Greater NW Pride: Valentine’s Day in the LGBTQ+ Community


Valentine’s Day in the LGBTQ Community

My partner Christian and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early this year because he was going to be in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Valentine’s Day, and I was going to be in Portland. It was also our first Valentine’s Day as a couple! I surprised him with chocolate, red wine, a card, and an orchid, and he gave me a card last week, along with numerous gifts of shirts, meals out, and love! The card was huge, as he said to me after I opened his card to me, “I usually don’t support this holiday because it is manufactured by the card industry.” He's right, of course: it is. Nevertheless, I will always appreciate this card that he gave me, even as he fought against his natural impulse to resist the card industry.
Yet what was even sweeter was the acknowledgement that we both kind of enjoyed this Valentine’s Day this year, because we had someone to give something to, unlike other years, in which both of us were out of a significant relationship at the time. And as a clergyperson, I’m all about special or holy days to remind us of who and whose we are in the church. If these days are so helpful in the Church calendar, then why not in other parts of my and our life?

The origins of “St. Valentine’s Day” comes from the 3rdcentury CE, in which Emperor Claudius II of ancient Rome executed two Christian men—both named Valentine—on Feb. 14 of different years. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. In the 5thcentury, Pope Gelasius I confused things when he combined S. Valentine’s day with Lupercalia, a pagan ritual to stimulate fertility. However, the card industry in the US picked up on this holiday, making it all about romantic love, in 1913, when Hallmark Cards began mass producing valentines(https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day).
In the LGBTQ community, for Valentine’s Day we simply copy the cisgender, straight model of celebration for Valentine’s Day, with nothing unique or special. We hear and see all kinds of Valentine’s Day greetings in our respective faith communities during this week, much like we will see a lot of material on St. Patrick’s Day as well. The only thing that is frustrating with regard to Valentine’s Day was that for over a century, none of the cards that Hallmark or American Greetings or other card makers produced would show a same-sex couple or transgender couple.  For years, I made my own card—I know, they are the ones with more meaning to them—only because I could not find a card that expressed my love for another man. Finally, in the past decade, more card companies are including images and messages of love between members in the LGBTQ community.
After all, sometimes it is the little things that count.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Christian, and happy Valentine’s Day, readers. 

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!