What is Love? (Baby don’t hurt me)

You have heard it said that you shall love the sinner but hate the sin. There are any number of people out there who would say they love homosexuals, that God loves homosexuals, but that they abhor homosexuality as God abhors homosexuality.

The problem is, that reduces the concept of “Love” to one that is literally meaningless.

How can you love someone if you don’t know them? If you don’t respect them and their beliefs and their opinions, how can you love them? If everything about them is odious to you, what does it mean to love them?

love, noun
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.
4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
5. (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?

Love is something you feel for a person — which means you have to know them as a person in order to love them. Respect is a prerequisite; if you can’t respect someone as a human being, respect their basic humanity and their right to have opinions and their right to exist, how can you possibly love them? Knowledge is a prerequisite; if you don’t know someone you can’t feel emotional attachment to them. If you know of them and have constructed an image in your mind, you can love that image, but if it doesn’t match the person you don’t love the person at all (a common failing in relationships based on lies).

My mother tells me she loves me. She doesn’t know anything that goes on in my head; she doesn’t respect me, as evidenced by her condescension towards me. She doesn’t respect my opinions because she never finds out what they are — she’s too busy telling me what they ought to be. We never talk about anything real, just basic news updates and polite smalltalk. I don’t say I love her back. Deep in my subconscious I fear her ability to wield power over me; as much as I used to crave her respect, I gave up on obtaining it a long time ago. I don’t know her as a person. I know the face she chooses to show me and I know the face that tormented me and I detest both.

My father, by contrast, honestly wants my opinion. When he disagrees, he takes a moment to weigh my opinion before rejecting it, and explains why. He feels empathy when I’m in pain and always is willing to work with me to try and find a solution — even when there’s nothing he can do to help, he’ll talk about a problem and help me figure out something to do or at the very least commiserate. He respects my need for independence and doesn’t force himself on me. We have real conversations, during which I’ve gotten to know him as a person. As a child, I knew I could count on him to love me no matter what, where my mother’s affection was always conditional based on things I had little control over (such as her mood on a given day).

Radical fundamentalists “love” gay people like my mother “loves” me: because that’s what they think they’re supposed to do so that’s what they’ll claim, regardless of the circumstances. They “love” gay people for the same reason my mother “loves” me: because it would be incredibly distasteful to imply that she did not. They have no interest in talking to gay people, meeting them, understanding them, showing affection towards them. That’s not love. That’s nothing at all.

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