No Greater Love
I used to hate myself for being gay.
I’ve been reflecting on this because it’s officially Valentines season. February is less than ideal: it’s a short, freezing month wedged into the beginning of the calendar like an afterthought. Since it doesn’t have much to offer, we tend to treat the entire month as a cradle for Valentine’s Day, which is often a giant slap in the face for single people and an expensive date for those in relationships - but it’s also a nice reminder that lovely things can be born from bitter beginnings.
Valentine’s Day is marketed as a day of love, but it makes me wonder why it has to be a celebration of romantic love, when so many other types of love exist - familial love, platonic love, even love of art or culture or things that bring us joy.
The most important type of love, though, and the one that is sometimes the most difficult to achieve, is self love.
Hating yourself is easy. Humans are remarkably adept at nitpicking at ourselves to the point of self-destruction: we’re too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short; our skin is too light, too dark, too pockmarked; we’re too smart, too stupid, too average. Being a person in today’s over-saturated society is a constant cycle of comparing your reflection in the mirror to the ideals of perfection you’re bombarded with in movies, television, books, and social media, then deciding you aren’t good enough.
Being gay, just like all the things I listed above, is an unchangeable aspect of my identity that I used to despise. I recently came across a diary entry from Valentine’s Day in 2010, when I was 16 years old and struggling to come to terms with my identity. I wanted to share parts of that entry here, in an unedited form.
It’s a painfully accurate (and sometimes painfully melodramatic) portrait of a young kid struggling with himself against the expectations of a society that made him think he wasn’t allowed to love himself on a holiday all about love. It’s hard for me to read it now, but only because I know there are plenty of kids out there going through that same struggle, without knowing that eventually they will come to love themselves for the very thing they now hate.
February 14th, 2010
It’s the dreaded Valentine’s Day. I never really used to hate it. Far from it. In fact, in elementary school I loved it. It was always a magical day. Everyone would buy their own special little valentines and address one to every member of the class, oftentimes adding candy or a personal message to those close to the heart.
Once everyone had their valentines ready, each child would pull out their shoe boxes decorated to their liking - with frills, markers, crayons, paper, or for some, nothing but their name scrawled sloppily along the side of the box.
We got so into this holiday that we would run around to every box, giggling all the way. We would cringe and regretfully add a gift to the boxes of our enemies, and smile as we affectionately dropped a piece of love into the boxes of our friends. The whole class would be filled with the sounds of friendship and camaraderie - and the sweet smell of candy as everyone unwrapped their little goodies.
It was a day filled with joy, happiness, and yes, even love - love in its purest form, without the taint of regret or the constraints of an unforgiving society, because it was being given by the pure souls of children.
But now, as I sit here on this day five years later, all of that love has departed from me, leaving behind an empty room devoid of light and warmth, and certainly without the humbling presence of children.
There is no love for me anymore. Certainly, I still receive it in copious amounts from my parents - but it’s the love of an adjoining soul that I need the most. It’s the love of one that was not programmed to love me from the start that I so desperately crave.
Yet, I don’t have that here, where I sit in my room all alone and rant to a little book. I don’t think that type of love exists for me anywhere at this point in time. Others my age have boyfriends and girlfriends with whom they spend this special day, relishing in their love for each other - a love they believe can last forever.
But me, I sit alone, because of my sexuality - because I’m gay. I hate that word. I hate to write it so much that my pen burns the letters onto the page. The reason I hate it is all around me. The reason I hate it is because it describes me, it is me. And no matter how much I may want that not to be true, it always will be.
I can’t erase a part of my identity that was genetically planted inside of me. And I certainly can’t change how ignorant people view me because of it. Those people that believe I chose this for myself, that I sat down one day and decided to start liking men, just for the hell of it. Those people are so stupid that I cannot even begin to fathom the depths of their naivety.
But I was made this way. I can’t change hormones and all of the underpinnings of my body that tell me who to be attracted to. I just can’t, and I hate that so much that it feels like a burning pit in the entirety of my being.
Those people don’t care. They don’t care that I sit here with feelings more painful than they can imagine, the most contradictory, nonsensical feelings that are possible for any one human to bear. They remain unaware of the fact that my life is a constant struggle to tell my heart to stop falling for guys, people I can never have because of how we were wired.
This is a day of love, and I’m spending it alone.
We have to give teenage Evan props for his dramatic flair, but we also have to recognize the very real feelings of self-hatred that were wreaking havoc on my mind. I wanted so badly to excise my sexuality out of me, to make it go away, but I knew I couldn’t.
Those thoughts that I was expressing: they’re deadly. Many LGBT teens with those same thoughts don’t make it through them, for whatever reason - maybe they don’t have a support system, maybe that is only one of many demons they are fighting, maybe they think it will never get better. Oftentimes, those thoughts of self-hatred are successful in snuffing out the beautiful flame of life before it even gets a chance to set the world on fire.
Nine years later, I read those thoughts and wish I could create a rift in space and time, a private tunnel between myself now and myself then, so that I could tell him this: one day, you will stop seeing your sexuality as a point of weakness and begin to see it as a source of strength, a strength that will only continue to get stronger as you live and learn and laugh and love and blunder your way through a world that is as painfully beautiful as it is beautifully painful.
This Valentine’s Day, I am not bitter to be single. I am not bitter about those who are happily in love. I am happy, both for them and for me, because I am in love with myself - and there’s no greater love than that.
The rest? Well, it will come. But if it doesn’t? Everything will be okay.
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