Tag: short story

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.

The Quiet House

Solon H. Borglum, born Ogden, UT 1868-died Stamford, CT 1922
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. A. Mervyn Davies

There is a squat house in a small clearing. Something you would miss if you weren’t looking for it. The siding, which was once a light blue, has deteriorated to nothing more than an inscrutable paleness. There is never a light on inside this house. The clearing rests in perpetual darkness, shrouded by thick trees through which there is no obvious path.

I was hiking one day when I lost the trail and stumbled into the eerie silence of the clearing. As my eyes adjusted to the lack of light, I caught a brief glimpse of a curtain shifting back into place in the window. I called out to ask if anyone was there who could help me. The only response was more silence.

I approached the screen door to the small porch, reached out, pulled, and found it was open! Peering in, I called out into the blackness, asking if anyone could help me get back to the trail.


Entering the screened in porch, I saw piles of clothes, books, boxes of toys, the ephemera of a full life. I looked to my left and saw something strangely familiar. Sitting atop an open box of old toys was my Susie! A small rabbit-like toy, with the softest ears that were perfect for catching my childhood tears. I had forgotten but Susie had a little pattern of stars on her body that glowed in the dark.

As I reached through the dim light for her, she seemed to disappear! I thought I saw a small hand snatch her away from me, and my suspicions were confirmed when I heard a door latch close. It was almost silent, but my ears had adjusted to the quiet enough for me to get a general direction of the small click.

I charged through the darkness in the direction of the door, stuck out my hand, and made contact with a doorknob. A quick twist and a strong push got me into the main part of the squat little house. As I walked forward, the inside didn’t feel familiar, but once my eyes adjusted slightly to the crushing darkness I recognized what I thought was my grandmother’s kitchen table. I felt for the familiar design on the back of the wooden dining chair. There it was! I pulled it out and sat down.

“I’m not here to hurt anyone, I just need your help getting out of here.” I told the quiet.

A slight scraping sound followed by a small creak broke the stillness. All of a sudden, a familiar face popped up opposite me at the table. It was a small, tow-headed child’s face examining me with a mix of intense fear and curiosity.

“No one comes here. Why are you here?”

“I got lost. I need you to show me how to leave.”

“You tried to take Susie.” the child said flatly, while still trying to size me up.

“I wasn’t trying to take her. You see, she used to be mine when I was your age. I just wanted to say hi. Can I come over and say hi?”

“NO! You stay away from me and Susie!” The child roared and waved something in my direction now. The glow from the toy glinted off of something shiny, and sharp.

“Look, I just need to know how to find the trail.” I said, trying to keep my voice calm, and low. This seemed to be a measured enough response to allow the child’s curiosity to get the best of them. A small scrape and another short squeak told me the child had hopped off their chair. As they rounded the table and got closer, I could see that old Eeyore nightshirt covering the belly that hasn’t been that small since.

“You look like my grandpa.”

“I’m sure I do, but can we put that down for a minute?” I said, pointing to what I could now see was a steak knife.

The child hesitated, but decided they could trust me enough to set it on the table for a minute.

“You have a beard like my dad.”

“Yes, do you like it?”

“It’s prickly!” the child exclaimed while running a palm across it.

“Just like dad’s, huh?”

“Yeah,” they said, much softer now.

“I promise I’m a lot nicer than dad.”

“Okay…did you really need to go?”

“I do, but if you show me the way to the trail, I think we could go together.”

“I don’t think so…” A thick blanket of quiet hung between us now. “But, I’ll show you the way.”

A tiny, soft hand guided me through the house, my boots thumping along behind the silent, padding steps of the child. I was so big and heavy the house shook slightly with every footfall.

“I hate that noise”, the child’s voice cut through the ever deepening quiet.

It took only a minute to get back to the screened in porch and the cool night air. The hand continued to guide me all the way up to the tree line.

The child pointed into the forest, “Just keep going through there, you’ll make it out.”

“Come with me.”

Grasping their tiny hand a little tighter, we set off into the trees. Shortly into the walk an almost deafening CRRAACCK burst through what had become a comfortable silence. Off in the distance, a dead tree had finally given way to time and rot.

It took me a second to notice that the tiny hand wasn’t in my own anymore. I wheeled around to see the pale figure of the child sprinting back through the trees. I gave chase but they disappeared into the forest, and I had to turn around. Eventually I made it back to the trail and found my way home. But I couldn’t shake that stillness. I started to crave it after awhile.

These days I regularly make my way back to the quiet house. It’s a bit of a hike, but once I’m there I take my boots off at the door, settle into an old rocking chair on the porch, and wait for the child to join me. I made them their own little rocking chair, and we like to sit together for awhile just taking in the silence.

the quiet house
Photo by Dejan Zakic on Unsplash

Complement this work of short fiction with another great piece by an awesome guest author, or a peek into the old trans survival strategy of “spontaneous transition”.


Original art by Elodie Belcourt

There once was a boy named Blue.
Blue had been told that he was broken.
Blue wore sunglasses at night, and sundresses to gym class. He took his math book to biology and his chemistry book to social studies. He laughed when he was sad and cried when he was happy. He ate jam and toast at night, and fettuccine alfredo in the morning. On Saturdays, Blue went to school, and on Monday mornings he slept until noon.
“Look at him.” The other kids jeered.
“What a loser.” They pointed.
“What’s his problem?” They laughed.
“What’s he wearing?” They gossiped.
Blue hid in his room all day and went out exploring at night. One night, he found an old car in the middle of the woods and pretended he was flying to the moon when he climbed inside.
Sometimes, Blue forgot how to get home, and slept in the woods, or in the park, or in the middle of main street.
“It ain’t safe out ‘ere for a boy yer age!” The constable scolded.
“Home?” Blue shrugged.
“It’s all an act.” The adults shook their heads.
“There’s nothing wrong with him.” They rolled their eyes.
“He’s just looking for attention.” They scoffed.
“Maybe if his parents were more attentive.” They whispered.
Blue’s parents didn’t know what to do with him. They fought and yelled and cried when he wasn’t at home.
“Do we take him to a doctor?” His dad whimpered.
“What if we’re bad parents?” His mother sobbed.
One day, Blue moonwalked into the woods behind his house and climbed a tree. He sat and sat and sat some more. He sat until he couldn’t sit any longer, then sat for another day or so. His parents came out into the woods and called to him.
“Blue, please come down!”
“Can’t.” Blue replied.
“Blue, honey. You’re scaring us. We’ll get you some help.”
“Don’t.” Blue looked up and away from his mother and father.
“Blue, just come down and we’ll figure out what’s going on, I promise.” His mom pleaded, but Blue climbed higher into the tree, so his parents ran into town to get the constable.
Blue sat and thought. He thought and thought and thought some more. He thought until every thought he could think had been thunk, and yet he continued thinking. Eventually, he thought there would never be an end to his thinking.
“Hello.” A voice from above called down to Blue. Blue looked up to see a woman sitting on a branch just above him. “Hello. How are you?” Blue looked at the woman, puzzled. Her clothes were too small, and she had a beard that hung down past her feet.
“Hello.” Blue said.
“Beautiful day, don’t you think?” said the woman.
“What’s your name?”
“Blue.” Replied Blue.
“That’s a beautiful name.”
Blue pointed at the woman. “You?”
The woman sat and thought for a moment. “You know, for the life of me I can’t remember.” She laughed. Blue smiled. “Oh well, my name’s not important. Tell me more about yourself, Blue. Where did you come from?” Blue pointed down at his house. “And what brings you up here?”
“Broke? Well, I wouldn’t worry about it, I don’t have any money either and I’m doing fine.”
“No. No. Me.” Blue pointed to himself. “Broken.”
“You’re broken? What do you mean?”
Blue shrugged. “They…” Blue gestured to the town at large. “Said.”
“Who said you were broken?”
“Them. Parents. Kids. Teachers.”
“Well, you look fine to me.” the woman reassured.
Meanwhile, down on the ground, Blue’s parents, and the constable, and the deputy constable, and the police dog, and the principle, and the teachers, and the students, and the bullies, and the neighbours, and the mayor all searched the woods for Blue and his tree.
“Where is that blasted tree?” Shouted the constable.
“He’s too high up to see!” Blue’s dad cried in exasperation.
“Things must be strange for you, Blue.” Offered the woman. “You’re growing older. You’re changing. You see things you never thought you’d see in ways you’ve never seen them. You’re doing things you never thought you’d do in ways you’ve never done them. That doesn’t mean you’re broken. That doesn’t mean you need to run away and climb a tree.”
“But…” Blue hesitated. “You’re… in… the tree.”
“You got me there, kiddo! And I’ve been here for ten years. You see, I once felt broken too. I felt like no one knew who I was, and that made me forget who I was. I walked differently, I ate differently, slept differently, I got angry for no reason, and nothing made me happy. Everyone was trying to tell me who I was. Everyone had their own idea of who I was supposed to be. And so, I threw it all away. I climbed this tree and I forgot about everything. And soon enough, everything forgot about me. I don’t mean anything to anyone anymore. I’ll never accomplish anything. Never fulfill the wishes of my parents and my peers. But I’ve been defined. People know what to expect from me, which seemed to make everyone happy, and then everyone left me alone, which made me happy, so I just stayed up here.”
Blue was confused. “What… do you… do… all day?”
“I sit here, and I look across the canopy of the forest, and I think of all the possibilities. That’s how I spend my day. Thinking and thinking and thinking some more. Sometimes I think I’ve thought all the thoughts there is to think, Blue. But I’ll never stop thinking. About who I was, who I could’ve been, who I am now. About my dad and my other dad and my sister and
my cat. About my friends at school and the teachers who didn’t care, and the ones who did. It’s a full-time job thinking about things, you know.”
“You’re not… bored?”
“Sure. All the time. But then I remember to keep thinking. The mind is a fabulous thing, Blue. It goes inwards forever and ever, further than the edges of the very universe. Anything you believe is possible, and everything you believe is impossible, can happen inside your mind, and believe me, it will! But it’s up to you which thoughts you choose to focus on.”
“Up to… me?”
“Absolutely, my dear child! You have a mind like no other. It would be a waste to use it the way other people are telling you to. It’s not their mind, after all, is it?”
“It’s mine!” Blue lit up.
“Now you got it!” The woman clapped. “But the tricky part is holding onto it.”
“How… do I?”
“You keep thinking! Think about this. Think about that. Think about you, and me, and us, and them. Think about her, and him, and it, and fey, and xem, and elle. Think old thoughts and new thoughts, and thoughts that go up and down and sideways in every direction. Just don’t stop thinking.”
“You should… write a book.” Blue laughed.
“I’ve certainly thought about it! But who would read the damn thing? Who would listen? Who would care, Blue?”
“I would.” Blue smiled.
The woman took a moment to think, and then: “Well, if my work can connect with just one person, then it’s worth it!” The woman hopped down to Blue’s branch. “Shall we?” She offered her hand to Blue, and they climbed back down the tree together.
Blue’s parents were so happy to see him they forgot to punish him for running away. The woman wrote her book, but everyone said they wouldn’t read it until she shaved her beard, so she burned every copy, walked back into the woods, and climbed back up the tree.
This made Blue think that everyone else must not be thinking, and if they weren’t thinking, how could they know who they are? And if they didn’t know who they are, how could they know who he was? Blue took the woman’s advice and kept thinking and thinking until he thought that maybe he wasn’t broken at all. Maybe the world was broken, and maybe he could help fix it. Then he thought anything he did in order to make that fix couldn’t be the wrong thing to do.
So, Blue kept wearing his sunglasses at night, and his sundresses to gym class. He kept bringing his math book to biology and his chemistry book to social studies. He kept laughing when he was sad and crying when he was happy. He ate jam and toast at night, and fettuccine alfredo in the mornings. On Saturdays, Blue walked to school, and on Monday mornings he slept until noon. The other kids kept making fun of him, and the adults kept belittling his parents, but it didn’t matter, because Blue was still thinking.
And every once in a while, Blue moonwalked out to that tree and climbed up to say hello to the woman, and they sat in silence, and they thought together, and they were free

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