Toward an ace/aro-inclusive Valentine’s Day

February as a month is all about Black History, Valentine’s Day the Beginning of Lent and Ash Wednesday.  Not all of these things are my lane, so while I support and educate myself on Black History, while I’ll probably go to church on Ash Wednesday, I want to focus on my lane – LGBTQIA+ people and the ways in which we exist and are celebrated or harmed in the world.

Valentine’s Day is a significant day for many people. It’s a time when commitments are made and anniversaries are celebrated. Eight years ago, it was Valentine’s Day when I took the jump and said that God made me gay and God made me good. It was a stressor that upset my family system, and it was a decision I would make again and again. 

As I’ve continued coming out and coming out, gay isn’t a word that I use to describe myself anymore. Instead, I use ace-spec, bi+, trans or non-binary, and queer. Within this collection of identities we have a-spec, or asexuality/aromantic spectrum. Specifically, I’m concerned with making Valentines Day accessible to asexual, aromantic and ace/aro-spectrum friends.

The reality is, friendship and companionship are just as important to us as they are to our romantic and sexual friends. Can we expand Valentines Day to be something which celebrates all of the ways in which humans do life together and celebrate the variety of ways our relationships organize themselves.

When I opened the conversation to my friends on the ace/aro-spectrum, we all acknowledged that while we universally were not fans of the current accents and emphasis of the day, there were ways in which the day could be redeemed. Focusing on the ways we form partnerships and communities – business, companionship as well as the constellations of care which we all participate.

One friend, talking about an idealized celebration of Valentine’s day said it looked like board games and a cuddle pile. Another said it looked like a feast of food from different social locations, cultures and influences.

Filled with social meaning, Valentine’s day is a way in which our cultural norms are passed from generation to generation. Wouldn’t it be lovely to take the time to shift to a more inclusive Valentine’s day? I believe it would be powerful to step away from the alloromantic/allosexual connotations of this day and celebrate the diversity with which humans interact with each other.

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On Being Bisexual+

This year for Bisexual+ Visibility Week, I came out, again. I’ve become much more intentional about claiming space within the bisexual umbrella. You see, for a long time I understood bisexuality to denote attraction to cisgender and transgender binary men and women.  As I have made clear, I don’t understand myself as functioning within the binary. I have facial hair, lipstick, a large chest, body hair, dresses, and pants. I blend and break down all of the aspects of gender which function to make me easily categorical, even as I claim the label trans-femme for myself.

Thin waning and waxing moons in the bisexual pride colors.
Thin waning and waxing moons in the bisexual pride colors.

Femme is a complicated term and one that I’ll probably use a few times. It originated in women who love women spaces, for people who engaged in and celebrated sapphic love. I use it both as a person who loves women, sexually and non-sexually, and as a person whose gender expression lives firmly on the feminine of center side of things.

For so long, my queerness was tied up in my transness. In many ways, it still is. No matter who I have a relationship with, it’ll be a queer relationship. My bi+sexuality adds another layer to that; my relationships will be queer, no matter what, because I am bisexual+.

Bisexual is another complicated term, with different definitions spread every which way depending on who you ask, or the mood of the answerer. Robyn Ochs put forth a definition of bisexuality that encompasses most of what I understand bisexuality for me to mean. She says “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

My name is River. I’m a consultant and educator. A graduate student and a student of religion, especially Christianity. I am bisexual+, and transgender. I am fat. I am me.

Coming out, no matter how many times you have done it, no matter how many ways you have done it, no matter what is a terrifying experience. Often, because transgender people are desexualized, the thought of having any romantic or sexual entanglement is beyond comprehension.  The thought of being open to more than one specific kind of sexual/romantic shocks many people.