5 ways to celebrate Valentine's Day as a queer person and feel good about it
- Anni Irish is a writer who has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City; she holds a BFA from Tufts University, an MA in gender and cultural studies from Simmons College, and an MA in performance studies from New York University.
- Valentine's Day can be a complicated holiday for members of the LGBT community - its commercialization and popularity often does not include LGBT representation.
- To make it a meaningful day, LGBT people can practice self-care and honor the people in their lives who they care about.
- They can also patronize queer-owned businesses and feminist sex shops to give back to the community.
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Valentine's Day can be a complicated holiday to navigate for the LGBT community. Societally, there is still an outsized emphasis on heteronormative standards of relationships, sex, and romantic love. For people in the LGBT community, Valentine's Day and the larger representation of it are often made to feel at odds with mainstream society.
Due to the larger lack of representation of the queer community, this time of year can be frustrating, isolating, awkward, and even sad for queer people - it's just another instance where they are not being represented.
There are serious issues that queer people still face today. Those within the LGBT community are more than two times likely to have a mental health condition than straight people. They are also at a higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts than the general population - and queer youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts due to bullying, harassing, and other forms of discrimination they face. On the whole, Valentine's Day does not help in fighting the day-to-day inequalities.
The commercialization of Valentine's Day over the last several decades has continually focused on straight couples and their relationships. GLAAD's 2018 film survey found that only 12.8% of 109 films surveyed included an LGBT character - down from 18% the previous year.
In the US alone, the sales of Valentine's Day-related items brought in a whopping $20.7 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation. This is up by 6% from last year. This commercialization does not make a lot of space for queer individuals: Hallmark currently makes a significantly lower number of cards geared towards queer couples versus the hundreds of other options for heterosexual folks.
Recently, alternatives to the day have become popular - like Galentine's Day, meant to celebrate female friendships. There is even Palentine's Day, which puts more emphasis on pals/friends than gender.
With Valentine's Day right around the corner, there is even more of a reason to practice self-care. Taking care of yourself and checking in with how you feel - as well as your partner, if you are in a relationship - and communicating your emotions is important. Here are five things you can do to make yourself feel better as a queer person on this holiday - and how straight allies can support their queer friends.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.