As a a person who is queer and politicized and poly (though currently with one partner) my newsfeeds on social media are frequently filled with statuses, tweets, posts and links which convey a particular message: Love is not a limited resource. Love should be easy and free. Jealousy and exclusivity are relics of an oppressive heterosexist capitalism. We can love, we should love, love is good and love will heal us.
There is implicit and sometimes explicit shaming of people who aren’t poly, who have failed at poly, people who are jealous, suspicious, closed hearted, people who do not love in abundance, who seem downright greedy and terrified and grasping for love. The internet announces over and over that love is everywhere, that when we are ready, it will arrive. There is no limit on love besides the limits we place on it.
But what if love really is a limited resource? I agree that it should not be. Clean water should not be a limited resource either, but it is. The reality is that what human beings need to survive and to thrive, whether it be water or love, are not freely available and accessible to all. Does it make me a capitalist to acknowledge this?
Those of us who grew up with child abuse and neglect know all too well that love can be a very limited resource. We know in our traumatized bodies, minds and hearts the desperate things we’ll do to get a taste of love. We know also that what passes for love often isn’t, but we have become accustomed to taking what we can get.
The internet implores me to feel love and to feel loved, to allow it to flourish where ever it will. The queer, politicized and poly communities I frequent cast suspicious glances at those of us who do not, or cannot, love so freely. If I am afraid of not being loved, if I hold on too tightly, if I am afraid to let go, I may as well be a hetero-capitalist. I am certainly not embodying the ideal of a queer utopia where love exists in abundance.
I read online today that love is a feeling. I have to disagree. I have to say that for me, learning that love is not a feeling was a hard earned lesson. As a child who was never given an example of real, safe love, I became an adult having no idea what love is. A culture that convinces me love is something I ‘fall into’, something that happens, something I feel, and my starving, deprived, hungry heart, make a dangerous combination. It has taken me so long to realize that the person who put his knee on my chest and wouldn’t let me breathe, who oscillated between best friend and abuser, who blamed his rage and violence on his unbelievable love for me, did not love me.
I have to agree with bell hooks when she asserts that love is an action. I remember the tears that fell on the page when I read her words. She wrote “Without justice there can be no love.” She wrote “Love and abuse cannot coexist.” These words were utterly painful to read because they made me wonder if I had ever in my life been loved. But they were, at the same time, utterly freeing. They opened me up to the possibility of love.
So I must hold on to these lessons. I must not let them be glossed over in a search for good feelings. Love is not a feeling. It is an action. It is a process. It is an investment in justice. It is an investment in healing. It is work. And loving a traumatized person, which so many of us are, is work. Loving as a traumatized person, which so many of us are, is work. Hard work.
What would happen if we, as queer, politicized, poly communities, as communities who claim to be committed to justice, acknowledged that love, very often, is a limited resource. Love, when we understand it as an action rather than a feeling, can unfortunately be very difficult to come by for many of us. And even when opportunities for such love are available, if we are traumatized it may take us a very long time and a whole lot of work to begin to open up to that love.
What would happen if we, as queer, politicized, poly communities acknowledged the regularity with which violence happens all around us? What if we stopped gaslighting people who are (justifiably) afraid? What if we held space for the legacies of trauma that so many of us carry and named loving for what it is, a daring act?
What if we acknowledged that learning to love and be loved isn’t easy, but that it can be done? What if we rooted out the shaming tactics from our writing and thinking on radical, anti-capitalist queer love? What if, instead of telling survivors that love is not a limited resource, we made the terrifying admission that it is? And we continued the work of love anyway.
Clementine Morrigan is a gender/queer femme sober-addict witch. They are a white settler living on colonized land known as Toronto, Turtle Island, traditionally land of the Haudenosaunee, Mississaugas of the New Credit, Huron-Wendat and other Indigenous peoples. Clementine is a multidisciplinary writer and artist. Their work spans genres and mediums, including essays, poetry, creative non-fiction, zines, illustration, short film, self-portraiture and sculpture. Their first book, Rupture, was published in 2012. They produced a short film entitled Resurrection in 2013. They write a zine called seawitch and work on other zine projects. A second book of poetry is currently in the works. Clementine explores a wide range of subject matter in their work. They are interested in counter-narratives of gendered violence, art as a space of invaluable knowledge production, femme as sacred, witchcraft and spirituality, critiquing intoxication culture, complicating constructions of addiction and considering sexuality (in particular queerness, sex work and polyamory) in conjunction with madness. Clementine is a facilitator and community organizer. They work collaboratively from a disability justice perspective, creating intentionally anti-oppressive, accessible spaces in which to share art, stories and ideas. Sometimes going by Violet Seawitch or Jason Star, Clementine is ever changing and always growing. They value interdependence, kindness, humility and the willingness to learn. They also read and study tarot. Clementinemorrigan.com is their online presence and a space to showcase some of their work. View all posts by clementine morrigan