By: Sarah Bruce
February is here, hearkening the return of red and pink greeting cards, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and ads depicting cisgender individuals in heterosexual relationships gazing, love-struck, into each other’s eyes. Valentine’s Day shines a glaring spotlight on romantic relationships, which can evoke a wide range of emotions among LGBTQIA+ people, from excitement to dread. While many LGBTQIA+ people enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day with loved ones, others may avoid celebrating due to implicit or explicit pressure about what their love and relationships “should” look like. For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the ability to love in a way that feels healthy and fulfilling often means finding the courage to defy societal norms and expectations.
LGBTQIA+ relationships are strong, genuine, and incredibly diverse. For example, an LGBTQIA+ person may find love and joy in a romantic relationship with someone of the same or a different gender. This relationship may or may not include a physical component. Another LGBTQIA+ person may not experience romantic feelings toward others and may find meaning and contentment in platonic relationships with loved ones. Further, someone who is questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation may not know which types or aspects of relationships feel enjoyable. There are many ways for LGBTQIA+ people to experience love and relationships, and all are valid and deserving of respect.
Consider spending this Valentine’s Day investing in relationships in a way that feels meaningful and brave by prioritizing what brings you and your loved ones joy over societal expectations. If you are an LGBTQIA+ person, loving courageously may mean spending time with a romantic partner, getting together with friends, volunteering in the community, or improving your relationship with yourself by engaging in self-care. If you are an ally, exemplify bravery by telling an LGBTQIA+ friend or family member that you will always love and support them and their relationships. You may also find the courage to highlight stories and images of LGBTQIA+ people and relationships in your celebrations with others this Valentine’s Day to make sure everyone feels included. Loving courageously on Valentine’s Day is not about expressing love the “right” way, but rather being brave enough to love your way.
Dr. Sarah Bruce (she/her)
Dr. Bruce is currently serving as a postdoctoral fellow specializing in working with individuals on the autism spectrum at The Help Group. Dr. Bruce recently completed her clinical internship at Asian Americans for Community Involvement, where she pursued her interest in the intersection of various cultural identities and LGBTQIA+ status and developed the agency’s first clinical program for youth who identified as LGBTQIA+.