Valentine’s day, another one of our many commercially-driven “holidays,” is a bastion of heteronormativity. The origins of the holiday are not known, but one version of the history claims that St. Valentine, who secretly performed marriages in opposition to the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who outlawed marriage for soldiers because he believed that single men made better soliders than married men. Another version claims that it evolved as a Christian substitute for the popular pagan celebration of the fertility festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on the ides of February. Regardless of its origin, it unquestionably assumes heterosexual romantic love – a message that sows seeds of doubt and shame for even young children who know that they feel physical and emotional feelings for someone who is the same gender or sex.
So there are two health issues here that deserve serious consideration: the damage that is heaped on LGBTQ kids and adults who are not only struggling with challenges of relationships and intimacy, but the undeniably painful challenge of going against a powerful social construct of heteronormativity. The other health issue is the distortions that the heteronormative romantic ideal imposes on all intimate and mutually nurturing relationships. This romantic ideal obscures the real meaning, significance and experience of the the kinds of human love, support and intimacy that are essential for health.
Nevertheless, most of us live in a world that celebrates this holiday, and in addition to raising these important issues that effect LGBTQ people, we also have the option of using this occasion to bring LGBTQ love into the open! So if you are so inclined, instead of decorating your work space with typical red hearts, find an LGBTQ valentine symbol to decorate whatever space you can! Here are a couple sources to consider:
Buzzfeed – 20 Adorable LGBT-Themed Valentines
And go out and have a party with your LGBT friends, decked out in LGBTQ valentine gear! You ask what that is?? Make it up, and send us photos!