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Disobeying Hate: Guilty Love by Ladyhawke and Broods

Anyone who has stepped foot into a Catholic school at some point in their life recognises the secret nonconformity evident in the film clip for Guilty Love, the new single from Ladyhawke and Broods. The single, a preview for Ladyhawke’s album due later this year, was developed when Tommy English, Georgia Nott from Broods and Ladyhawke were in a writing session and discovered they were all subjected to the Catholic school system. Ladyhawke says during an interview with NME, “Georgia then suggested we write a song about shame.”

Guilty Love is important to Georgia Nott and Ladyhawke for “different reasons,” Ladyhawke notes. Ladyhawke explains how the Catholic school system made her feel ashamed for her sexual orientation during her teenage years. But Guilty Love feels like revenge against that persecution: it is a song about liberation. It touches on the Handmaid’s Tale-style secret rebellion among people in repressed societies or institutions. That disobedience will always remain. Growing up in the Catholic school system myself, Guilty Love expresses the adrenaline of defiance there that’s often left unarticulated.

The song sparks joy. Unlike Novitiate (2017), a brilliant but dark movie about lesbianism, devotion, and misogyny among nuns in the Catholic church, the teenage girls in Guilty Love’s film clip decide to abandon the dictatorial injustice the system inflicts upon them. The girls trust they know what’s right, despite being taught the opposite. They don’t grovel for forgiveness or submit their lives to outdated, arbitrary rules that don’t centre “love thy neighbour.” Disobeying the oppressive nature of the Catholic church is not anti-God. Hate is anti-God. The girls found God in each other.

Religion, especially the Catholic church – like in Novitiate – is a notable theme in art made by or about women-loving women. The conflict in not being able to be together, for example, is complicated by Orthodox Judaism in Disobedience (2017). Guilty Love reminds me of the song religion (u can lay your hands on me) by Shura, which starts with “It’s human, it’s our religion / No preacher to teach us to love / Two bodies, one vision / No one’s watching over us.” The songs are about women (or teenage girls) loving each other and creating their own belief system, rather than surrendering to a patriarchal system that aims to divide them.

In Guilty Love, the girls are intoxicated by one another – and by freedom. Instead of the communion’s Holy Wine, the girls are drunk on each other: “Think I’ve got a hangover from one sip of wine / Stillness in the feeling from my knees down at times.” The film clip’s Catholic imagery, including disappointing looks from priests and furious teachers, contributes to the shame Ladyhawke and Georgia Nott describe that exists in the Catholic school system.

No wonder the teenagers ache to escape their stifling captivity. Even their private communication with God battles their oppressive environment: “Every time I pray, I just pray to be free.” The girls had a choice to succumb to the instilled shame like many characters on Novitiate did – and interpret their self-worth based on their “superiors” – or to escape. They choose the love they’ve found in each other: “Guilty love, guilty love / You’re my new religion and I’m never gonna give you up.”

Even if their escape is temporary, the relief from shame in each other’s company is what makes this song about hope. The hopeful message is that there will be an end to suffering the oppressive, restrictive environment you’re contained in. There are other people who will substitute any family, friends or guardians you may lose in the process of having pride in yourself and/or sexual orientation.

Ladyhawke explains to NME that the denial she felt about her sexual orientation in the Catholic school system meant she “suffered the constant fear of being judged and alienated by [her] friends and family.” She says that “’Guilty Love’ is a way to share our experiences, and hopefully help anyone going through the same thing to know they’re not alone…This song is about that but also about finding our own way back to a sense of spirituality through love. The love that once caused so much guilt, ended up being the most healing and spiritual. END CONVERSION THERAPY EVERYWHERE!”

Ladyhawke articulates the way in which conversion therapy is not always a clinical camp like on But I’m a Cheerleader (1999). Oftentimes it’s enforced under the guise of religion. It’s a powerful tool to threaten somebody with losing everybody they love — and a heavenly afterlife — if they don’t repent for who they love and “choose” to be straight.

Ladyhawke reminds me of the time I wrote a short story about a lesbian couple during my final year of Catholic high school, before I even admitted to myself that I was a lesbian. It was barely romantic — and definitely not sexual — but was marked by an external board for our university-entry grade, much to my male principal’s rage. Me getting a good grade — and it being advertised for all to see as a result — meant that, from that moment on, he demanded to approve every future student’s story for the extension English subject.

Conversion therapy isn’t necessarily physically violent. In fact, it’s often not. You don’t have to physically force people to do anything if you have control of their mind. The Catholic school tactic is to shame and threaten isolation to people with homosexual attraction and use “religious freedom” as an excuse. Ladyhawke and Georgia Nott have reminded us just how common conversion tactics are. I, for one, haven’t processed my own experience with it. The answer isn’t necessarily to abandon spirituality, like Ladyhawke mentions, but to find and share it with those who truly love you.

AJ Kelly

Contact AJ at [email protected] or view the rest of her work on aj-kelly.tumblr.com

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