trans activist

In recent years I have taken cautious (and occasionally fumbling) steps into the world of polyamory — romantically loving more than one person at once — and it has been both a profound and painful experience, at times. Nothing quite prepares you for the level of self-reflection this practice of love inherently elicits. What does it mean to love, really? What is love practically? How do people experience different kinds of love? How do we experience it ourselves? How can we make others feel the same? To discover, accept, and actively practice an expression of love outside the norm of our present society feels radical not only because I am acting against what is expected of me, but also because I am left with no choice but to turn inward, to explore new forms of self-love, and to unpack the darker corners of my feelings that endanger love for myself and for those around me. Jealousy, fear of rejection, sexual uncertainty, isolation from community. We grow into these shadow feelings, trying to shape the love we find to be the love we expect.

Of course, love is never what we expect. It never plays out like in the ninety-minutes of a romantic comedy or a family drama. Love doesn’t stop growing at a certain point. There are no goalposts for love. It is messy, eternal, fierce, and confronting. Love inspires us to be better people, to create a better world. Love inspires art, determination, transition — in all its forms. Love has made poetry spill from my pen, sweet nothings gush from my lips, fire course through my veins, and tears spill over cheeks that hurt from smiling. Love, for self and community, is where I found the strength to begin my transition at only seventeen, in a conservative country town, knowing no other trans people. Love is where my mother planted the seeds of freedom and identity after an abusive first marriage — she and her new wife now stand as pillars of my belief in love.

I don’t pretend love is always easy and beautiful. Love and hurt have such a close connection in our society, which values the individual, the isolated. We are forced to gamble with our hearts with no guarantee or understanding that exposing our vulnerabilities to the world has its consequences, its effects on other lives. Some of the occasions I’ve been most aware of how big and uncontrollable my heart can be, has been when it aches the most.

Love has sealed my lips in fear of hurting another, and kept them closed when another’s love caused harm. I have been so afraid of losing love that I have sabotaged it before it could have the chance to destroy me. Is love, therefore, something to be feared? Something to step lightly around the edges, never diving in too deep lest we can no longer clamber back out to the safety of emotional distance? I don’t believe so.

We are constantly surrounded by love, constantly striving for it. My political worldview aligns with the international socialist movement, as this is the truest form of humanism I think there is, and because I want to create a world that is open for us to express ourselves truly, to be vulnerable and be loved for it. A world in which those living in hardship, oppressed economically and socially, are welcomed with open arms no matter where they place their feet, where we can achieve our dreams and feel the integral part we play in the lives of others. I want this world to exist simply because people deserve love and community. A German proverb states that “love is above King or Kaiser, lord or laws.” The arbitrary distinctions that are drawn up to separate us, to make us fear one another, breaks my heart. But love and solidarity can be found everywhere. It takes a fight to expand our capacity for love, to keep it glowing and alive, to share that light with others, no matter how different to us they may be. In the words of Che Guevara himself: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love… We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.”

My heart is constantly overflowing with love. I know I love many — not just my two beautiful partners, but family, friends, classmates and supervisors, my doctor who prescribes my hormone therapy and the friendly pharmacist who dispenses it to me, the hospitality workers that keep me nourished, and every pair of hands before them who have built such a beautifully interconnected world. I can feel the love brimming inside me, but like anyone else, I am sometimes at a loss for how to harness and express all of that burning emotion. The best I can do is be kind to those who cross my path, do what I can to be there for my loved ones, and fight like hell for the world I believe in, that future predicated on love for all. Love, like revolution, is not easy, but it is necessary.

Wear your heart on your sleeve. Call your parents, your siblings, your chosen family. Hold your lover a little tighter. Hug your friends a little longer. Read a romance novel and squeal in delight when the heroes finally kiss. Join an action for an environmentally stable future. Stand up for your rights and the rights of other oppressed and exploited communities. Stand up for your own feelings when someone hurts you, strengthen that relationship. Love yourself. Tend to your needs and boundaries. Care for yourself the way you would care for others. Love is endless, in all of us. Share it as broadly as possible. Leave pieces of it wherever you go, you won’t run out. Find it in everything you see and do, in everyone you meet.

Find love. Breathe it, embody it, nurture it.

Love will always find you in return.

is love

Complement this read with another piece by a guest author called “Broken Boy Blue”, or with a short exploration of the concept of self-love.

Learning to Love Your Body as a Trans Person

Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash

I identify as a queer, transgender man, but my journey getting here wasn’t easy. It took a lot of introspection and experimentation to finally settle on this identity, and honestly, it’s still subject to change. 

It took me a while to initially identify my struggles with my gender identity (I didn’t start to question until like… 23) because even though I had issues with my body, but so do a lot of women, and I am still attracted to men. So, logically I should be a woman. Starting to acknowledge my queerness is what eventually led me to explore gender. 

When I first came out as trans, I came out as nonbinary because fuck gender, right? I didn’t seem to have the same experience of dysphoria that other trans guys seemed to have, and there were some feminine things I was still attached to. 

My Personal Experience with Transitioning

Existing as a nonbinary person in the world wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I realized that I preferred to be seen as a ‘young man’ more than anything else. However, the idea of starting testosterone was terrifying. I wanted my voice to drop because it was often the thing I felt gave me away on my most masculine-presenting days. But I wasn’t sure how I felt about things like bottom growth (it sounded scary), and I really didn’t like the idea of shaving. 

Starting testosterone ended up being the best thing for me. My voice dropped, my jaw got a little more square, and my body a bit stronger. 

I haven’t had top surgery, and while I wish I was born with less tissue on my chest, I don’t plan to have top surgery. At least not in the near future. 

Some may be wondering why I’d make that decision, especially considering upper surgeries are covered by the public health system in Canada. There are a few factors that have led to this decision; 

  • I like the way my nipples are now. I like the size and shape and how sensitive they are. I don’t want to lose the sensitivity or have scars.
  • Naturally, I have a small chest, so I can mostly wear what I like without worrying too much about my chest. And in the cases where I want to wear something tighter or dress up fancier, I bind. 
  • Surgery is a big deal and a big thing to undertake for what I would consider being a relatively small change. 

So, rather than undergoing surgery, I have found ways to love the body I am in. 

I understand that I have a lot of privilege; I am a thin white boy with a small chest. For many trans guys, their chest dysphoria is debilitating, or their chest is large enough that surgery feels necessary. There is nothing wrong with that, and every trans person should be able to make their own decisions about their body and how they want to transition. I am by no means telling these folks they should simply learn to love their bodies; for many, that’s just not possible, and that’s very real. 

How I learned to love my body

I’ve been on testosterone for just over four years now, and it has taken me a long time to love my body, and, of course, I still have good days and bad days. Here are a few things that helped me to learn to love my body, particularly my chest. Maybe you can use some of these strategies to start feeling better about your body. 

I am a man, so my chest is a man’s chest. 

Reminding myself that because I am a man, my chest is a man’s chest regardless of whether or not it looks like a cis man’s chest, and I refer to it as such. Turn this into a mantra if you have to. Get your friends to repeat it to you when you’re having doubts. 

Also, use language that feels affirming to you when describing your body. I typically say ‘my chest’ or ‘my nipples’ rather than usually more traditionally feminine works for that part of my body.

Perspective makes a difference

Knowing that my perspective looking down at my chest is different from how other people see my chest looking at me straight on. 

I remember one particular day where I was out with my partner, and I kept doing that thing where I pull my shirt away from my chest because it felt like it was too tight, and everyone could clearly see my chest. You know what I mean. Eventually, my partner noticed and asked me about it. I told him what I was doing, and he assured me that my chest didn’t look the way I believed it did in my head. When I didn’t believe him, he took a picture. He was right; despite how I felt looking down at my chest, the picture looked great. 

Stand up straight

I mean…nothing about me is straight. Stand-up gay? It’s natural to think that curving your shoulders in will hide your chest, but it doesn’t; in my opinion, it brings more attention. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. 

Look in the mirror

When you don’t feel good in your body, it’s easy to avoid looking in mirrors, I get it. But taking the time to look at yourself, particularly in your natural state, can help you to appreciate your body. Don’t think about judging yourself on what you have or don’t have or your view on attractiveness (which is arbitrary); instead, focus on the amazing things your body does. While you’re at it, try picking one thing you like about your body. Only one thing, and it doesn’t have to be big or feel significant, but it can make all the difference in building your confidence. 

My body allows me to ride my bike to work in the morning. I am thankful for my strength. By spending time looking in the mirror, I have also found ways of holding my body that make me feel good. Like standing in certain positions that make my chest look a little more like I wish it did. I also notice things that I like and make me feel masculine, like the definition in my arms, the hair on my legs, and my tiny little treasure trail. 

Fake it till you make it

I know this is a bit cliche, but it works, at least it has for me. If I fake confidence in my body, people around me question me less. Eventually, the confidence actually starts to rub off. Go to the beach with your shirt off, change in front of your friends, act like your chest is a man’s chest, and eventually, you will believe it. 

Wear clothes that feel good

Find clothes that make you feel good in your body. That could be a particular style or cut or even specific colours. I find I like men’s shirts that are small enough to fit across the shoulders but not too tight around my chest and in bright or dark colours, never white or grey. 

As I have started to love my feminine self more and acknowledge myself as a femme gay boy, I’ve started to experiment with how I dress as well. I’ve found crop tops that are T-shirts or long sleeves (no tank tops), and a bit looser around the chest are fantastic! 

This can also apply to loving other parts of your body. Find pants that make you feel good about your hips. Hem your pants if you’re worried about them being too short and don’t want to cuff them. Wearing a packer if that makes you feel good. 

Supportive people 

Having supportive people in my life has made all the difference. I have friends who I will text selfies to on dysphoric days who will describe me in ways that feel gender-affirming to make me feel better about my body. 

I also appreciate having friends who will correct other people on my pronouns, especially feminine days. 

Get tattooed 

I got a chest tattoo, and it actually made a significant difference in my confidence. I feel like it visually takes away from the extra tissue I have on my chest. And in situations where I feel like someone is staring at me when I’m topless, I remind myself that they’re probably just looking at my tattoo. 

While these are primarily geared toward my experience learning to be more confident with my chest, most of these could help our overall confidence in our bodies. We deserve to exist in the world exactly as we are at this moment. 

Final Thoughts

No matter who you are or how you exist in the world, it’s challenging to be confident about your body. Even the people out there who you think don’t have issues with their bodies, I assure you, they do. But building confidence and starting to feel that love takes time. Consider just making a commitment to yourself to take one step forward, no matter how small. 

You are beautiful and loved and deserve to feel good. 

Complement your dive into self-love with a deeper understanding of how the desire to pass can change the way you feel about yourself.

Everyday Trans Joy: Trans love is still resistance

Trans people can experience love. Trans people can experience joy because they are trans. And yes, cis people can love trans people.

I never thought I would find more to say on these ideas than the above. To me, they are self-evident. But apparently, many, many cisgender people do not understand these concepts. There have been so many transgender people that have pointed this out over the years, and it seems that the greater culture still isn’t hearing us. In an interview with journalist Tuck Woodstock, author Jeffrey Marsh tells us about a time when another interviewer asked them if they hoped to find love.

Jeffrey: It’s so funny because I think I know the clip you’re talking about. I think the interviewer even was like, “you know I hate to have such a traditional mindset but do you hope to have a partner?” It’s like what are you talking about? We’re human beings. Anyway.

Tuck: I’m very traditional, but do you hope to experience love (laughing)?

Jeffrey Marsh, Gender Reveal Ep. 93 25:30

And this same question has been asked of every part of the LGBTQ+ community for as long as we have been publicly visible. One of my favorite quotes of all time is Harvey Fierstein’s response to a really ridiculous question by Barbara Walters.

“Those are not heterosexual experiences and those are not heterosexual words. Those are human words. Love, commitment, family, belong to all people.”

Harvey Fierstein, Interview with Barbara Walters 1983

I only recommend you watch the full interview if you want a sense of where the public perception of gay people was back then, how far it has come since 1983, and how many of these same questions are being asked about trans people today.

I am not the first person to say that trans people love. We will be saying this as long as we love. Because as long as some cisgender people continue this rhetoric that all queerness leads to is pain and suffering, we will continue to shout it from the rooftops that we love and are lovable.

“I am transgender and this doesn’t mean that I am unlovable.”

Lana Wachowski

I credit the deliberate campaign of some people who feel threatened by our very existence as the reason that this ridiculous idea continues to permeate the zeitgeist to this day. I feel extremely strange to be addressing this specific issue. I am old enough, and from a conservative enough area, to remember when society at large was asking these same questions about gay people.

“Perhaps the most important contribution of queer by choice people to the fight against homophobia is that when we say that we chose to be queer, we force people to realize that it’s possible to want to be queer. For too long homophobes have painted us as one-sided creatures who experience nonstop pain. To paint us this way is to paint us as something less than full and well-rounded human beings, and they paint us this way specifically to scare others into repressing their own potential queerness. The reality is that there’s much to enjoy about being a member of the queer community and we who are queer by choice want homophobes to realize and acknowledge that.”

Gayle Madwin, queerbychoice.com

But what’s worse is that the people who call us “unlovable” are likely some of the very same people who claim we have gone too far in accepting transgender people. How could we have gotten this far without love? People who love trans people, trans people who love themselves, how would societal acceptance of trans people have been possible at all if trans people were inherently unable to love and be loved?

I am not writing this for people who think we are unlovable. I am not even writing this for those of us who are comfortable with ourselves. I write this for the people who have lived in an entirely cis world, until they started to question their internal dialogue. I am declaring, once again, that trans people are inherently lovable because I was fed the lie that transition is all pain and suffering. I was fed the lie that there is no joy, love, and light in being trans. That trans people are killed, by suicide and murder. That trans people are discriminated against. Sometimes, all of this is true, much more than it should be. However, there is a side of transness that people who call us unlovable don’t want you to see.

The very existence of the great many self-assured, confident, joyous trans people in this world is a form of direct resistance to this narrative.

Trans joy is resistance, trans love is resistance, trans existence is resistance.

But it shouldn’t have to be. Consider why these people, and ideas have been removed from the view of the majority of cis discourse. There are systems, well-funded and hidden from the view of greater society, that actively work to muffle and silence the voices of the trans community because they see it as their Biblical duty to do so. Don’t just take my word for it, take look at the deeply researched series that Imara Jones, and the team at Translash Media, put together on the anti-trans hate machine.

Even in the face of all of this, still there is trans joy. Still there is trans love. Still there are trans people. And still we persist.

Complement these musings on trans love with an exploration of why “passing” doesn’t define your transition.

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