I understand the sentiment of wanting a designated day on the calendar to celebrate your significant other, but it has always made me cringe how Valentine's Day oversimplifies one of the most complex relationships that we have. Granted, Valentine's Day is generally regarded as a "Hallmark holiday" and is arguably not as important as holidays like Christmas or Fourth of July, but in the United States, we collectively drop about 20 billion dollars each February 14th. That's a lot. Therefore it's important to take into consideration that Valentine's Day allows us to completely glance over some very real problems surrounding a relationship that we consider important.
According to UCLA's Williams Institute, there are currently more than 8 million individuals in the United States who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, making up about 3.5% of the adult population. Regardless of the viewpoints about the LGBT community, whether in support of them or against them, the fact of the matter is that there is a significant amount of people in America who do not identify as heterosexual. Yet, it is still considered news, rather than a norm when same-sex couples are featured in Valentine's Day advertisements. In today's day and age it is surprising to many of us how much LGBT individuals are marginalized, and yet, many of us only remember to advocate for them when we see others doing so and/or when some atrocity makes headlines. Social issues are not only for thinking about when it is convenient to do so; they are ongoing issues that deserve ongoing attention. That is why I think that if we are going to have a holiday to celebrate intimate relationships, we should also be open to taking the time to make Valentine's Day an opportunity to recognize and include the LGBT community.
On average, there are about 20 people every minute who are physically abused by their partners in the United States. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that in the last year 10 million people have been victims of physical abuse by their significant others, and that does not even account for cases of emotional abuse which is much harder to report. Domestic violence is a very prevalent issue, but also one that really isn't given much attention at all. It is issues like partner/spousal abuse that further complicate intimate relationships, and we should not allow them to be completely simplified through stuffed animal and flower sales. About 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will face some form of physical abuse by their partners at some point in their lives. This is an issue so prevalent in intimate relationships that we should not just ignore it, and then show our sympathy when it is too late. If we are going to celebrate love, we should also be working to preserve it.
We give so much importance to romantic and intimate relationships, so we should also be willing to give importance to the issues surrounding them. If we each take a little bit of time on Valentine's Day to contribute our parts to helping such issues it would go a really long way. Relationships are much more than a teddy bear or box of chocolates and we should not lose sight of that fact just because it is Valentine's Day. A generic Valentine's Day gift will be cherished for two days but support to such prevalent issues will be cherished much longer.