Feminism: Love Is...

[Content Note: Hospitalization, Cancer, Religious and Political Homophobia]

Love is...

... the husband who took me to Half Price Books the night before my surgery just in case they took my eReader away from me in ICU as a forbidden electronics device.

... the husband who was there when I woke after my surgery and who stayed by my side, almost without exception, as an anticipated 3-day hospital stay turned into a nightmarish 7-day hospital stay.

... the father who visited me and held my hand in ICU, despite the fact that an hour-long ride on bumpy roads couldn't have been comfortable for him after weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

... the mother whose first action on walking into the hospital was to fiercely advocate for better care than what I was currently receiving, and who wouldn't leave until I received it.

... the husband who woke once an hour to take me to the bathroom and "turn me" the night they took out my catheter and reduced my drugs such that I needed activity to prevent debilitating stiffness.

... the husband who was still cheerful and full of vibrancy even after days of irregular sleep on a hard, uncomfortable hospital cot in a room where "medicine time" meant lights on, no matter the hour.

... the husband who drove home as slowly as he could on the bumpy highway where the difference between 70 mph and 50 mph meant the difference between blood-curdling screams and zombie-moans.

... the mother who visited our house daily to check on the cats, despite the burden this increased on her while taking my father to his daily cancer treatments.

... the mother who also stocked our refrigerator and pantry with food so that my husband wouldn't have to immediately leave me to go shopping as soon as we got home.

... the husband who took vacation days off of work to care for me when his medical leave ran out because I was released from the hospital significantly later than expected.

... the husband who left late for work every day so that I could have my morning shower, with him there making sure I didn't slip, and reaching for me the areas I couldn't.

... the mother who came over in the mornings to give me my walk down the neighborhood block to keep my muscles exercised and to work out the stiffness of being unable to move in my sleep.

... the husband who listened patiently when every word out of my mouth was slow and slurred due to the heavy narcotics I was prescribed from the hospital.

... the husband who came dutifully with wet wipes in hand to wipe my bottom after yet another messy shit (for there are no other kind when on narcotics and laxatives) that I couldn't wipe for myself.

... the husband who left work for extended lunch breaks in order to ensure that I had something to eat for lunch and someone there to feed it to me.

... the father who spoke to me on the phone and kept my spirits up with the special kind of commiseration that only comes from being in the same place of terrible pain.

... the mother who lifted my spirits and repeatedly assured me that everything would once again be alright, even though she herself must have been just as terrified inside as I was.

... the husband who waited on me hand-and-foot, held me when I cried, gave me everything I could possibly ask for, and raised not a single complaint through several weeks of grueling service.

Love is all these things, and a million more than I've missed because to enumerate them all would take a year of examining everything in my life that I take for granted and realizing just how lucky I am.

This isn't the kind of love you'll see in Twilight because it's not young and vibrant and immortal and invulnerable and smexy; instead it's scary and painful and smelly and crusty. This isn't the kind of love you'll see in Narnia because it's not powerful and strong and regal and dignified; instead it's helpless and uncertain and demeaning and unconditionally giving with no expectation or desire for anything in return.

It's a love that millions of people on this planet share, and yet it's a love that many people are refused the right to acknowledge. Because my mother and I are cisgendered women and because my father and husband are cisgendered men and because we are all four blessed with white privilege and financial privilege and linguistic privilege, at no point during my hospital stay -- or, indeed, in our entire lives before or since -- was our love challenged or denied or defied. Our love is not a subject for debate, our love is not a political football to be bounced strategically about, our love is not railed against as somehow damaging society by its existence.

Our love is not metaphorically compared on mainstream national television to bestiality or pedophilia. Our love is not condemned from pulpits as an indescribable evil destined to send us all to eternal torment. At no point in my life were my parents challenged as suitable guardians for me because I might grow up to share their ideals, or to be the same sexual orientation as they, or because they might try to instill their beliefs in me. At no point in my marriage has the validity of our relationship been questioned based on how we choose to make love, or whether or not we are capable as a couple of procreation.

Love is unconditionally caring for someone, caring for them with such overwhelming kindness that I am struck even now, weeks after the fact, with tears in my eyes. I owe the greatest possible debt to my loved ones, but it's a debt they won't even allow me to acknowledge, because they don't even think they've done anything special or out of the ordinary: they did all this simply because they love me. What's so special about that?, they say with a smile and a shrug. And the answer is: everything.

I'm blessed and privileged that the love from my parents and my spouse has social approval and government sanction. And I hope to someday live in a world where that statement will also be true for the millions of QUILTBAG peoples on this earth who hold the same purity of love and who deserve the right to express it as me and my family do.


Xtina Schelin said...

This post showed up in my reader alongside Greta Christina's post, about her experience of having a wife and also needing surgery.

Lunch Meat said...

This is a really touching post. Thank you. I'm so glad that you have a loving family who has been able to support you in all of this.

depizan said...


JonathanPelikan said...

Beautiful post, Ana. Absolutely beautiful.

Naomi said...

I was talking to a friend of mine today about our mutual irritation with fanfic where "soul bonds" exist. I've been married for almost 16 years, and she's been with her partner for ... god almighty, I'm not even sure. They got together in college and they're now in their 40s. Anyway, we both agreed that life-long love is not about MYSTICAL BONDS OF TELEPATHIC MAGIC but about showing up every day, being there during the hard times and the good times, putting up with the annoying habits (and knowing that this is mutual), and taking care of each other.

This post is a really good example of exactly what I was talking about. Sometimes love is about doing the work. Sometimes it's about being the one cared for. I'm really glad you have people who love you, Ana, and people in your life who are there for you.

Aidan Bird said...

Thank you for this.

The saddest part when reading this is realizing that even this argument, so beautifully put, will have absolutely no effect on the majority of my biological family. To them, I am broken, blinded by sin, and need healing because my sexual orientation and gender identity does not align with what they believe it should be. Sometimes, no matter how beautiful and true the argument is, there is no reaching people who are so blinded by hate, prejudice, and/or the lies told to them.

So thank you for writing this. I cried a bit, for hearing it put this way, does help me feel better, because it paints a picture of what I hope I will one day have without any fear or worry.

Ana Mardoll said...

So many hugs.

TW: Homophobia

I was raised by people who believed that being gay was a ticket to hell. I stopped believing that in my 20s and now they don't believe it anymore either. (They're working on the rest of the letters in QUILTBAG, but the fundamental "be nice, respect, don't judge" lesson has taken root. Everything follows from that.)

I do think progress is possible. I hope that your family comes to that point, for your sake and theirs, but even if they don't, that doesn't make you any less of a wonderful person. {{hugs}}

J. Random Scribbler said...

This post is yet another example of why I keep coming back to this blog, even when I lack the spoons to participate in the community the way I wish I could. Thank you, Ana!

Smilodon said...

I forget his exact words, but I think Fred summed it up perfectly with, "Love is what you do, not what you feel."

Ana, this is a beautiful post.

Silver Adept said...

From your keyboard to the ears of every national, state, and local politician, for as many times as it takes, for as many days as it takes, until the message takes root and they act upon it to bring about this vision. And them a few more for good nature and resolve to defend it when others would destroy it.

Amarie said...

*waves from underneath the impossible, Mount Everst of collge coursework and clinical preparations that's school*

Hey there, Ana! I've been missing you a L.O.T (I think I suffered some separation anxiety...are you with me on that?). I just wanted to say that I am SO proud of and happy for you and your family. You guys stuck together, endured the nitty-gritty (read that: understatement, considering what you went through) and that is extremely beautiful. And I deeply commend and respect you for being so appreciative and aware of all that you're family does for you; you're a true diamond in the rough for that. *winks*

And, as a special "You Got Well" present, I'll work twice as hard to get up my first deconstruction/reaction post of "Fifty Shades of Grey" faster! I'll link it over here and I hope you like it! Hint: Prepare for a lot of snark, snerk, and snork.

Looooooooooooooooooove yoooooooooooooooooou!!!!!

*big, squeezy hug and lemon bars* :D

Amaryllis said...

Thank you Ana, this is a beautiful post.

And while I agree wholeheartedly with all of it, I really appreciated being reminded that love Is.

chris the cynic said...

Been missing you.

Aidan Bird said...

Thank you, Ana for the hugs and the hope.

TW: Homophobia/Transphobia

I'd like to hope all of them will come around, but with each passing year, that hope dies a bit more, for they won't talk about it, and I don't want to bring it up for I fear another "intervention" and that didn't work well at all. I don't want them to send another round of emails telling me how to fix myself either, and so... I have slowly cut down my contact to those family members out of protection.

Even the thought of changing my name to a more gender neutral name has my mother unwilling to discuss it, but calling me up and saying my birth name eleven times in the span of seven minutes with anger in her tone. I really had no idea how to interpret that, and so I've retreated. Why deal with this pain and hold onto hope? I don't want to live in fear with them, but I am terrified of them at times. This is why I said sometimes all the love in the world doesn't make a dent in such prejudice and/or hateful views. The worst part is they claim they're showing love to me when they do these hurtful things; how on earth can you combat that type of thinking?

I really would like to hold onto hope, Ana, and your story is such a hopeful story, but it's so hard to do so when you're in the midst of it.

The irony of my life right now is that I am staying at my best friend's parents house - and her parents have sort of unofficially adopted me. So that is my good news on which to end this reply. There are people who support us, and that's the most important thing to remember I think. So thank you, Ana, again for this post, for that is a huge reminder of the support that is out there.

Ana Mardoll said...

I am so terribly sorry to hear that. Some people act in extremely toxic ways. You do not deserve to be made to feel unsafe, harassed, or unable to live the life and identity they brings you happiness.

chris the cynic said...

The worst part is they claim they're showing love to me when they do these hurtful things; how on earth can you combat that type of thinking?

First off, I have no idea, sorry.

Second, I've been thinking about this kind of thing because of a conversation at Fred Clark's Slacktivist. There it was in the context of the idea of loving one's enemy. You see some people talking about the benefits of it and how it improves mental and spiritual health and whatnot, but in my experience it hurts like all hell. Because someone's hurting you, and you love them, and that makes it worse than the hurting alone ever could.

And that leads me to a thought, if you're the one doing the hurting, you wouldn't be getting that soul tearing dissonance. You might if you were fully aware of the kind of harm you were inflicting, but it is by no means clear you would be getting any dissonance at all.

So it seems like for the abuser/oppressor/badthinger loving one's enemy could be easy and not at all painful or dissonant. Whereas for the person on the other side of it the love is going to be filled with pain because it serves as a pain amplifier. It's not just that bad things are being done to you, it's that someone you love is the one doing it.

And so the two concepts of what it means to love are utterly divorced from each other. The one harmed, the one who knows what it feels like, would never consider doing those things out of love, but for the other side "love the sinner hate the sin," seems entirely tenable.

Alas I see no solution.

I'd like to be able to say, "Is loving X hard? Does it hurt. Does it tear you up inside? No? Then X isn't your enemy. Stop being X's enemy. Stop hurting X." but it wouldn't be understood.

Aidan Bird said...

These are some interesting thoughts. Seeing it this way does make it seem like a huge disconnect when it comes to communication. I definitely agree that 'love your enemy' is always harder on the victim than the abuser/oppressor/ect... This, of couse, gives the abuser/oppressor/ect... more power in these sorts of situations, and that I definitely don't know how to combat yet. I still have this sense that the 'love your enemy' is just a way for them to justify their bigotry, for at this moment in time, that's how I've seen it applied the most. It's a sad reality.

This is also why I can't stand that dang phrase "hate the sin, love the sinner." That is a cop-out phrase to justify homophobia, transphobia, victim-blaming, and all sorts of problematic behaviors and words.

Aidan Bird said...

Thank you, Ana.

Phllmk said...

Look, im not sure what to say about homosexuality, because i dont feel that i have the place to judge someone like that, and i dont what's in another persons mind and body. However, there is no justifying transgenders. They're basically taking what God has gifted them with and giving Him the finger by changing what He saw as perfect when He created them. So dont tell me there is anything good about that

depizan said...

You're probably going to get deleted for being an asshole, but let me ask you this:

Do you feel the same way about people who wear glasses? Who have corrective surgeries for birth defects? Who seek help for genetic ailments? If your God gifts us with diabetes, should we not treat it? What about cancer? Where do you draw the line? Hell, wearing clothing is covering up the perfection given us by God. Quick, everyone, STRIP! WE'RE OFFENDING PHLLMK'S SENSIBILITIES!

Ana Mardoll said...

Moderator Notice: You have been banned for hate speech.

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL. The eternal dilemma: revel in my godly nudity or be burned by the godly Texas sun.

depizan said...

Clearly, God wants to gift you with a sunburn!

Ana Mardoll said...

(TW: Joking about Cancer)

He's a right asshole, he is. Then he'll gift me with skin cancer, I just KNOW it. Jerk.

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