I can tell Valentine’s Day is coming because I’m getting tons of a promo emails that include such gems as “His & Her” mugs that look like they’re kissing when placed together. Ladies, maybe you’d like to buy your special guy an engraved bottle opener that fits in his wallet like a credit card? There are also long lists of gift suggestions for guys – apparently most men are clueless when it comes to gift buying?
The people who generate these emails seem to have caught onto the fact that single people like love too, because there are also lots of fun ideas for gifts to buy yourself.They have even caught onto the latest Valentine’s trend: the “Galentine” for women who want to celebrate the love and friendship enjoyed by so many women with their female BFFs.
But the email writers seem to have forgotten about one very large group of people who also want to celebrate Valentine’s Day: people like me.
Well, me and my wife to be more specific.
Despite all the love swirling around every February, queer folks such as us are very conspicuously left out. I’ve never seen a list of “Hers & Hers” Valentine gift ideas. And where can my wife and I go to celebrate our love without people assuming we’re just “Galentines”’?
But this lack of representation doesn’t just happen on Valentine’s Day.
I want to see examples of LGBTQ love represented all year round, and not just because it makes me feel good. We need these example because it helps to prevent unhealthy relationships.
Whenever we talk about intimate partner violence (IPV), we should be talking about same-sex relationships too.
It’s very difficult for people who experience violence in LGBTQ relationships to report the abuse and ask for help. Too often, the response from friends and authorities is that the abuse must have been mutual or not serious enough to warrant action. Research shows that police rarely make an arrest in domestic violence cases where two men are involved unless the violence is particularly extreme. Imagine how frightening and discouraging it must be to finally get the courage to tell someone you are experiencing violence, only to be disbelieved or dismissed because of the gender of the other person.
We must continue to work for change so all of our minds are opened, and so all victims of violence get the help they need.
I work at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, and we fund violence prevention programs all across the country that are helping teens to learn about healthy relationships. These programs are specifically designed to help teens to think more inclusively about relationships and to recognize how rigid gender stereotypes can lead to violence.
I’m not a Valentine’s Day Grinch. Celebrating love is always a good idea, especially in the dead of winter! In fact, this year my wife and I are going to celebrate our love at a really nice dinner surrounded by lots of our straight friends! We are also making a commitment to treat each other better.
But I would like people to do a better job acknowledging people like my wife and me, and learning to understand that healthy love includes lots of different kinds of love.
In a world where homophobia still runs rampant, we need more people who see my love as valid and who support and encourage same-sex couples to expect healthy relationships.
Every person deserves love, and everyone deserves respectful love!
Want to make your own relationship healthier? Join the #HealthyLove movement and support violence prevention programs across Canada!