Imagine, for a moment, love without gender. Is it possible? Some see love as sexual feelings attached to sexual attributes. For these people, love is very much dependent on gender. It is the driving force which sparks an initial interest and paves the way for love to develop. For others, though, love is more of a spiritual connection. These individuals spend countless years searching for their soul mate; that one individual in the world which completes their very existence on earth. Even here, though, gender plays a role because a spiritual lover has desires. In sonnets 116 and 20 William Shakespeare imagines this pure, spiritual love without any sexual follow through. In these sonnets we see that Shakespeare's love for others was not defined by lines of gender, but instead by his admiration of their spirit.
Sonnets 116 and 20 are often misunderstood. There have been countless essays written about Shakespeare's sexual preference because of sonnets like 116 and 20. One reason for this common misconception is the flowery diction which often makes little distinction between amorous love and platonic friendship of people of the same gender. Careful reading and separation of current societal values will show that it is beyond those concepts. .
Shakespeare begins sonnet 116 with the very idea that true love cannot be blocked. He does not say true love, though. He uses the term "marriage of true minds" instead. By using this ambiguous term, he removes the lines of gender and this sentence becomes applicable to all; male or female. He briefly addresses the idea of true love in lines 2-4 when he says, "Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds, / Or bends with the remover to remove." Love, to Shakespeare, is not a condition. It is an unavoidable phenomenon that cannot be altered or removed once it is found. He goes on to refer to love as an "ever-fixed mark" and connects it to a famously fixed mark; the North Star.