Be sure to check out the rest of our Love & Lust 2014 features…

In qnotes’ past nearly 30 years in print, we’ve covered a variety of controversial and provocative topics. Such coverage has been necessary to accurately and fully represent the history and lives of LGBT people in Charlotte and across the Carolinas. But, never have we so brazenly and boldly asked individual members of our community to be so open and honest about themselves as we did for this year’s annual sex issue.

In 2009, qnotes began producing our annual “Love & Lust” edition in order to bring a specific attention and currency to important and timely issues relating to sex and sexuality, relationships and more. We’ve covered polyamory, pornography, sex slang, virginity, safer sex and STDS and HIV and a whole host of other topics in each year’s “Love & Lust.”

This year, we decided to take a different route. As you can plainly see, the topics and imagery are still provocative, but the content and message is anything but salacious. This issue, we dive head first into what it means to be “body positive” and “sex positive.”

Taking a look around the “gay community” and its media landscape — qnotes’ history included — it is easy to see a plain bias in how our diverse LGBT community is often portrayed. Younger white gay men with chiseled abs and gym-hardened bodies are the norm in publications and advertisements. Certainly, younger white gay men are a part of our community, but, collectively, we are all so much more. Our beautifully-diverse community comes in all shapes, sizes and body types. We are younger and older. We are male and female and oftentimes somewhere in between. We are of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, languages and ancestries. And, each of us should be proud of who we are and where we’ve come from. This is the essence of body positivity — loving who you are as a person — heart, mind, soul and, yes, even your body.

But, society teaches us differently. We are inundated with images and messages that tell us to dye our hair (or shave it away in certain areas) and lose our love handles. Twisted standards of so-called beauty impel some of us to make drastic changes to our bodies. We seek out botox treatments or expensive plastic surgery in a quest toward “beauty,” a standard someone else defined for us.

This issue, we want to give you a different and beautifully-alternative message — who you are and what you are is not and cannot ever be defined by the pages and pages of ads and photos picked and chosen by magazine, advertising or TV executives. Our beauty is our uniqueness.

Similarly, society and history have handed down to us a restrictive, judgmental and shaming view of sexuality. For members of the LGBT community, this is a shame we have all experienced at one point or another in our individual lives. Heterosexism and the rigid social “norms” of heterosexual monogamy have for centuries defined us against our will. It has painted our love and how we love as sick, sinful and criminal. Our community has been judged and our community has been the judge, applying hurtful, heart-shattering labels like “whore” and “slut” to those who live outside the bounds of a Victorian-esque model of heterosexual “purity” (as if such a thing ever actually existed).

Fortunately, we can shed such restrictive and harmful “standards” by taking a more positive, affirmative and holistic approach to our bodies and our sexuality. We can affirm what is right for us, while loving our own bodies. We can throw away shame and judgment and see our human siblings not as a collection of sexual and physical choices and traits, but rather as full and complete persons with full lives, spirits and dreams.

To do so is empowering and connects us all together as one people, one heart, one mind — one humanity.

That idea of “one humanity” is one that for me — and likely for many other people who share similarities to my faith tradition — is very powerful and at the core of our beings as individual people and collectively as humankind. As I prepared for this issue and the features inside it, my mind kept racing back to a significant, foundational story of my childhood.

“In the beginning,” I was taught, “God created the heavens and the earth.” And when God had finished, God looked down at all God had created and said, “It was very good.” God did so without reservation, without judgment and without shame. I wish the same for each of us today, no matter who you are, what you look like, where you’re from, what decisions you’ve made or not made. Together, united as a community in our shared humanity, we are all very good. : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.