(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 25, the Love and Relationships issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine. )
I’ve been editing Shameless for three-and-a-half years now, and this letter, by far, has been the hardest for me to sit down and write. In working on this issue, I’ve come to realize that love and relationships aren’t things that we can talk about in abstract ways, because we experience them in such concrete and deeply personal ways. Relationships are loaded (everybody has strong opinions about how things should be), scary (they require honesty, trust, vulnerability and optimism), political (we carry and share our identities, histories and trauma with us all the time) and they are, by their very nature, incredibly diverse (we each experience and understand them so differently). I have had a hard time writing this, because I can’t write a letter that speaks for us; it’s just too deeply personal.
So much of how I talk about myself is in relation to the people in my life: best friend, partner, co-conspirator… the list goes on. These words hold weight because they define so much of who I am. It’s my community that has helped me shape my politics; my friends, lovers and chosen family who have shaped my well-being and sense of self; and my collaborators and co-conspirators who have nourished and fostered my creativity. It’s hard to separate myself from these people (and, I wouldn’t want to!) because they are an essential and central part of the person I’ve become.
I carry these relationships, and the love that comes from them, around with me every day, and I navigate the world with them in mind. They guide the fun I have, the things I make, the work that I do. They allow me re-focus my politics and activism so I can move beyond the urge to dismantle everything that’s bad in the world, and towards building something better, something beautiful.
That love and beauty has always been something that I’ve tried to bring to Shameless, and I get those things from working on it, too. Every issue allows me to explore ideas in new and wonderful ways, through the eyes of so many people — the editors, writers and artists that make this project happen. Those ideas, in turn, challenge the relationships I have with myself and my politics, and strengthen the friendship and solidarity we — at Shameless HQ — have with each other. I feel so lucky to work with people that I love, so much, on a project that I also love, so much, and to be able to use this as a way of forming new relationships with you, our readership.
When the topic for this issue came up at our staff meeting, we’d never had a livelier discussion or exchange of ideas. A lot of the pieces you see here came from a desire to expand on the narrow and rigid definitions of love and friendship that are most often given to us in movies, music and popular culture. For this issue, we’ve focused on our relationships with our selves (p. 18), our chosen and biological families (p. 24), and our bodies and our partners (p. 28). We explore grief (p. 12), nostalgia (p. 38) and agency (p. 13), and, with all of this (and more!), we only begin to scratch the surface.
As you read this issue, and the accompanying blog series on shamelessmag.com, it’s my hope that you feel the love that went into putting it together, and join in the conversation and dialogue to help us dig deeper and explore the most radical topic we could have chosen: love.
Yours shamelessly, Sheila