ow do we know what love is when it has been denied to us for so long? Like many Black queer folks, my relationship to love was always opaque and paradoxically violent. To love at a young age, was to hate who and what I am. It was to don a robe of heteronormativity and to perform with the straights until all questions were dissolved. Was my walk too full of rhythm with my hips swaying too hard? Was my voice not deep enough? From a young age, I grew familiar with the feeling of not being enough. Eventually, I started to wonder: why doesn’t enough feel like me?

A few years ago while I was in college, I sat across a room from my floormate, immersing myself in their memories. They told me a story full of trauma and discovery, secrets and revelations. With my eyes closed, I absorbed their intimate words; words that felt too close to home, yet we shared the space to finally unleash our truths. This person became known to me in that moment as a kindred spirit, and later became one of my best friends. The communion we shared helped me to discover and name a love that I wasn’t familiar with. This was a love that transcended what I had been taught. This love moved freely, untethered by boxes, forms, or definitions.

In that room that day, I didn’t have to perform nor conjure. For once, being me — in all of my brokenness — was accepted and celebrated. I was enough. And I was welcomed.

With my friends, our love wasn’t grandiose or limited to physical presence. It was marked with kindness and spiritual nourishment. Whenever I was with them, I always felt full. From re-watching Noah’s Arc for the third time that year to exchanging sizzling tea about the ménage à trois that happened a few nights ago; to sharing the dreams we had and wished to accomplish. Each conversation was rooted in care and accountability. We created a space that was grounded in a love that has often been denied to us. Perhaps in our forced confinement to the margins, new possibilities opened: new ways to love, to embody love, and to act with love.

I consider many of my friends to be loved ones. I also consider many to be family. This communion with my friends helped me salvage my relationship with my biological family. Learning to love through friendship equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to duplicate a healthier love. The love my friends and I gave each other permitted us to be unapologetic about demanding the love we deserved while imagining a world that celebrates it.

The loving world I imagine is a place where Black queer and trans folks can not only exist but live; a world that is accepting and where justice is granted to everyone. Where names of the dead don’t become hashtags or memorabilia. A place where we do not live in anguish or fear.

Within this world, I dream of young and old Black queer people able to walk with a rhythm and tune that makes their heart smile. I see us unapologetically shouting and conversing with each other without the need to masquerade in an illusive cloak. I picture laughter, joy, communion, freedom, and love — so much love.

I invite us all to construct a new world where love becomes unbound, ubiquitous, and abundant. Where we can embrace it entirely in communion with each other. And where we let it live, forever.

Liljuan Gonzalez (they/he/him) is an educator on the southwest side of Chicago. Liljuan has a  BA in Psychology from Emory University and a Masters in education at Relay Graduate School of Education. He specializes in teaching/working with students with disabilities. He is a Black queer visionary who aims to see Black and Brown kids free from the confines of the American education system.