One of the things I like most about our community is that we are defined by love. It’s a simple notion that is also surprisingly complex. Unlike other communities that are defined by geography, beliefs, culture, and heritage, our community is a mishmash of members of all other communities, brought together because of who and how we love. Our community is defined by what’s in our hearts and through our actions we show the world that love is love and all love is equal.
That doesn’t mean that love comes easily to us, though. Many of us were taught to hide our love and disguise our hearts to survive in mainstream straight, cisgender society. While we did that, we began to lose sight of who we are and to stop ourselves from pursuing the things (and people) we love. These can be difficult habits to break, even after coming out.
It’s interesting to look back at our history and see how far we’ve come. Our community has always existed, though we haven’t always been visible. Various laws and policies prevented us from being seen and fully taking part in public life. There were a lot of open secrets and things people simply didn’t talk about. We had “roommates” and “companions” instead of partners because the world wasn’t ready to see our love and humanity.
For gay men, the AIDS crisis made some of us afraid to love. We were taught that our love would lead to disease, abandonment, and death. We lost countless souls and the world said we deserved it because our love was unnatural, sinful. The world made it hard for us to love ourselves, which made it even harder to love someone else.
When I came out as a teenager everyone told me to be careful about two things: contracting HIV and violence stemming from homophobia. The message was that my kind of love was dangerous and that sharing my love with others made me vulnerable to the hatred of the world. I think a lot of us have received this message in various ways and forms. Still, those messages don’t change the love that is in our hearts and the courage that love gives us to exist and search for happiness.
Now, as a 30-something man, I look at the world and what I see gives me hope. I’m seeing young couples in love, holding hands in public, and truly living out loud. Part of me is jealous, envying opportunities that weren’t available to me at that age.
That jealously isn’t entirely well founded, though. The truth is that these opportunities have always been available to me and I wasn’t always willing to take the risks to have what I wanted. I think this is true for many of us who lived through the tough times and are realizing that things can be different now.
It’s also important to pay our respects and gratitude to those who came before us, who accepted the risks of holding hands in public and living authentically, openly, and honestly. Without them, we wouldn’t have the rights, equality, and inclusion that we enjoy today. These pioneers are the reason our young people don’t think twice about kissing each other hello and goodbye.
I think there’s a lesson here. The world has tried to discourage, even destroy, our love. Love won anyway. It was our love, for ourselves and others, that guided us through the tough times. Our love changed the world and made so many things possible for us.
This Valentine’s Day, I hope you find the love in your life. Love your friends, your chosen family, and all the things that make your heart beat a bit faster. It’s never too late to start becoming the person you want to be, so if you feel like you’ve missed your chance, know that there is a whole community of love waiting for you.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.