They say everyone deserves love. They say love is neither earned nor forced but comes on its own. They say love can’t be repressed, shut down or subdued. Even the Bible reiterates that love is patient, kind, isn’t self-seeking and possesses a plethora of virtues. They say so much about love, it’s fast becoming rhetoric.

So why is love for the LGBTIQ individual, uh, different?

It doesn’t matter how perfect, dependable, trustworthy, good-mannered and good-natured a person is, the merest hint of him or her belonging to the LGBT community, and all his goodness is incapacitated in the face of love gone. It is norm. We find that we are sidelined, treated like shit, made to feel less than worthy to be called human, totally undeserving of love and respect, stripped of the dignity of humanity. This community has been plagued with this problem for years, especially in post-colonial Africa, so much so that the few stories of unconditional love and acceptance we hear sound like fairy tales to us.

Does this mean there are things that make one undeserving of love?

Does this mean that to be LGBT means to automatically forfeit the love, protection and care which your environment is meant to give unconditionally to you?

Gay men and women have had a history of being treated most abominably by family and friends once their sexuality comes to light. Most of the time, this is done under the pretext of love, of trying to make the individual see the light and get cured, of trying to save his soul from eternal damnation (case in point: the movie, Prayers for Bobby, and my very own dear family), and in the more realistic and honest cases, trying to save the family’s name and face from shame and reproach due to the sexual proclivities of the LGBT member of the family.

So when did love, which isn’t supposed to hurt, become a weapon in the hands of people to hurt others?

A lot of times, we find that from the purest intentions comes the greatest harm. Hear Dame Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey when she once quipped: “Love, that age-old excuse for hurting people and getting away with it.” The overwhelming inability of people to understand that difference does exist makes them strive to change the LGBT individual, to return him to the status quo, to make him conform to societal expectations of him. And this is the best case scenario. In other cases, this same overwhelming inability to understand difference leads to ostracizing the LGBT individual in a bid to protect themselves from the scourge of his ‘disease’.

Most times, we find that love, which is meant to build us up, to make us feel safe and wanted, to make us feel protected against all odds, becomes the very weapon that is used to inflict terrible damage on us. Our minds are bruised, our spirits weighted down, our self-esteem crushed and our self-worth damaged beyond repair, all because that which is expected is misused or denied.

We all deserve to be loved. We all, irrespective of our flaws, deserve unconditional love. We are who we are not because we chose to be that way, but because nature and circumstances made us that way. We don’t have to strive for perfection to be loved. We just need to be ourselves, the best versions of ourselves, to be loved.

Let us all try hard to remember: Authentic love doesn’t devalue another!

Written by Mitch

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