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Valentine’s Day is my least favorite holiday. It has been my least favorite as far as I can remember, and I haven’t really spent much energy trying to remove it from that spot in my mental ranking of holidays.
As a closeted gay boy, I struggled to navigate the social caste system of my primary education. I eventually came out my senior year of high school. Before that, I never really found my place on Valentine’s Day. I was that kid who never got the fundraiser roses from secret admirers, or a card slipped in my locker, or some candy waiting for me in the mail. The holiday became a reminder of how different I was, and it always hurt. Any time I attempted to lean into the heteronormativity of it all, it was never authentic to who I was or what I needed.
Today, I show up as my healthiest, boundary-setting self who unapologetically lives his truth and wishes he would’ve had all this wisdom back in the day. My spouse and I have been together for more than 20 years. We have a 9-year-old daughter, an Australian Labradoodle, and are living our as-best-as-we-can-right-now lives. I will be speaking to my former single self and any of you who identify, as I share my 5 tips to make this Valentine’s Day your own.
The first and foremost human that you need to love on every day, but especially on Valentine’s Day, is yourself. Sadly, many queer humans aren’t taught about self-love. Through the messages we receive both outside and inside of our homes, we’re actually taught to hate ourselves.
The internalized homophobia lives within all of us, undeservedly so, because queer people are amazing and should be celebrated. So go out (or stay in) and celebrate yourself. For me, pampering looks like a candlelit bubble bath or a massage. So whatever self-love looks like to you, do that. You deserve it.
Substance abuse and suicide attempts are higher among the LGBTQ+ community than among cis/het people. A manufactured holiday that harps on love for months on end can add to feelings of loneliness, especially if someone finds themself alone. The need for coping strategies can magnify the desire for self-harm, but it can also magnify the need for allyship, even from within the queer community. So let your friends know you love them as often as you can, but especially on Valentine’s Day.
Straight people are awesome. So let me just start with that. But in my 45 years of being on this planet, there aren’t a lot of cis/het humans that actively and consistently either check their own biases toward the queer community or take the time to understand the extra suckage that comes with being queer, let alone being queer on Valentine’s Day.
My advice is to connect with the community of folks who not only understand, but allow you to show up as you are 100%. You can find your closest location at CenterLink, an international association of LGBTQ+ centers and other LGBTQ+ organizations that serve local and regional communities.
And if actually cohabitating a space with new folks isn’t in the cards this year, spend some time on TikTok scrolling through funny queer creators like Chelsea Hart or Kevin James Thornton. Or come join the craftastic, queer-positive Mister Domestic community of 600,000+ followers. There’s something really soul-nurturing to be around other queer humans who not only get you, but see you and welcome you if for no other reason than to feel part of a community.
If you’re going to be spending money anyway for Valentine’s Day, spend it at a Queer-Owned Business. There has been a dramatic increase in larger companies selling LGBTQ-themed items during Pride and year-round. While visibility is awesome, many of these companies do not give back to the LGBTQ community or concurrently support anti-LGBTQ organizations.
Do a quick Google search of LGBTQ-owned businesses in your city, and you’ll easily find multiple lists supported by trusted resources. Or shop at one of my favorite Queer-owned Etsy sellers: If Pencils Could Talk, Rora Apothic, or Love is Love.
In case you weren’t aware, crafting is super cool. A lot of people think that it’s an “old lady thing”, but it’s truly for everyone and there are crafters of all the colors of the rainbow.
So, yes, you are welcome into the crafting arena. Here is your official ticket. Now that you are here, sit down and make something. Grab a piece of paper, search origami on YouTube, and get to folding. Or find an old T-shirt, some scissors, and research finger knitting. You do not need to get any supplies to get started. But if you do want to shop, why not make a Valentine’s trek to a craft supply store?
The serotonin alone just walking up and down the aisles is justification enough. As for myself, crafting is something I can control, and it forces me to be present with myself. The practice just slows everything down so I can exhale. I’ve devoted much of my life to spreading positivity through sewing and crafting. That’s absolutely self-love in its purest form, giving yourself the time and space to be with yourself to just breathe. And then at the end, you created something new.
So, yes, my queer friends on the interweb, you can make Valentine’s Day about whatever you want to. And if you’ve got romantic love in your life, then for sure get your romance on. But there are so many more versions of love out there that are worth celebrating, and Valentine’s Day is the perfect day for that.
Perhaps in the pursuit of celebrating all the love in your life, instead of just one type, you’ll be more ready to both receive and give love when a potential romantic partner does enter your orbit. So love yourself, love your friends, love your community, love yourself some more, and then love the romance when it’s time for that.
But no matter what, you’re amazing. Sincerely, from the healthiest version of myself to my younger single self (and all of you on the web), Happy Valentine’s Day! Now make it your own.