Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap. Yes, it’s crassly commercialized and hetero- and diad-focused, but at the core of it, what’s more deserving of a holiday than love? Valentine’s Day celebrates love in all forms: romantic, filial, parental, platonic and so on. We can celebrate love for our best friends, our new kitten, art and the muse, the arrival of spring. We can send them little candies (no chocolate for the puppies though), draw them pictures of how they make our lives better, and compose wee odes to our love and our ability to feel love.
But love, as we all know, isn’t so straightforward. St. Valentine had nothing to do with romantic love (though I suppose he may have felt it at some point), but in classic Catholic tradition, we celebrate his martyrdom as he refused to convert to paganism before his death. Meanwhile, in an ironic twist that only religious hubris can provide, we came to associate Valentine’s death with the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia, the Festival of the Wolf where dogs and goats were the martyrs, not men. A queer turn of events, indeed.
Lupercalia called for the men to dress themselves in hides and run through the streets, whipping all the women who lined up for their lashing. Why, you ask? Because these lashing were said to inspire fertility and strength. Could Lupercalia be the first holiday to celebrate the connection of pain and love? Is Lupercus the patron saint of BDSM?
To celebrate our queer history let’s remember that you can never guarantee how time will memorialize you, nor how our current lovers and friends see us compared to how we see ourselves. Let’s celebrate that love and pain are inextricably linked, and that when we invite one into our lives, we help ourselves survive the other.
For the week leading up to February 14th, I’ll be posting a daily queer love poem on my blog.
These poems celebrate the love of the kill, the love of art, the loss of love and the love of loss, the longing for love and the longing for love’s release.