constellational thinker. critical scholar. transformative educator.

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Love is the Answer (Still): One Year Later

A makeshift memorial outside of Pulse (taken on May 8, 2017)

A makeshift memorial outside of Pulse (taken on May 8, 2017)

One year ago, I woke up, turned over in my bed, and looked at my phone. A day with plans of grocery shopping and reading went away with the opening of an app – there was a shooting at Pulse and 49 lives had been taken on Latin night.

One year later, my sister took me to visit Pulse, a place where I experienced tons of joy and danced the night away so many years ago with friends and kin. Being there was just surreal.

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One year ago, so much was happening simultaneously: dissociation of staring at my computer screen, looking up any information I could about what happened; anxiety and fear of waiting for friends and family to respond to messages, some of whom could have likely been there that night or were there; the urgent need to fill an ever-widening feeling of isolation and dread with connection to loved ones. Through all of those oscillating feelings, the only constant was tears.

One year later, that’s all I can remember: feelings that took over that day. My office planned a quick memorial. Later that day, I was able to be proximal to those I care about the most in Michigan. And yet it is still a blur.

One year ago, not more than two weeks later, I woke up to another set of news – Bob Lange, the only grandfather I ever knew, had passed. This time, I did not sit - I drove. Drove to the end of the state, drove towards the sun. I wanted to see my grandpa off in the sunset, harmonica with me in my pocket.  

One year later, I come back to what helped me get through those days, what has helped me get through tough days before, and what I know will continue to help me get through today and beyond – love through words & action.

One year ago, I wrote (link) and wrote (link) and wrote (link). It was the way for me to plant myself in some semblance of reality, a way of making sense of what was nonsensical to me. The last thing I wrote that day was about love, how it had failed us, and yet how it still was the answer (link). And one year later, I still firmly believe that.  

Love is the superstar virtue of virtues, and the most watered-down word in the English language. - Krista Tippett (link)

Today, I write about love again. I write about love as both a noun and a verb. It is most often conceptualized as the former, rarely the latter. It must be a both/and.

Throughout Pride month this year, I see #LoveWins all over the place. Many make reference to #LoveWins in particular to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, when the court ruled same-sex marriage is the law of the land. The #LoveWins rhetoric has been used to say that “love” – often a love that is bound in amorous and sexual relationships and/or based in traditional family structures – will always prevail. Indeed, today is the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia (link). This static form of love has indeed won in hearts and courts across the United States.

And yet, this love has been based on momentary instances rather than ongoing practice. This love has often been named as winning and yet that love seems to be reserved for so few in our communities in a time where so many of us, especially trans women of color, continue to have our/their lives, livelihoods, and life chances taken, reduced, and shortened, respectively. This love rhetoric seems to me to continue to be too simplistic, narrow, and linear.

Those that have been taken (the 49 in Pulse) and those we have lost (my grandfather) both deserve and demand more from us. They challenge us to uplift a love rhetoric that leaves no one behind and seeks to give everyone what they need.  

As Krista Tippett writes (link):

We’ve made [love] private, contained it in family, when its audacity is in its potential to cross tribal lines. We’ve fetishized it as romance, when its true measure is a quality of sustained, practical care. We’ve lived it as a feeling, when it is a way of being. It is the elemental experience we all desire and seek, most of our days, to give and receive.

Love is a daily practice I have carried with me every single day this past year and moving forward, a practice that is complex, messy, and makes room for grace when it does not happen. 

The love I am talking about is a mix of care, recognition, affection, respect, commitment, trust, and honest communication and prompts hope rather than idealism.

The love I seek to practice is both static and dynamic, both is something and does something, both public and private, both gentle and fierce. The love I want to embody is both roots and blooms, one that is both the start and finish, one that is recognized for its multitudes of manifestations – the familiar happiness and joy it evokes as well as the anger and accountability that are thought to be its opposite.

The love I continue to practice is one where I tell people I care about them now and later, where thoughts and actions are deeply intertwined and never siloed, where my investment in others is clear to those I am both closest to and most apart from. I want to enact a love that is both purposeful and accidental, a love that #HonorsThemWithAction (link 1; link 2).

For those who were taken from us, I am continuing to commit to a daily practice of love. A practice that tells our queer Muslim kin they belong in our communities, a practice that puts people first in our celebrations and pride over corporations, a practice that involves telling one person a day that I love them and telling them why. I want to continue to ensure I practice a love that reminds folks to take care of themselves and helping them do so when they cannot on their own. I’m committing to a daily practice of resisting rhetoric that tells our communities to be more resilient and focusing on transforming systems and environments that require that resilience, a practice that holds myself and others accountable to showing up and taking a break where needed, a practice that honors the places of both joy and anger in our work of justice and change.  I am committing to a love that rejects violence in both rhetoric and action, a love that is deeply thought about, consistently embodied, and boldly enacted.

To my kin who are queer, who are trans, who are of color – I love you. So fucking much. To my chosen family who have held me and hold me up – I love you. And if you don’t still yet know that, my work must be better and bolder than before.

One year ago, love failed us and was the answer to turn to. I wrote “Love is complex and I am truly hopeful that love is the answer.  I just don’t think it’s the way I/we have been doing it.” I believed that firmly in my head and heart.

One year later, love is still failing us *and* is still the answer. Today, I still agree with what I wrote. Love is complex. Love protects my hopefulness for a better tomorrow. And I continue to seek to think, embody, and do it better than the day before. That’s what we’ve deserved before. That’s what we deserve now.  

Alex Lange