Queerly Beloved: Reclaiming the Culture of Love

By : Rev. Jakob Hero Shaw
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Valentine’s Day? Nope. I am not a fan. I came to a stern critique of Valentine’s Day despite having my own ridiculously sweet Valentine’s Day story. My husband accidentally proposed to me on Valentine’s Day a few years ago.

How do you accidentally propose to someone on Valentine’s Day? He claims it was not a planned proposal and had nothing to do with the holiday. To this day, I remain skeptical about that, but I digress.Speaking as someone who joyfully leapt “off the market,” so to speak,why do I hate this annual celebration of cards and chocolate? I dislike what it does to our hearts. Valentine’s Day sends the wrong messages about love and about the human value of those who give and receive love. If our humanity is intrinsically linked to our ability to find “the one,” what are we teaching one another about our own worth as individuals?

Valentine’s Day is alienating to folks who are single. At the same time, it doesn’t do much to help those in relationships either. It conflates commercialism and commitment. It sends the message that relationship status is all that matters, saying very little about the quality of the connections between human beings.

This year, the first Valentine’s Day displays I saw in stores were up just before Christmas Eve! Baby Jesus wasn’t even in the manger yet and baby cupid was already floating around, bow and arrow in hand. What if we invested that much forethought and time into actual love for one another? Let’s eschew the commercialism and opt instead for real connection.

We who are in LGBTQ+ communities have the power to reclaim the culture of love. Instead of pink and red hearts and a sugar rush from too many sweets, we could embody love for one another in a different way.

When I speak of love, I am not talking simply about the person who makes you feel butterflies when you look their way. I am talking about love on a much bigger scale.

What would it look like to relocate the concept of love? Can’t we take it away from the cash register and put it into our communities instead? Whether you are inclined to being in a relationship or not, you are worthy of love. We queer folks have fought for our right to love in whatever way our hearts take us.

Our fight dragged us to courtrooms, boardrooms and newsrooms. We have long known that being able to love each other is dependent on our ability to demand our rights. We have fought through the decades for the right to have faith communities, bars and legally-recognized relationships. We have struggled through alienation and epidemics. We have been told that our families are not legitimate. We have been told that our identities are not worth legal protection. We have even been told that our bodies are expendable and that what we do in our bedrooms makes us unworthy of basic civil rights. Don’t you think that after all the fighting, we owe it to ourselves to love fiercely and passionately? Don’t we owe it to our queer ancestors to draw from the deep well of community that they created?

This year, in the commercialized season of love, we can do better. Whether you are happily single or living in domestic bliss with the person (or people) of your dreams, whether you are hoping to get into a relationship or even hoping to get out of one, consider queering this whole idea of Valentine’s Day. Set aside the idea that if you are single on Feb. 14, you are inherently flawed—and set aside the idea that being in a relationship makes you whole.

If you are reading this and find yourself in the position of my dear romantic husband, charmed by a person who hates this holiday, and you get inspired to propose, go for it (even if you have to spend the rest of your life pretending it was unplanned), but don’t stop there. When we queer the idea of Valentine’s Day, we don’t remove the love from it, we simply add a more authentic love to the mix.

We need more love in our communities, not less. We can love each other for exactly who we are and exactly where we are—not some commercial ideal of perfection. Let’s love each other’s identities. Let’s love each other’s bodies. Let’s love each other through our struggles, through our fights for equality, through our battles with depression or addiction. Let’s love each other so fiercely that we change the world for the better.

Let’s teach the hetero-centric, cisgender, patriarchal majority that queer love is expansive and life giving; it is inclusive and is the greatest gift our people can offer this broken planet.

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