Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away! In past years, Iona’s blog has spotlighted how Valentine’s Day might be different or more challenging for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia or memory loss.
This year, we’d like to expand our library and spotlight another community for whom Valentine’s Day can be different or challenging—and some ways that you can make your Valentine’s Day celebrations or traditions a little more inclusive.
Although Valentine’s Day receives lots of media attention, themed products, and events, these often exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) people.
Cute romantic movies or stories shared on social media tend to display only male-female couples. People in same-gender partnerships and marriages may feel invisible during a holiday celebrating love, particularly if they have to hide their relationship from coworkers, family, or neighbors. LGBTQ couples of color receive even less attention in every arena, even media made by or for people of color and LGBTQ people.
For LGBTQ older adults, the holiday may bring unique challenges as well.
Perhaps a couple wants to go on a date but the residential community where they live is not as accepting as they’d like. Or perhaps a gay or bi older adult wants to remember a lost partner, but can’t discuss them with their friends or caregivers due to their gender.
Whether you’re hosting a Valentine’s Day party or event, participating in an exchange at work, or just going about your day like normal, here are some simple things to keep in mind to make Valentine’s Day more inclusive for LGBTQ people.
Tips for Making Valentine’s Day Inclusive to LGBTQ People
1.Be aware of the language you choose.
Think about the terminology you use for couples or romantic situations – does it assume all couples will include a man and a woman, even implicitly? Have you taken into account different terminology you could use, like partner or spouse rather than husband/wife? When you ask people about their plans for the holiday, are you specifying gender in an exclusive way (or expecting the person is even interested in romance)?
2. Similarly, be aware of the imagery you promote.
If you’re buying candy and cards packaged in pink hearts, make sure it’s not emblazoned with pictures of only male/female couples. If you’re sharing cute stories on social media, but they’re all of male/female couples, try searching for stories about same-gender couples as well. Remember not to include only white couples as well—LGBTQ people of color exist too!
3. Remember who might feel especially invisible.
Bisexual and transgender people may be part of male/female relationships, but that doesn’t mean any depiction of a male/female couple automatically includes bisexual and transgender people. Some strategies for explicitly including bisexual and transgender people are:
• Be accurate with your information:
• Don’t imply bisexual people are unfaithful, promiscuous, or indecisive, as these are harmful stereotypes.
• If you’re talking about a transgender person, be sure to use the person’s correct name and pronouns, and don’t refer to them using past names or titles (e.g. “Jamie, formerly Susan…” or “His wife, previously his husband…”).
• Spotlight the stories of actual bisexual and transgender people!
4. Don’t forget about these things after Valentine’s Day!
When people only remember LGBTQ people during Pride month (June) or during specific holidays or events, it can feel like pandering, or insincere. Instead, you can use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to start being more inclusive, and keep it up all year long.
All of these might seem difficult at first—or you may feel guilty for having overlooked them in the past. But it’s never too late to start reaching out and being more inclusive, and it won’t go unnoticed by those around you.
Regardless of what you’re doing or who you’re spending it with, have a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day!
By Indy Weinstein.
Indy Weinstein is an intern at Iona working to support our Take Charge/Age Well Academy, LGBTQ outreach, and other projects. They graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2017 with a BA in History, and are excited to learn about nonprofit management and aging.