love in a dark time is an extraordinarily well written collection of essays by irish (and gay) writer colm toibin. it chronicles the romantic and artistic struggles of gay artists, from genius writer/playwright/poet oscar wilde to spanish filmmaker pedro almodovar.
on valentine’s day, i want to remember that we need to break out of the idea that love and romance is always between a man and a woman.
romance, this bubbly mix of emotions, desire, eros and sexuality – it doesn’t respect the constructions of exclusive heterosexuality. it is equally intense for everyone, no matter what the gender of the people involved. and yet, our tiny little societal boxes have, in many times and places, wanted to exclude gay love and romance. in describing oscar wilde’s 9-year love affair with lord alfred douglas, toibin points out that
most gay people go through adolescence believing that the fulfilment of physical desire would not be matched by emotional attachment. for straight people, the eventual matching of the two is part of the deal, a happy aspect of normality. but if this occurs for gay people, it is capable of taking on an extraordinarily powerful emotional force, and the resulting attachment, even if the physical part fizzles out, or even if the relationship makes no sense to the outside world, is like to be fierce and enduring.
because gay people the world over are tired of having to live that way, they’ve declared valentine’s day as ‘freedom to marry day’. (to celebrate this, one clerk in the united states offers tongue-in-cheek certificates of inequality to gay couples, pointing out the ridiculousness of refusing the rights and rites of marriage to two people who love each other.)
here in vancouver, we’re damn lucky. gay couples have no problems getting married here, and it’s cool for politicians to show up for our gay pride parade. but in other parts of the world, gay romance is still difficult, if not outright dangerous.
if you want to help make the lives of gay couples easier, you can start here if you are in the US or here if you are in canada. (readers from other countries, please feel free to add resources for other countries.)
counselling in vancouver
other valentine’s day posts: