- 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.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
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.
1. Volunteer at an LGBT center in your area
One way to give back to your local LGBT community – and to show a little love to those who may be experiencing a hard time – is volunteering at a queer center in your area. To locate a site in your state go here.
From there, it’s as simple as a quick phone call or email to see what their volunteering process is like and signing up. It is a wonderful way to help out, donate your time to a great cause, and hopefully make others – including yourself – feel better in the process.
2. Making Valentines or small gifts for the people in your life who matter the most
- Getty Images
Another way to avoid the commercialization of the holiday and heteronormative standards of Valentine’s Day is to make your own Valentines or small handmade gifts and present them to the people in your life who matter. This isn’t always just a lover or partner – this can be members of your own family or your chosen queer family, friends, etc.
This activity will allow your creativity to shine through and make the people in your life you care about also feel special. There is no one right way to make a Valentine or a gift – it is the thought that counts. It could be anything from baking cookies or other treats to crafting to simply making a card.
3. Practicing self-care
Practicing self-care is essential and takes on many forms. On Valentine’s Day – which can sometimes be triggering for people depending on their dating history – taking care of yourself is even more vital. If you were in a bad relationship or experienced trauma because of dating, Valentine’s Day can feel even more overwhelming.
If you are able to take the day off and get a hotel or just have a staycation, this is one way to celebrate. This can allow you to recharge and focus on yourself and what matters most to you. It lets you do the things you might not normally do. Valentine’s Day is about love in general, so remember to love yourself because the relationship you have with yourself is one of the most important ones there is.
Whatever way you choose to practice self-care should be done for yourself every day – and not just on Valentine’s Day. Being kind to yourself and taking the time to feel good about who you are and where you are at in life is everything.
4. Shop at queer-owned businesses
- Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock
Shopping at queer-owned businesses is one way to directly support the community as well. TransisBeautiful, Otherwild, LoveandPride, and Fluide are just a few stores that offer queer-centric products. Whether you’re after sports apparel or the leisure wear that TransisBeautiful offers, cool home goods from Otherwild, or the empowering jewelery of LoveandPride, you can find a little something to bring some joy to you (and maybe someone else special) in your life.
5. Buy toys from a feminist-owned sex shop
- Melia Robinson/Business Insider
Sex toys come with the territory of Valentine’s Day, so embracing it and picking up a little something for just you – or maybe you and your partner – is always fun. More times than not feminist sex-toy shops have more options for queer identified folks and offer a more inclusive space. Shops such as Babeland, Unbound, Good Vibrations, and Lelo offer a range of options for whatever you might be looking for.
If you are straight, be an ally to the LGBT community on V-Day and beyond
- Facebook/Human Rights Campaign
There are also things heterosexual people can do to support the queer community on this day. You can donate to a cause that helps LGBT youth and the community at large such as G.L.A.A.D., the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, the Human Rights Campaign, and GLSEN. Volunteering at an organization that benefits the community is a great way to demonstrate your support.
Simply trying to show up for those in your life who are queer-identified and making them feel heard and acknowledged is important. Show your support for your queer friends by making them a Valentine, checking in with them, spending time with them, and supporting their endeavors.