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If you haven’t seen Love, Victor, I highly recommend it. It’s a TV spin-off inspired by Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. In it, Victor is a new student in Simon’s old high school, and he writes Simon for advice on getting around as a gay teenager. But Victor comes from a Catholic Latinx family, and that adds complications to his experience that Simon didn’t go through.
(Spoiler for season 2) I generally enjoyed the show, but there was one scene that stopped me dead. Victor has befriended Rahim, a gay Muslim classmate who also struggles to come out to his religious parents. Rahim persuades Victor to forget his relationship problems for a while by going to karaoke, where they sing “Holy” together.
It was the first time I heard this song and both actors play it wonderfully. You can look up the performance on YouTube – and I definitely have. In fact, I listened to her version on a loop and blinked back tears. (On a Justin Bieber song? Bring it together Danika.) I’m a queer millennial, and it’s been a journey to see how queerness and same-sex love have been portrayed in the media in the 15 years since I came out . I still get shocked when a gay couple becomes canon on a kids’ show or when a color writer’s trans-romcom is released by a mainstream publisher.
I’m so grateful that queer kids and teens are so represented now, and all along I thought that I was looking through Love, Victor, all along. However, this karaoke scene felt like it was being echoed through a century of queer media. Here are two gay kids who both grew up in families who viewed being gay as a sin and serenaded each other: “The way you hold me feels so sacred.” I saw the same subject in the music video seven years ago “Take Me To Church,” but it was a lawsuit at the time.
When I was 20, I read Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, and that finally brought me to this depressing lesbian literary classic (or trans lit, depending on how you read it). It was actually just as melancholy as I expected it to be – with added racism. However, this 1920s novel felt terrifyingly relevant, even in sections. There is one passage that has stuck in my mind in the ten years since reading it.
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“[W]What I will never forgive is your daring to be ashamed of my love. I’m not ashamed of it, there is no shame in me. ”And now she stammered a little wildly:“ Good and – and it was nice, ”she stammered,“ the best thing about me – I gave everything and didn’t ask for anything back – me I just loved hopelessly – “she broke off, she was trembling from head to toe …
I still shudder when I read this. Even in a society that condemns them as disgusting and sinful, Stephen not only realizes that their love is not shameful, but the opposite. Your love is the best thing about her. Almost 100 years later, it still felt like a defiant and powerful statement that embedded itself into my own understanding of my queerness.
I’ve never been religious, but the next thing I’ve ever gotten close to a sense of spirituality was through my quirkiness, through love. It makes me more empathetic, I feel part of the “family of things”. In fact, Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” is its own iteration of this idea and boasts the virtues of making the “soft animal of your body love what it loves”.
The few glimpses that I have ever seen of the connectedness of the universe, these shining moments of clarity, they were always through my strange love. My sexuality is a sacred part of my life that brings me joy, understanding, and revelation. Romantic or sexual love aren’t the only ways to find meaning, but they are a way.
It’s a bittersweet feeling to see these ideas are still relevant more than 100 years after they came up – and I’m sure they were said before The Well of Loneliness as well. It is perverse to portray love as something sinful. Queer love is generative, nurturing, creative and clearing. It makes me a better person. It is sacred.