I’ll admit it: I’m a little jaded when it comes to love. I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day because I always felt like it was a heterosexual celebration of love that, as a queer person, I was excluded from. It’s become even more complicated to relate to as I begin to understand myself as a genderqueer, non-binary individual in relationships with queer folk who live along very blurred gender lines.
The ways I’ve been taught to think about love have been so gendered that even thinking about Valentine’s Day has thrown me into a level of dysphoria I’ve never experienced before.
There are days where I’ve felt stronger in my feminine energy, imagining myself in a floor length dress and a smile as I’m being romanced with candy and compliments. Other days, I’ve felt more comfortable in masculine space with visions of adorning myself in a button down and jeans holding a bouquet of flowers ready to be extended to my lover. These thoughts continue to remind me that the understanding of my gender and my expression of it changes day to day. This makes it even harder for me to figure out just how to go about expressing my V-Day love to my partner.
The pressures of coming up with gifts to give to my sweetie has been even more of a challenge. In an attempt to even begin to participate in the festivities, I started thinking about gifts I could purchase that didn’t carry heavy gender stereotypes. As I stood in the Valentine’s Day cards section at my local drugstore I was bombarded with a plethora of gender triggers, cards organized in standard “For Her/For Him” fashion.
What is a genderqueer to do to express love on a day that categorizes itself into offerings from men and women?
This year, I wanted to challenge myself to think outside of the gender box. I decided to do some research on how I could put a non-binary spin on the normative Valentine gifts of cards, flowers and candy. Luckily, I found other queers and gender variant folks who are doing the same.
In my quest to find love notes that acknowledged the beautiful complexity of the gender spectrum, I stumbled upon Drew Riley, a transgender woman artist and story writer for the Gender Portrait Series. Her portraits of trans and gender non-conforming bodies capture diverse representations of queers who fall into various categories of gender and her stories highlight the struggles and triumphs in their lives.
Her goal as is an artist is “to make art that validates trans and gender nonconforming people and helps to educate people about a rich gender spectrum that is usually stigmatized or reduced to a binary in our society.” Riley’s cards include different skin tones, queer and non-binary and even agender options. Download her V-Day cards here and to learn more about the Gender Portrait Series.
Non-binary facts about Roses
I never imagined that roses would teach me how much my multi-gendered existence can be found in flowers. During my non-binary V-Day research, I stumbled open some reports from botanists (people who study flowers) and discovered that most roses are considered hermaphrodites.
This means they can be both male or female or even genderless. As a result, they can reproduce sexually and asexually. Some roses need seeds to reproduce while others can shed parts that can be replanted and produce on their own. This discovery was particularly touching to me as it was a reminder that who I am is so common and beautifully depicted in nature.
Chocolates for Queers
Creator and owner Morgan of Queer Chocolatier has been making truffles with non-binary folks in mind since 2017. Her primary goal in launching a business in chocolate decadence was to create “a marketplace for my chocolates and artwork for decorating homes of queer and trans* folx” and her truffle flavors are as diverse as the community she serves.
From Lavender Menace to Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar, Morgan is not only creates mouth watering morsels to share with your queer loved ones but supports conversations on LGBTQIA and gender issues through the Queer Chocolatier Blog. She carries with her the knowledge that she cannot separate her identity from her business and her truffles stand in solidarity with those of us who feel the same. Purchase her truffles here.
What I discovered in thinking of Valentine’s Day in a non-binary way was that expressions of love between queer and gender variant folks has always been forced to get creative. We very rarely see accurate representations of ourselves in society and what is even more scarce are visions of love that speak to our existence.
Feeling differently in our bodies and gender makes it even harder to consistently love ourselves. I was inspired to find artists and dream makers that are creating a world where love can be understood outside the binary. Ultimately, I realize that whether or not I give or receive flowers this year is not as important as remembering that my non-binary love is valid, powerful and embraced.