By Emory Oakley. Emory is a writer and LGBTQ+ educator who regularly discusses the intersections of queer identities and mental health.
The Learning Process
“You aren’t supposed to do anything for Valentine’s Day, it’s your boyfriends’ job to buy you flowers and take you out for dinner!”
This was the first piece of advice I was given about Valentine’s Day at fifteen years old. It was my first Valentine’s Day in a relationship. And as a bit of a late bloomer, I was nervous and excited in anticipation. But, of course, I was unsure and not confident. Even though this happened prior to coming out, being given that advice, I already knew Valentine’s Day was not designed for me.
I was assigned female at birth but never fit into the traditional expectations of what a girl was ‘supposed’ to be. As a young child, it was acceptable to be a tomboy. So, I wasn’t directly confronted with my gender until I hit puberty and was at the age where people start dating. Even then, I didn’t know gender was the issue – I just knew I didn’t fit into people’s expectations. And that made me realize how uncomfortable I felt in my body.
Not surprisingly, Valentine’s Day never got easier for me. I never understood why boys didn’t want me to buy them flowers and write them poetry.
I’ve always been a ‘love with my entire existence’ kind of boy. But when I was pretransition and in relationships with straight boys, this was entirely misunderstood. These boys almost always wanted to be the ones to ‘take care of me’ in the traditional heternormative sense. So, it was continually reinforced that Valentine’s Day was not made for me.
As I embraced my queerness and started to engage in less traditional styles of relationships. It became glaringly obvious that the reason I never felt like Valentine’s Day was made for me was that my identity was never represented. The focus of Valentine’s Day is heterosexual, monogamous, sexual and traditional romantic relationships. But not only was my relationships and identity not represented, neither were so many others.
So, coming out as queer gave me the context as to why I never like Valentine’s Day. And for me, clearly, it was never about being single. But my queer identity gave me permission to look at it differently.
Valentine’s Day Today: Why I don’t celebrate it.Now, out as a queer trans man, I can happily say I choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day. But I do love getting the cheap candy the following day. This doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate the multiple ways love comes into my life.
Valentine’s Day reinforces heteronormativity. And it does this through consumerism rather than actually focusing on healthy and happy relationships. These are things I personally have no interest in supporting. To me, love is about so much more than romance and that’s a common experience among those in the queer community. Many of us are rejected by or estranged from our families so we create our own chosen families.
These relationships are different from close friendships among heterosexual people. They have a different level of intimacy and love that cannot easily be defined. Even our romantic relationships don’t always fit into the traditional outline of what a relationship ‘should’ look like by heteronormative standards.
I don’t really want to get too much into consumerism here, but the way Valentine’s Day has been structured around gift-giving and fancy date nights is problematic and classist. There are so many ways to show a person you love them – other than spending money or fancy dates.
If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your loved one(s) consider some other options. A hand made gift or card, write a poem or a song, make a homemade dinner, have a queer movie night or do something else creative to celebrate your love in a way that makes sense in the context of your relationship.
So, rather than celebrating Valentine’s Day, I choose to celebrate my queer love every day of the year.
Enhancing psychological health, wellness and resilience