Valentine’s Day is a time for remembering that love is an important part of life. At least, that’s what all of the commercials say. It’s an easy day to mess up if you’re in a relationship. Forget to buy chocolates or go out to eat somewhere where the service takes hours.
It can be even more difficult to celebrate the holiday if the multitude of insufferably romantic advertisements and greeting cards aren’t aimed at you. Such is the life of LGBTQ+ couples, who navigate their way through a world that often refuses to accept their identity.
Senior Lizzy Street said that she and her partner have little interest in participating in the traditional celebration of Valentine’s Day, saying, “I don’t really adhere to the capitalist idea of Valentine’s Day, where you have to buy each other things, go out to a fancy dinner and get all that junk from the Target dollar section.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by graduate student Kyle McLaughlin. He sees the holiday as just another opportunity to show your significant other how much they mean to you.
“I do think Valentine’s Day is a good way to show it, but I also think that should be a constant thing. I don’t think it should just be that day,” McLaughlin said.
These opinions are not isolated instances of rejecting Valentine’s Day as it currently exists. There appears to be a larger movement among the LBGTQ+ community to ignore the holiday all together, though there are those who only wish to make it more inclusive.
Since Valentine’s Day is a good time to ponder romance in all its forms, it is worth taking a look at what separates a straight couple from a same-sex couple. Street and McLaughlin, both members of the queer community, said there isn’t much of a difference except the ones put in place by society.
It certainly is the case that sexuality does not play a role in a person’s ability to love someone else. The differences only involve long-term behavior pattern, not different kinds of dating. Same-sex couples suffer from relationship problems due to the social stigma they face but they also tend to get over disagreements faster.
Even if the intentions of queer couples are the same as heterosexual couples — namely to spend time with someone they care about — that does not detract from the inherent difference between their experiences. It can be a lonely experience to be in a non-heterosexual relationship as Street pointed out.
“We want to be treated the same, but you know you’re different at the same time,” she said. “You just want to be able to live without being tokenized.”
McLaughlin expressed a similar view. “I think it’s very similar, honestly. Maybe for other couples it may be different. You go out for dinner, go see a movie, you come back, you know, Netflix, hang out, maybe have a couple beers. You know, that sort of thing. That’s just how I am,” McLaughlin said.
It’s not that non-straight couples are very different from straight couples when it comes to romance. People have the some vague wishes and desires, and are driven by the same need to feel loved.
There are some legitimate differences between straight and non-straight couples based on more than just society’s impressions of them. Same-sex couples are more equal in their relationship than different-sex couples because they lack the inherent gender imbalance of straight couples. They are more likely to share chores and the duties of childcare. Though one person does tend to end up doing most of the work, it is by a much smaller margin than with straight couples.
Not only do Americans expect traditional gender roles out of what we typically consider to be traditional couples, but there is also the expectation that same-sex couples will adhere to the same dichotomy.
The Guardian writer Arwa Mahdawi looks at this dichotomy and how straight people attempt to fit same-sex couples into the binary they have set up. She notes that “your gender role can also change based on the task at hand,” but that doesn’t detract from the idea that a significant amount of the population of the U.S. believes that in every relationship, there must be a “man” and a “woman.”
Street — who has a non-binary partner — says she has noticed if the couple does not fit into a person’s understanding of how a romantic relationship is supposed to work, straight people try to force the roles onto the couple as best they can. While no one has said anything to her directly, people don’t seem to quite know what to make of her and her partner.
“Some people will call us both ma’am — ma’ams — and other times they will just give the check to my partner, I guess because they look more masculine than me, so they assume that’s who’s paying. I think it’s kind of funny,” Street said.
Non-binary people are some of the least-represented members of the LGBTQ+ community. There has been a recent push to make media more inclusive for non-binary people — led by shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Carmilla” and books like “Luna” and “The Hammer of Thor.”
Within the LGBTQ+ community, there is also a notable difference in how gay and lesbian couples behave. Female couples are more likely to break up than male couples or different-sex couples, but they are also more likely to marry their long-term partners than male couples are.
So, this Valentine’s Day, have a good time. Enjoy every moment you spent with your loved one. Go out, walk around, maybe watch a movie or two. Do all the things a good partner should do. But most importantly, remember that while Valentine’s Day was not made with every form of romantic love in mind, the nature of love never changes.