The Right to Love

Love and Psychology

Psychologists state that intimate relationship is a basic human need, without which people can feel so alienated that they literally go insane (Fromm, 1965).  Yet our society prevents citizens from meeting their need for intimate relationship, because its patriarchal, capitalistic, heternormative culture encourages people to relate to each other through commodified personas rather than with authenticity, vulnerability, and love.  Restoring sanity requires shaping a “sane society” in which authentic, loving, human encounters become possible again.

Love and the Law

Love is incorporated into human right discourse in the form of “the right to participate in cultural and social life” and “the right to marry.”  The United Nations states that participation in cultural and social life is a universal human right for all citizens. This right helps create inclusivity and combat social exclusion among minority citizens, instilling a sense of belongingness with one’s social community.  The “right to love” is also legally conferred as the “right to marry,” which historically has only been allowed between a man and a woman. Yet in 2015, the United States’ Supreme Court made a historic decision to expand the legal right to marry to be inclusive of same-sex couples, citing enduring love and avoiding loneliness as a constitutional right for all citizens.

Love and the Closet

Despite the ample strides that marriage equality has achieved, heteronormative societies still withhold the “right to love” from LGBTQ people by failing to grant legal protection against LGBTQ discrimination, by debating legalities of same-sex marriage and adoption, by criminalizing homosexuality, and by banning transgender people from the military—all which perpetuate the trauma of the closet.  The closet condemns LGBTQ people into isolation, preventing them from accessing intimacy or cultivating family bonds which hetero and cis-gender people can freely do. These public policies also frequently promote the message that LGBTQ people are undeserving of love, and that LGBTQ identities indicate perversion, promiscuity and abnormality. Queer people can internalize these messages and believe they are not entitled to love—a basic existential need required to maintain sanity. Moreover, the closet prevents LGBTQ people from experiencing belongingness and participation with their local community, because it prevents them from revealing their authentic self to others.  Instead, the closet forces queer people to enact a heteronormative persona, which imposes a barrier to intimacy with others.  The closet also erodes community bonds among hetero and cis-gender people, because institutionalized homophobia creates restrictive social norms that prevent citizens from expressing aspects of their humanity that veer outside these norms.  As such, the closet shapes a culture in which human relating unfolds between false personas, thereby producing a society in which true intimacy cannot flourish.

Restoring the Right to Love

LGBTQ citizens can restore their right to love by reaching out to the safe people in both their physical and digital worlds who are ready and willing to offer them love, exactly as they are.  Feeling loved, accepted, and affirmed for who one really is can be a transformative and revitalizing experience. Receiving others’ love can help sexual and gender minorities better love and accept themselves, undoing the shame and self-hatred caused by transphobic and homophobic societies. Eventually, this love is paid forward, as many queer people may seek to empower other members of the LGBTQ community to realize they too are loveable exactly as they are.

Society is also responsible for restoring LGBTQ citizens’ right to love, by striking down laws that block queer people’s access to participation in loving intimate relationships– whether by creating families of their own or by fully participating in community and social life.  This involves striking down laws that criminalize homosexuality, ban same-sex marriage, and ban adoption among same-sex couples. It also involves erecting laws that provide legal protection against LGBTQ discrimination, without which the need for the closet as a protective defense will only continue. Finally, it requires societies to challenge restrictive homophobic and gender norms which prevent all citizens from creating authentic community bonds free of artifice and fear.