I write a lot about love. I believe fervently in the centrality of love; what is mothering, but the work of love? What is feminism but a life ethic — a love ethic? What is grief but a leaking out of lost, missed, or broken love? What is fat activism without a call for radical love, love of oneself and others?
But I have not written, here, of my lover.
Most of my writing on this most precious of loves, this fervent and brilliant and life-changing love, has been private. To her I write all of my secret words. Whisper sweet everythings. Compose bare poetic couplets. And of course this is how it is, ought to be, with lovers.
There is still the desire to make open proclamations, though. And there is perhaps an imperative to share.
If the personal is political it is still so when the personal is joyous. Our stories are not only valuable when they are painful, although I have always written more extensively about pain.
Even though I met my beloved in unconventional circumstances and even though our relationship moved quite swiftly and even though we’ve encountered some external pressures — or perhaps because of those things — I have uncompromisingly expected others to recognise this as a meaningful and profound relationship to me. Just as meaningful as a heterosexual relationship. Just as meaningful as one with a more conventional trajectory. Just as exciting, affectionate, positive, with as much potential.
Insisting on that has not always made me popular (which is a glib way of saying that it has cost me a great deal in ways I am not yet ready to speak about). And it’s not always been possible; just yesterday an ostensibly accepting acquaintance who’d met us both at the same time and as a couple referred to my partner as my ‘special friend’. I’ve never heard such a condescending term applied to a man — or anyone in a heterosexual relationship.
The ways in which other people devalue queer relationships is a stark reality; my marriage was read as straight and I feel the social differences as tiny cuts each day. But that is not what I want, need, to say now about love.
Love is a revelation. How do I put into words the momentousness of experiencing someone else’s skin as raw joy pressing against me, without gauche sentimentality or discomfiting over sharing? Perhaps I can’t. Perhaps the question is not how, but why — why explain these things?
There are not enough narratives for people like me, like us.
There are not enough queer stories.
There is too much pressure to maintain the just good enough, sometimes relationship that’s socially sanctioned. Where there is no evidence that more is possible, this pressure comes from within too. Unhappy marriage is a heavy trapdoor to shoulder open for too many women.
I am a fat, queer, mentally ill mother in my thirties. I am invisiblised. Desexualised. Devalued. My body, my desires, my emotional needs and those of my partner, are treated as disposable, unimportant, ridiculous — even repulsive. And yet.
And yet here we are. Obstinately visible. Insistently affectionate. Unexpectedly steady.
And yet here we are, suburban mums making school lunches and doing laundry.
And yet here we are, sometimes experiencing discrimination on multiple fronts, sometimes struggling with illness, but finding safety in love’s embrace.
And yet here we are, writing about romance.
And yet here I am, growing into my skin. Skin turning permeable as lungs, making love like it’s breathing. Breathing in the certainty of improbable love.