How the definition of love should shape our perceptions towards LGBTQ+
Several powerful minds have tried to understand the philosophy of love. Whether it was Empedocles’s Eros, Plato’s Symposium, Freud’s Theory of the Repetition Compulsion, or Aristotle’s emphasis on Philia (friendship and affection) in the Western World to the views on love and sex by religions in the Eastern World, the philosophy of love was ever present and ever discussed. With love, the topics of sex, gender, marriage, and eroticism were always present. Whether we have ever understood love or not is an important question. But in modern times, we have surely failed to understand the connection between love and these other topics, like sex and marriage, with the advent of gender and sexual preferences that are considered unconventional and untraditional. And yes, I am talking about the LGBTQ+ community.
This is 2019. We are in a world where we have achieved unimaginable marvels; we went into space and are on the verge of making hyper loops a common thing. We have detected gravitational waves and are ready to inhabit other planets. We have made Artificial Intelligence more intelligent than humans, and we have succeeded at gene editing. But importantly and unfortunately, probably the biggest marvel of the modern world is that we have successfully managed to retain the prejudiced and hostile feeling towards the LGBTQ+ people even today.
Does it matter if it is not a man and a woman together in a relationship? Is it worse than living in a relationship void of love? More importantly, is it anyone’s concern who a person chooses to fall in love with? To answer these questions, it helps us to look at where love comes from actually and the effect this knowledge should have on how we understand and look at the LGBTQ+ community.
Where does love come from?
Where does love come from? What is love, after all? What are the roots of this feeling — this emotion — that we all talk, care, and argue about? Almost every philosopher who looked into love pondered about these questions. Love is just a chemical reaction in our bodies that makes us think we are attracted to someone. While we all know that already, we often ignore this definition and succumb to the emotional and psychological aspects of love. There are four components that blur this gap between the rational chemical reaction-perspective and the irrational emotional-perspective of love.
Lust — the sexual drive that is common in the entire animal world is one of the most important things that dictate our very existence. The need to feel sexually gratified. The need to feel the pleasure so strong. And the need to fulfill our sexual fantasies. In no way are lust and love synonyms or one should be present for the other to exist. However, lust is a component that makes up love though love can surely exist without the presence of lust like the love between friends or siblings.
The fear of being alone — with life so complicated already, being alone is probably the one thing that is mostly feared about in every culture. We simply cannot be alone. It’s scary. It’s dangerous. It does not make sense because, by being alone, one is at a disadvantage in every leg of life. Stemming from the early periods of time, when man was a cave animal, when man needed to defend himself against the terrors of the forest and the night, when man was weak to survive alone, this fear has dictated his lifestyle.
The need to rely on someone — from the fear of being alone rose the need to rely on someone for protection, support, help, and love. Two people have a better chance of survival against the terrors of the night than each has on his own. This realisation brought people together and encouraged them to form friendships, relationships, and communities.
The desire to be desired by someone — it is quite natural for us, for the above reasons, to desire someone. But when that other person desires us too, we feel a psychological satisfaction — that we are someone that is desired, someone that others want to be with, someone that others value, someone that others love. This desire to satisfy one’s own self-worth, this desire to be desired by others, drives humankind towards pursuing relationships and mating. While much of the animal kingdom pursue sexual acts for merely reproductive reasons, for us humans, it is way more than that. It is about satisfying one’s own desire to be valued by someone else. It is about egos. It is about being needed by someone.
The need for sexual gratification, the fear of being alone, the need to rely on someone, and the desire to be desired by someone together form love. Whether one agrees with this view of love or not, one cannot deny the fact that love has been a reason for many a quarrel since the dawn of the humankind. The most basic and raw definitions of love tell us nothing about the sex of the person. If we go with the four components we have defined above; it becomes clearer.
The most basic and raw definitions of love tell us nothing about the sex of the person. If we go with the four components we have defined above, it really becomes clearer.
Lust is only associated with the sexual gratification irrespective of the gender of the person who provides it. The fear of being alone and the need to rely on someone has nothing to do with gender or even sexual act to that matter. They are more a matter of psychological and emotional support, friendship, and dependence. The final dimension of love, the desire to be desired by someone, also has no gender component to it. This is probably the most easiest thing to understand. We all want to be desired by many people in our life. We truly want to be desired by those we love, above all, but we also want to be desired on different levels by our friends and family, colleagues and boss at work, our pets, our role models, and even the people we casually date. The type and intensity of desire, of course, is different but present nonetheless. Being deserved is what gives meaning and value to life, and a major part of our actions and behaviors are aimed at achieving this.
If we observe the various dimensions of love discussed above, and even if we think of a myriad of other dimensions, most, if not all, of them will have nothing to do with gender. Gender only comes into the picture because of the our biases and interpretation of love. Moreover, we do not know for sure if the heterosexual partnership was the only accepted partnership since the beginning of the human race. Do we know if the cave men only mated with cave woman? Historical records are nothing but biased reports written by individuals according to their beliefs, interpretations, and perceptions. It might be totally true that non-hetero partnerships existed since the age of cavemen but just like today, they were not accepted, and the history chose to erase them from the records. As a result, we know only about a few such stories or personalities. This is the reason we are surprised when historians find evidence of someone famous or renown was in fact gay.
Historical records are nothing but biased reports written by individuals according to their beliefs, interpretations, and perceptions. It might be totally true that non-hetero partnerships existed since the age of cavemen but just like today, they were not accepted and the history chose to erase them from the records.
Why should anyone give a care?
And why do we need to care about the sexual and mating preferences of other people? I mean, if we see a man and woman kissing each other on the street and let’s say, the man is younger than woman or he is not handsome, we don’t go and interrupt them, and say that we don’t accept their relationship for these reasons. Then why do we feel compelled to interrupt and hurt them if it is two men or two women having a relationship? It is their choice, their life, and their preference. Just like eating whatever one craves or buying whatever model of a car one likes, choosing with whom to have a relationship is one’s own choice, and the rest of the world has no say in it. It is quite simple to understand, isn’t it?
As a society, we all already agree on an individual’s freedom regarding how he or she lives his or her life. Yet these boundaries of individual freedom, unfortunately, do not extend to one’s sexual preferences. People jump to complain, criticise and look down on the people that do not fit into their mental models that have been historically developed in a very narrow manner.
Just like eating whatever one craves or buying whatever model of a car one likes, choosing with whom to have relationship is one’s own personal choice and the rest of the world has no say in it.
What is the future then?
Times have changed a lot now and we have definitely come a long way from treating non-hetero people as outcasts to accepting their choices. Even governments are starting to recognise same sex marriages as legal. But we still have a long way to go where we no longer even use terms like non-hetero and LGBTQ+ because they don’t mean a thing. They should not mean a thing. We should not feel a need to categorise these people using specific terms because, well, the word people encompass them already. The very existence of this distinction does not — and should not — make sense.
Well, to come to think of it, the distinctions of race, sex, religion, and nationality are also not needed. If I see a person, I should just see a person — a person with a name, a character, his or her beliefs, and his or her nature. I don’t have to judge that person based on if he or she is in a relationship with a man or woman, what his or her religion is, what his or her nationality is, or what his or her sexual preferences are. We should judge a person based on whether he or she is good or not, in heart, and his or her actions, but not the choices of his or her life.
We should not feel a need to categorise these people using specific terms because, well, the word people encompass them already.
We will move there, eventually. We always did. The evolution of human race has been dependent on changes and even though challenges lie ahead — and it might take a long while before everyone accepts that no sexual preference whatsoever should exist — we will reach there. Despite the way we define it, or what dimensions it has, or whether it is only a biological reaction or something else, the only thing that matters, is love. As for me, if I love someone, I would love him or her irrespective of whether he or she dates a man or a woman.
Hopefully, the need for Pride months and rallies go away soon because the LGBTQ+ people do not need to fight for their rights or acceptance. Hopefully, we don’t see any more coming-out stories by celebrities or anyone for inspiration because they become the norm where people find it quite normal for someone to be non-hetero. Hopefully, people see love as being of various colours and types. Hopefully, people make no discrimination based on them.
Originally published on P. S. I Love You on Medium.
PhD candidate at LUISS Guido Carli, Rome in Business and Management. Writes about Doing PhD, Innovation, Change Management, Organizational Behaviour, Organizational Learning, Strategy Management and more.