Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which means there are pink and red heart decorations on walls and desks at the office, roses and chocolates at the entrance of every supermarket, and commercials for Adam & Eve sex toys on Hulu Plus that all depict relationships between men and women — despite how many queer people in relationships also enjoy using sex toys. But these commercials aren’t the only place where Valentine’s Day is portrayed as a holiday reserved for cis-heteronormative couples.
Growing up, I watched romantic movies about Valentine’s Day that only showed lead male and female characters getting married or dating. This kind of media can convince queer youth that there is only one definition of love, and make adult queer folks feel underrpresented and alone. I didn’t start recognizing my identity as a non-binary queer woman until graduate school, and I didn’t come out until some time after that. So, for me, these stories set up an expectation for what romance was supposed to look like in my life.
In a capitalistic and social sense, mainstream celebrations of Valentine’s Day should be criticized for how they solely highlight cis, straight couples. Still, despite the many problems with a traditional February 14th, I’ve always loved the holiday.
I now see Valentine’s Day as a great opportunity to celebrate my queerness and honor the ways queer people love one another romantically and platonically.
I treasure Pride Month and National Coming Out Day. Both are obvious times to celebrate that facet of my identity. But there’s something special to me about a day dedicated to love as a concept — especially because my favorite thing about my queerness is my capacity to love others as well as I can. Valentine’s Day makes me remember the time I spent building courage to come out in the first place, despite the many systemic and social reasons to hide my identity. Looking back makes me feel proud of who I am and how far I have come.
Even before I came out, I used Valentine’s Day to give cheers to the queer and trans people in my life. In college, I’d spend it in the LGBT Resource Office. I’d wear a “Love Is Love Is Love Is Love…” shirt all day. I’d share my appreciation for my LGBTQIA+ friends on Instagram.
Here is what I continue to do when appreciating Valentine’s Day as a queer person.
Social Media Celebrations
I go straight to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to post a shout out to my LGBTQIA+ loved ones. Even though it’s such a simple act, I do it because it is a reminder to friends and other people scrolling through my timeline that we will not be erased. We are here, vibrant and grateful to love the people we care about romantically and platonically.
I enjoy watching, commentating, and hyper-analyzing the crap out of movies. We still have a long way to go in regards to representation of queer love stories, so it’s nice to have a bowl of popcorn and watch the good queer movies available to us. Films I would highly recommend include Rafiki, Desert Hearts, I Can’t Think Straight, the BEST episode of Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (yes, I will consider it a movie for the sake of this piece), and Fried Green Tomatoes. (You heard me; I don’t care how straight presenting some of the elements are. SUBTEXT!)
I am dating a cisgender man who has been a lovely advocate in my life – using my pronouns whether I’m in the room or not, never taking up space from me or my loved ones at queer events, and being a great listener when I need one. I look forward to spending another Valentine’s Day with my partner after 15 months together. However, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the women and non-binary people who shared time with me romantically. These folks made me become more at ease with my body. After spending so much of my dating life against public displays of affection, they made me recognize the power, gentleness, and sweetness, of loving openly. It’s fascinating to realize that I remain friends with more of the women and non-binary people I used to date than the cisgender men I used to date. When a queer person and I decided to stop dating, there usually weren’t any hard feelings. We acknowledged that it was great to enjoy one another’s company, so why not continue that through friendship? (When a cisgender man and I would stop dating, usually things ended awkwardly —or terribly.)
The most beautiful thing about being queer, to me, is having the biggest capacity to love others as well as we can.
The way we organize, the way we hold space, the way we defy expectations, the way we cuddle our partners or even our friends. Love is something everyone deserves to enjoy, and I believe reclaiming this day is one of the best Valentine’s gifts we can get.