Valentine’s day is just as much about lack of love as it is about the abundance of it.
It is not a day that meant something to me for most of my life. I think it has been a day that made me project more of my internal fears than acknowledge my external relationships. Unlike a lot of people, I have mostly been indifferent about this day, partly because I didn’t want to be a cliche who celebrated or yearned to celebrate being in love. I know it might sound like a lonely experience but it didn’t feel like one, and it feels even less so after coming out.
I attended my first Pride a few years ago. I had to make excuses for dressing up and staying at “college” till later than usual (it was very unlike me to do either of those things). I remember the sense of community, love and happiness that took over and surrounded me. It felt like it was the first time I could breathe in a long, long time. I showed up to the event alone, and yet I had never actually felt so seen. It was the first time I think I even understood the word love because it was the first time I actually experienced its diversity. It was more than flowers and chocolates and wanting to grow old together. It was loud, it was unconditional, it was safe and warm and colourful. I actually fell in love with the freedom that came with being in a space where I could be embraced, where my self-expression wasn’t just empowering but valuable.
It was unlike me to crave hugs and warmth before then. For the first time ever, I felt like I was missing out. To be honest, there was a sense of relief in missing out. Like at least I now know that I was missing out. I don’t think I left the event that day the same person. Every single queer person present in that ground demanding the right to love and be loved, for the first time ever, put things in perspective for me; that’s what it is like to be celebrated.
After several relationships, a considerable amount of introspection, and learning to embrace my identity, I think the value of Valentine’s Day has changed for me now. It’s been three years since I attended my first Pride parade. The energy of the place still makes me feel safe in my heart. I would have never understood or valued love if I didn’t vicariously feel it that one day. As I woke up on 14th Feb this year, the first post I saw was a reel celebrating queer couples and it all came rushing back to me like the memory of the only person whose touch ever meant anything to me. Would I have known that love was supposed to feel way more than being wanted? Would I have realised that love meant feeling valued, respected and safe?
I know that someone out there relates to my feeling of loneliness, whether it is from being closeted, or just being single. But it is a relief to know that whenever I decide to go to my next Pride parade, I will receive all the unconditional love like I did the first time.
And as for being a cliche, I think if I was in love, I would too embrace any excuse I got to celebrate my partner right now. So, (belated) Happy Valentine’s Day to every queer person reading this. This is me, celebrating you.