Valentine's Day Isn't Designed For Queer Couples, But That Doesn't Mean They Can't Reclaim It
Throughout history, queer counter-culture has consisted of dismantling years of oppressive gender norms and laying the mack down. Cue non-binary pick-lines suggesting that you and your crush should probably purchase "Theirs & Theirs" hand towels for the genderless living space that you will one day hopefully share. Though representation of queer people is growing, it's still easy to feel like Valentine's Day isn't designed for queer couples — between the cheesy jewelry commercials featuring only cis, heterosexual people or the "His & Hers" products bombarding the aisles at your local convenience store.
If you're a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you can probably count on one hand the number of movies or TV shows that you grew up watching that depicted proper representations of your romantic partnerships. According to a 2016 study by GLAAD, queer characters make up only about 4.8 percent of characters on TV programs, and of that percentage, 25 queer AFAB (assigned-female) characters have died or been killed off the show.
Sure, I love Kate Hudson. And yes, I'd say I professionally resonate with her role as Andie, a writer in the 2003 American classic How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. However, I've yet to see a character like hers played by, say, a non-binary babe trying to buy a comfortable chest binder while finding the perfect venue for a romantic V-Day date — one that has genderless-bathrooms and a solid happy hour. I've yet to see a babe on the silver screen who I relate to both as a professional and as a queer person.
"It's common for queer people to feel erased, not only on Valentine's Day, but in many other forms of marketing as well," Lola Jean, sex educator and mental health professional, tells Elite Daily. "When love and romance is only depicted as a cisgender, heterosexual event, it can be hard to imagine how that manifests for you [if that's not your identity]."
Let me say this: Whether you're newly out, have been out for years, have not yet come out, or think the concept of coming out is archaic and navigate a life without labels, Valentine's Day can feel like a sucker punch. You may never see other queer couples when you're out on a dinner date, you may feel unseen by the notion of a day that appears to dedicate itself monogamy, heck — you may even be the only queer person you know! But, you are not alone and you are not a burden. There is no "right way" to be queer, and there is no "right way" to celebrate Feb. 14.
If the red and pink of Valentine's Day is giving you some major queer blues, consider hitting up a local LGBTQIA+ center or volunteering at queer youth facility. Host a V-Day letter writing campaign to queer folks who are incarcerated or go see a sweet drag show (note: it can be challenging to find all-ages drag shows, but they do exist). Sharing your feelings and holding space along with other queer people can feel incredibly validating. If you're lacking an IRL queer community, there are plenty of places on the web to vent, connect, and meet some queer cuties.
When all the greeting cards have gendered language, or when you're buying sexy undies and are told, "Your boyfriend will love that," it can feel like your invitation to Cupid's birthday got lost in the mail. From waiters not understanding that you and your boo are on a very hot date and not a GNO, to when the "couple's special" coupon for a spa certificate specifies that it applies to men and women, Valentine's Day can feel extra isolating and exclusive. So, how can queer couples combat that feeling?
"Of course, individuals can choose to boycott or not partake in Valentine's activities due to its heteronormative core," Jean says. "Or, celebrate an almost "Anti-Valentine's Day" that celebrates all types of love. The queer community is one of the most powerful when it comes to creating change and having that change stick."
While it can be empowering to create you own day, if V-Day in its traditional form on Feb. 14 is your thing, you don't need to create your own holiday in order to make space for your love. Queer, trans, single, cuffed, or however else you identify, you can sage and reclaim this day or bust it wide open. If you feel Valentine's Day isn't a perfect fit, you can choose to ignore it, subvert it, or celebrate it. From gender-inclusive vibrators to queer couples massages, there are plenty of companies dedicated to creating products that ensure you and your sweetie get to celebrate in a way that makes you feel seen.
Additionally, starting your own intrinsically genderless and sexually inclusive holiday, dedicated to celebrating the love you have for yourself, your boo, or your friends, may be the right move for you. Perhaps you want that day to take place after Feb. 14, so you can snag all the candy and decorations for half-off. Or maybe you and your boo do want to celebrate on Valentine's Day, but don't want to buy all the heteronormative propaganda. In this case, fun and feminist V-Day pressies or looking into cute queer-owned restaurants could be the answer.
Taking the holiday to reflect on the mutual respect, understanding, and support you have for your partner — as well as the gooey, sweet, and sexy stuff you share that doesn't need to be clad in red hearts — may be just what the (love) doctor ordered. Consider bingeing all the amazing queer media that is out there, like Rafiki, Duck Butter, or the incomparable (IMO) Broad City, or take it upon yourself to make your Feb. 14 straight out of the queer love movie of your dreams. Queer couples can partake in whatever aspect of Valentine's Day feels right to them — we can even make our own traditions, like crying to Lady Lamb, reading Audre Lorde, and doing DIY face masks to ABBA (it me).
"Valentine's Day is already an oversaturated market that puts pressure on celebrating love on a specific day of the year — it’s up to you how and where you choose to celebrate your love," Jeans says. "To 'take back' the holiday, consider taking back the definition. Who’s to say you cannot also have a dinner followed by dancing, or partake in an erotic massage class?"
Valentine's Day can look like whatever you want it to. Maybe your dream Valentine's date is drag queen bingo night at your favorite gay bar, or a zodiac-themed queer dance party where you're asked to put your name, pronouns, and astrological big three on your name tag (an actual party I once attended). Or perhaps, your ideal Feb. 14 date is fancy dinner and a show, or Taco Bell and watching both Fyre documentaries in a row. The moral of the story is you have the power to reclaim Valentine's Day and make it your own.
"Cis-het-white-able-bodied Valentine's Day romance can feel traditional," Jeans says. "But maybe you want traditional! And that's OK. Maybe you want the queerest f*ckfest on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. That's OK. Whatever you’re feeling or whatever you want is valid. Only you can define your love, your romance, and yes — your Valentine's Day."
You and your boo could be into celebrating Valentine's Day more traditionally, with all the teddy bears and chocolate roses your queer hearts desire, and that's OK. Being queer doesn't need to mean a rejection of more mainstream traditions or capitalistic practices. Maybe you want the roses, the presents, or the heart-shaped filet mignon with the chocolate balsamic reduction. Or perhaps, you want to feel like people do rom-coms — even if you don't look like the characters they're centered around. Wanting to partake in more a "traditional" or even "old-fashioned" celebration does not make you less queer, radical, or worthy of doing the things you want to do — on Feb. 14 and every other day.
Queerness is resilience. And queer love is valid in all its forms, from punks boycotting CVS to corporate queers staying at The Ritz. Even if Valentine's Day wasn't "designed" for us, that it no way means we can't (Tim Gun-voice) make it work for us, in whatever way feels right. When it comes to queerness on V-Day, you get to make your own rules. You get to take up space and be yourself. You get to reclaim whatever holiday, tradition, or celebration in whatever way serves you best, from boycotts to boyfriends, and conversations about wealth distribution to conversation hearts.