By Patty Cowley–

When I sat down to write about Valentine’s Day and hetero-normativity for this op-ed, I found myself surprisingly stuck. Most of my adult life has been dedicated in some part to the LGBT community.

I go to the PRIDE parade every year and am currently focusing on LGBT health disparity issues in my master’s program. So why is it so hard for me to think about what to say when it comes to Valentine’s Day?

Since I was having such a hard time writing this, I confided in my friends and family and asked them about it. The answers ranged from the standard flowers and dinner, to binge eating on the couch with my cat watching Leonardo DiCaprio. While interesting, this still did not help me at all. I was starting to stress about the entire situation when my friend eventually stopped to ask me what my Valentine’s Days were like. Without thinking, my response was, “Just like everyone else’s.”

Maybe that’s the whole point. My Valentine’s Days are just like everyone else’s. When I’m in a relationship, I usually do the typical dinner date, and when I’m single, the movie date with my cat and Leonardo sounds perfect. I view the world with a critical eye. Everything I see and read I can relate to homosexual issues, of course at the expense of my friends and family’s annoyance. However, I cannot bring the most industrialized, superficial, supposedly heteronormative holiday in the United States into the social justice arena. I joke about feeling like a bad lesbian for being unable to frame Valentine’s Day in a heteronormative view, but after some thought I have come to the conclusion that Valentine’s Day and the concept of hetero-normativity do not belong in the same sentence.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate people in your life with which you love the most.  I will concede that yes, on Valentine’s Day there is more pressure than usual for romantic love, but who is to say you can’t celebrate the other loves in your life?  Valentine’s Day is what you make of it. The pressure on Valentine’s Day is not to be in a heterosexual relationship, it’s to be in a relationship in general. What needs to be overhauled is not the heteronormative nature of Valentine’s Day. Personally, I believe that we as a society in the U.S. have moved past that. The issue with the holiday is now the ridiculous pressure that is placed on everyone to be in a romantic relationship.

So is Valentine’s Day heteronormative? To me, it’s not. I live my life as a minority in this hugely straight world that we live in, but I view Valentine’s Day as the one day a year that I get to celebrate love in my life any way that I choose. No law or societal norm can change that. I can go to Target and just as easily find a card for my girlfriend as I would for my boyfriend. I can go to dinner with my girlfriend without being stared at or taunted. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be considered a straight or gay kind of holiday. It’s a day to celebrate love, no other strings attached.