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In Praise of Philial and Filial Love

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




 From the 2011 SF Gay Pride Parade

My sister recently had one of those disturbing situations that pretty much gets to the heart of why ace visibility is important and why aces might feel a teeny bit dismissed and invisible.

She is being treated for a severe illness that she’s had for a very long time. It is a grueling, time consuming treatment and she is also in law school, so she really has very little time for anything else.

The treatment has been working well, but last time she saw her doctor, she called me sounding rather disturbed. Apparently the doctor was worried because even with the return of her health, she has not changed in her orientation. That is to say, she is still asexual.

The doctor talked about how with most of his patients, their sex drive will return when they’re feeling better. As my sister points out, the problem is that he is not differentiating between orientation, drive and attraction. Moreover, he seems to feel that romantic/sexual love is the only kind that counts.

“I just want you to find that special someone to love you.” The old guy apparently said.

This upset her because the whole statement devalued her relationship with her family. We love her. How is it that any love not holding a sexual or parent to child component has become so devalued in Modern American culture?  

It actually wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, the buddy movie was a staple genre. Mostly men were depicted, but sometimes women. More women would have been featured surely, if women writers had been taken seriously. We all know the movies I mean--Lord of the Rings comes to mind with its several sets of buddies.

I am a fan of Lord of Rings from my childhood. Sam and Frodo’s relationship is never sexual but it is the deepest sort of love there is. I’m pretty sure Frodo is an ace. He gives me that vibe--and his soul mate Sam follows him to Mordor and back with nary a hint of homoeroticism.

When they come home, Sam  marries the woman that he loves, but (in the book) they move in to Bag End to be with Frodo. Because Frodo needs them. It is only sometime later that Frodo leaves with the elves to go West. In the book, there is a heart wrenching farewell as Sam describes his feelings for Frodo making him feel “torn-in-two”. Asserting that his love for Frodo is just as strong as for his wife, Rosie.

There is a ton of slash fiction in the Lord of the Rings fandom with Frodo and Sam as lovers, and I really have nothing against well written smut, but it does show the general cultural devaluing of platonic love.

One need only look as far as the Urban Dictionary to see what I mean--these crowd sourced definitions tend not to see platonic love as “real love.” Rather, they say things like, “Fancy term for being friend zoned” and “The kind of love that nineteen year old future crazy cat ladies rely on from other nineteen year old future crazy cat ladies.” or even “A phrase used to mend the shattered egos of rejected women and console the emotionally unbalanced state of rebuffed girlfriends.”

This really pisses me off. In the words of my southern sisters, fuck all y'all.

Don’t tell me that what I feel is somehow not as valid because I don’t share body fluids with my wife and sisters. Somehow the relationship with the person you hooked up with last night is more significant than mine with the woman I’ve known since high school?

Yes, yes, I know that’s not what they said (insert weary sigh), but that’s how it comes across. And I know there are people who would walk across hot coals and broken glass for their lovers. However, the attitude is that, if you don’t share body fluids or parents, those relationships are just not that important. If you think they are, then on some level you’re delusional or just plain bullshitting yourself.

I mentioned that my sister is in law school. One of the things she’s doing is getting her estate planning and medical power of attorney in order. Because I do not share DNA with her, she has to go through these endless legal documents to have myself made her medical power of attorney.  And when she finishes drawing up the documents, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be accepted as legit if her estranged toxic crazy mother swoops in claiming rights as next of kin. This is a THIRD YEAR law student. She graduates in May, takes the bar soon after that. SHE’s having trouble getting the documents together. God help the rest of us mere mortals.

Philial love is defined as “brotherly love” or better yet, “a sibling-like bond.” In English “phil” as a prefix usually means “love of” or “one who loves”. Therefore, a philosopher is a lover of knowledge and Philadelphia is “The City of Brotherly Love”.

Filial love is better defined as family love; the words affiliation and file come from it. This is the love between parent and child or brother and sister.

There are people in this world I would kill or die for. Those people are my family, regardless of what my biology says. Perhaps it’s because way the hell back in the 80’s I was a punk and we built these little families because ours sucked so hard.

If you asked my kids to define “family”, they would say, “The people you choose.”

Yeah, that sounds about right, and no body fluids need be exchanged.
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