The night I broke up with my first boyfriend, I did so over the phone.
He had been there, in my apartment, earlier that day, and I had watched him ready his things to leave. As he did, he went about picking up my apartment, the sink running as he rinsed and wiped a few dishes clean. My eyes followed him, the sadness in his shoulders, the fatigue in his eyes. It dawned on me, as I hugged him goodbye, that I was hurting him by holding onto him. He traveled home, and I called him, and I told him it was over. When the call ended, I set my phone down and buried my head in my hands. Tears flooded from my eyes, a mourning cry roaring its way from my heaving lungs.
I looked around me, the empty apartment seeming suddenly large, and I realized I had never imagined this was how love would be. If I can just tell them, I told myself before coming out as gay, I’ll be in the clear.
Before queer people come out, before we summon the courage to tell our stories, the audacity to be ourselves, we dream of what love is going to be like. We imagine how it might feel to rest our head on someone we’re drawn to, rather than working tirelessly to draw ourselves into someone acceptable. I dreamt of meeting a boy, holding his hand and feeling ripples up my arm. Of kissing him in times of celebration and after silly arguments.
We imagine, it seems, that our coming out will be followed by our very own “happily ever after.”
And so we fight the barriers within ourselves, then we fight the barriers within others. We bare our souls and begin to try, to endeavor toward the concepts of love and companionship. It is this dream – this vision of finding someone to hold us through hard times and dance with us during good ones – that gives us the courage to be.
The truth of it, I’ve realized, is that we not only fight for the right to love and be loved, but we fight for the full experience of love. We fight to have our hearts broken and to scramble to make sense of how something so wonderful could have sifted through our fingertips. We fight to get knocked off our feet by attraction, to navigate perils like long distance and unaccepting families, to spend the morning laughing over jokes told in our very own language and the evening fighting to make sense of each other. We fight for all of it, for the joys and the fears and the heartbreaks and the new chances and the questions and the jitters and the bouts of hopeless devotion and the arguments and the long hugs after.
We fight so we can join the fight, so we can know the full range of the human experience. We fight to belong to the hard world of love. We fight for our humanity, and – once we fight our way out and into the world – we find ourselves to be humans.
We’ve learned, like humans across a spectrum of identities and histories, that love can complicated, messy, and lonely. Our hearts can break, too, perhaps especially because we’ve fought so hard that they might be loved.