The forms of relationality named love hurt.
The confines of romance, of coupledom, of family, of gender and sexuality, forms historically delineated by and for the reproduction of the status quo, hurt.
These old shapes, still circulating as ideals, always recreate the conditions for the repetition of their particular dramas, and for the continuation of their idealization. But the narrow outlines of these hand-me-down fantasies cramp us, squeeze us, and misshape us when we try to live them—when we build a life around their promise.
In this seventh issue of GUTS, our contributors look for new forms of relationality—ways of loving that don’t alienate and isolate us, that don’t rape or murder us, that give us all space to unfurl desire beyond the confines of commodity and gender normativity, and against the violence of colonialism, racism, and state oppression.
Can we say that love is crisis? Can we say that the repetition of its normative shape is trauma?
Our writers bring us to the ER, to illegal harbours, to Orlando. They come to grief, and come to blows. They make demands. They make threats. But with intention, with desire, with burgeoning ideas of relations newly constellated.
The many-headed bureaucratic gargoyle of the state perpetuates the vulnerability of racialized and marginalized people, preserving the mantel of the couple-form, that bulwark of capitalist reproduction, at the expense of bodily autonomy, of safety, and of justice. In “Making Threats,” editor and contributor Rebecca Jade says of the assaults she endured in a relationship: “the state requires rape in order to fulfill a supply of crisis. If I report, if I pursue a charge, I will enter the carceral system as a victim, and I will be surveilled at best, under the guise of protection. The condition of Blackness is inherently a condition of crisis, but the police would mark me administratively, irrevocably, with further crisis. A Black woman in crisis is an easier target for exploitation.”
When the state intervenes in personal and familial relationships, its liberal “benevolence” always forces the work of rebuilding, of reconciling, onto its benefactors. This purported altruism obliterates subjectivities and erases interiorities, filling them instead with the “good intentions” of a powerful few.
It creates the illusion of exceptional and isolated personal crisis out of an intentional systemic violence. “My throat is closing and I am alone,” repeats the refrain of Lauren Crazybull’s essay about growing up in Canada’s child welfare system. The barrenness of adopted settler “families” denied her kinship ties; Crazybull commits to reestablishing those ties as an act of resistance against a government’s counter-commitment to colonize her relation to community.
Living and loving now means feeling the burden of an uneven spread of weight, digging deeper and cutting wider where colonialism has left gaps and gasps in kinship, where racialization, transphobia, misogyny, and ableism have not left us room to love how or whom we want.
When IRL forms of relationality lack recognition and representation, some of our contributors take to the internet to find community. In “black girl on the internet,” M. Mohammed archives a coming of age that takes place online, in communities that reflected her interests, sexuality, and desires. “Instead of boys, what I did experience was the soft, queer intimacy that occurred between girls all around the world bonding over teen idols.” These queer intimacies and their imports give shape to friendships and relations that are as vital as any romance. Why look for The One, when what we want, what we need, is the many? The multiple? Not partners, but practices of love.
Why look for The One, when what we want, what we need, is the many? The multiple? Not partners, but practices of love.
Women and feminized people are so often called on to love, to provide endless and unconditional love, to choose love in impossible situations. When we chose the theme for this issue, we wanted to interrogate those troubling expectations.
It was also the middle of the summer: some of us were breaking up, some of us looking for new ways to love, and together we were witnessing the limitations of the notion that love conquers hate—the idea that to love is to rise above or to be peaceful in the face of violence. We don’t subscribe to that submissive love, which doesn’t ask us to call out aggression or actively stand with our friends against it. That fantasy of love asks for calm instead of riot, asks for flowers instead of fire.
That idealized love, which circulates with the same promise and demand as any commodity (the promise of self-fulfilment; the demand to buy/discard/repeat), also reproduces again and again the status quo of this cultural and historical moment, and reinscribes love-as-romance and as couple-form at the centre of our self-realization, our happiness, and worth.
Why look for The One, when what we want, what we need, is the many? The multiple? Not partners, but practices of love. Why is single (singular, alone) the opposite of the couple? Why is the alternative not an even greater plurality? Again, not only of lovers, but of life-sustaining arrangements of relations that we navigate without containment?
This issue is an attempt to locate and articulate ways of shoring up against the hurtful shape of love we’ve been handed by the state, by colonialism, by the family, by patriarchy. The artists and writers featured here are seeking a less deadly sort of love—forms of love that are not so easily weaponized against one another.
It’s about clearing and defending ground for new shapes to emerge when we see them struggling into life. This issue is looking for those nascent configurations about to come into view.
We are as always,
your GUTS editors
Image: Addelle McCauley