Valentine’s Day For All

Story by Gloria Nguyen

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! 

Americans have been celebrating Valentine’s Day since the 19th century but the holiday became ubiquitous early in the 20th century. 

Nowhere in the world is Valentine’s Day celebrated as wildly as in the U.S. Much like during the Christmas holiday season, stores are filled with rose-colored products weeks beforehand.

Contrary to popular belief, Valentine’s Day is not just for romantic love. Your best friend, grandpa, teacher, or even your favorite colleague from the office may participate in exchanging valentines.

Valentine’s Day is ultimately about celebrating love – which at its heart involves the connection and unconditional acceptance of another.

One thing about Valentine’s Day that is slowly starting to change is that historically, there hasn’t been much room for the LGBTQ community at the table.

Supervising editor at National Public Radio, Arnie Seipel, wrote about how the origins of Valentine’s Day are heteronormative itself. 

Seipel writes that the early Romans would celebrate the feast of Lupercalia during Feb. 13 to 15 which would culminate in “a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar.” The new couple would be paired up for the duration of the festival or longer if the match was right. 

Even though our society seems to slowly make progress LGBTQ couples may feel like they are not able to be affectionate in public because of the recent surge of anti-LGBTQ laws being passed and toxic rhetoric coming from some mainstream media entities.

According to NBC News, recent FBI data suggests that “crimes based on bias against trans and gender non-conforming people continued to increase.”

The ramifications of these threats against the LGBTQ community are even being felt in colleges across the U.S. In a recent survey of LGBTQ college students published by Intelligent, 61% said they’ve experienced more discrimination since Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special aired last year, which features transphobic and homophobic jokes. 

Although Valentine’s Day does not directly help fight the day-to-day inequalities of our society, we can choose to participate in the holiday while continuing to be an ally to the LGBTQ community.

Here are some ways you can celebrate Valentine’s Day and support your local LGBTQ community.

Make Your Own Valentine’s Gifts

One way to avoid the commercialization and heteronormative standards of Valentine’s Day is to make your own valentines gifts. 

This does not necessarily need to be about your partner. Your gifts can be sent to members of your family or your chosen family and friends.

Batman & Robin illustrated on a Valentine's Day card in a kissing embrace.

Valentine’s Day has been traditionally been a holiday that companies like Hallmark have used to target straight couples with products and advertisements. In recent years, companies have begun to make their products and ads much more inclusive to the LGBTQ community.
Photo by: @proyectoalegria

Shop At LGBTQ-owned Businesses

Shopping and hanging out at LGBTQ-owned businesses is another way to directly support your local LGBTQ community. Hotel San Jose, Tamalitoz and FLAVNT are a few in Austin you can consider. Check out more at this list of queer-owned businesses in Austin that Do512 compiled.

Practice Self-care

Valentine’s Day can be triggering for people depending on their dating history. If you were in a bad relationship or experienced trauma because of your dating history, Valentine’s Day can feel even more overwhelming. 

If this is the case for you, taking care of yourself is much more imperative on Valentine’s Day than usual. 

Be kind to yourself. Take time to look in the mirror and tell yourself “I love you.” Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you feel good about yourself while you’re doing it. 

Practicing self-care should be done for yourself every day – and not just on Valentine’s Day. Remember that Valentine’s Day is just another day. Regardless of how you feel about it, your relationship status, sexual orientation or gender identity, you are valid and you will get through the day.

Surround yourself with positive people and remind yourself that love doesn’t have to look the way it is commercialized to you. 

Keep doing you. You are loved!

Is Self-Care Self-Indulgent?

When Self-Care Is Taken Too Far

Story and Video By: Jace Puckett

What comes to mind when you think of self-care? Facial masks, binging on snacks, taking a mental health spa day? While all of these things can be good in moderation, they may not be the most productive ways to actually take care of yourself.

Dr. Manuel X. Zamarripa, the associate dean of counseling in the north region of Austin Community College, commented that many students come to counseling reporting feelings of anxiety about classwork and lack of sleep. 

“Even though they’re specific issues,” he said, “They’re very much connected to stress and stress levels.” 

When asking students about the methods of self-care they use, students talked about activities such as getting adequate sleep or more sleep, using social media and listening to music. Dr. Zamarripa offered his advice on which methods of self-care were more effective and productive.

“Self-care is something you should do every day, not just when you’re stressed,” he said. “It’s true, getting enough sleep is kind of key.”

He went on to mention how exercise and healthy eating habits are two other factors students should keep in mind when seeking ways to better care for themselves. Archaeology major, Ashely Bragg, mentioned that taking walks better alleviates her feelings of stress. Engineering major, Braden Karley, said that he tries to eat healthy in addition to making sure that he is getting enough sleep at night. Other students gave their own insights on which methods were most helpful to them as well.

“I go to my therapist every three weeks,” said psychology major Hunter Hernandez. “And that helps.”

 Although Bragg and Karley have found productive methods of self-care that can be done daily, they shared some methods they thought to have fit the “self-care” category at first but found out that they better fit the “treat yourself” category even more. Bragg admitted to drinking the occasional glass of wine while taking baths, and Karley mentioned consuming sweets every now and then.

“Sometimes [I] treat myself,” Karley said. “I’ll get some ice cream or soda on the way home or Starbucks.”

As far as which methods of self-care were less effective, students also had a variety of opinions. Karley talked about “distractions” such as playing video games and watching Netflix.

“They can be good in moderation,” he said, “But if you overindulge, then that can be counterproductive.”

Hernandez talked about snacking and browsing social media on her phone, and Bragg stated that drinking a glass of wine during bath time did help, but it also prolonged her worried thoughts.

Social media was also a topic of discussion, who mentioned going on Twitter to tweet about her daily emotions. Dr. Zamarripa stated that social media wasn’t inherently evil, but it could be misused.

“It doesn’t do anything directly at the moment to harm the person,” he said, “But what it does is if you’re just out there and you’re consistently scrolling and moving. It doesn’t allow those feelings to leave you. You’re just kind of ignoring them.”

Electrical engineering major José Campuzano and Bragg both expressed their beliefs that going to parties and clubs was counterproductive. Just like social media, it can make you feel better at that moment, but it is more of a method of treating oneself and will ultimately ignore the real issue. Campuzano and Bragg have similar ideas about what self-care truly entails.

“Put yourself first before you put others,” said Campuzano. “It’s actually good to put others before yourself, but sometimes you have to worry about your personal self-care first before going to others.”

While Campuzano emphasizes taking care of yourself so that you are in a healthy state to care for others, Bragg stresses the importance of caring for yourself first and foremost.

“[Self-care is] something that’s just about you that gives you a chance to just worry about yourself,” she said. “Just think about yourself, and also remember that self-care is not selfish.”