by Sharon Hennessy
– The Capitol Hill Times –
Valentine’s Day is near. It’s is a good opportunity to celebrate, honor, and love who we are as the Seattle LGBTQ community as we cope with the challenges of the Pacific Northwest’s gray days. We can appreciate ourselves as a community and as individuals, as well as our family and friends, and honor our spiritual connection, be that nature, religion or spirituality.
Different stories describe the origin of Valentine’s Day (also known as the Feast of Saint Valentine or Saint Valentine’s Day), which include ancient Christian martyrs (later to be honored by the Catholic Church as one person, Saint Valentinus), a feast in one of Chaucer’s literary pieces, and a feast to replace a Roman pagan festival in mid-February, Lupercalia. In 18th century England, it was an opportunity for lovers to woo each other by offering tokens of affection, like cards with red hearts, Cupid angels, and doves. Saint Valentine was believed to wear an amethyst ring with a Cupid angel engraved on it when performing marriage ceremonies. The word, “valentine” comes from the Latin, “valens” which means “worthy,” “powerful,” and “strong.”
While we’re fortunate to live in an area that’s considered “gay friendly,” we’re living in a time when LGBTQ people still experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to any other persecution based on race, disability, etc. Hence, it’s important to recognize the achievements that we have made over the last year.
We elected Mayor Ed Murray, the first openly gay mayor of Seattle, and in a same-sex marriage. St. Joseph’s Catholic School students demonstrated against the their Vice Principal being fired for marrying his partner. An increasing number of U.S. states approved gay marriage (including Washington State). President Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage. The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl and for boosting the morale of Seattleites, LGBTQ population included. Yeah, it was a good year.
We can use Valentine’s Day to celebrate our family and friends by connecting on some level. Make a phone call or send an email or text. Go old school and visit with someone at home or go out for lunch or dinner to a favorite restaurant (there are so, so many on the Hill). If you enjoy cooking and baking, do that.
Let’s honor ourselves, also, as we experience the sense of growth and renewal that spring brings into our lives. Honor your inner child by taking the time, literally, to smell the roses, or, in this case, the spring blossoms that are starting to peek up through the soil, or visit the floral cathedral at the conservatory in Volunteer Park. Honor your values and strengths by reading a favorite book, listening to music, playing with a pet, spending time on arts and crafts or with a close friend.
But the day is also an opportunity to give back to the Seattle community. Donating your time to a local charity or organization (this could be one-time for a few hours, or a regular commitment), or giving supplies or money. Right now, so many people are currently experiencing the loss of affordable housing, access to affordable mental health and substance abuse treatment, healthcare, or warm clothing and healthy food.
Want to know where to donate? Cash or supplies are always needed at Downtown Emergency Service Center, local food bank, the Orion Center (provides shelter to primarily LGBTQ youth, many of whom are minorities or immigrants), Crisis Clinic, Alliance of People with disAbilities, Seattle Counseling Services (serves primarily LGBTQ clients) or your local senior center (many LGBTQ elders are forced back into the closet) or United Way. You may also donate your time to non-profits by volunteering to work on projects with organizations such as the Refugee Women’s Alliance, People of Color Against AIDS Network, API Chaya, YWCA, YMCA, Angeline’s Day Shelter or Domestic Abuse Women’s Network.
Like most holidays, Valentine’s Day can be a challenging time for people and trigger stressors such as substance abuse, mental health issues and gambling addictions. If you feel that you or a friend or family member may experience these issues, help can be found by calling the Crisis Clinic at 211, visiting their online resource list, attending a 12-step meeting, calling a therapist, calling a favorite friend or hugging a pet. Some people may find that connecting or re-connecting with a spiritual or religious group or faith can be helpful and empowering (as a reminder, the Seattle Public Library offers free use of their computers).
Be well, be safe, and be strong during this opportunity to celebrate spring and the positive influences in your life.